What is Mindfulness?
This past weekend two articles caught my attention; Mind the Gap written by Virginia Heffernan in the 4/19/15 New York Times Magazine and The Long Marriage of Mindfulness and Money by Michelle Goldberg in the New Yorker Magazine.
The former was sarcastic and skeptical – saying that workplace mindfulness is just another way to get employees to work harder, and the second focused on connecting mindfulness as a practice to money and business and then referred to its “cult” status. Interestingly, both made reference to Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the early researchers of mindfulness and the author of one of my favorite books, Where Ever You Go, There You Are.
I was most surprised that neither article cited any of the vast amount of research that has been done on meditation or “mindfulness” and the reduction of risk factors and disease. The impact practicing meditation or mindfulness has been well documented and studied by many venerable scientists and international academic institutions and the NIH. These studies are too numerous to document here, but a simple google search turns up tons of stats.
There was also no mention of the place where I have seen mindfulness thrive – the spa. Spas have been teaching and practicing meditation and mindfulness in this country for more than 30 years. Last year, at the Global Spa Summit, Susie Ellis in her trend report, noted that “mindful living, the idea that attentiveness to the present moment can help clear the clutter in your mind caused by the overstimulation of today’s supercharged world.” The keynote speaker at that conference was the Dalai Lama who said that “a healthy mind is the true key to happiness.”
If Phil Jackson wants the Knicks to practice mindfulness because it makes them better players, that’s great. If the World Economic Forum in Davos wants Kabat-Zinn to lead executives and 1 percenters in mindful meditation, that’s also great. There is not a downside or any kind of weird religiousness associated with learning how to be mindful. Yes, mindfulness is rooted in Buddhism, but what it really is, is a way to calm your mind, no apologies are necessary.
Mindfulness is the simple act of exercising your willpower muscle. Sitting quietly for 5 minutes, daily, focusing on your breath, and learning to observe your thoughts as they pass through your mind. Mindfulness is the gateway to longer and deeper mediation. It is the simplest technique we have to calm ourselves in any situation. There is no agenda in calmness or in developing will power, and it’s free.
On Nantucket we are fortunate to have our own expert and teacher, Lama Yeshe Palma who offers weekly instruction and has a most wonderful story. Learn about her here.
Joanna Roche is a wellness, beauty and retail expert with a long career in the spa industry; she spent eight years with Canyon Ranch and then ran Pierce Mattie PR in NYC where she tried, tested, and worked with hundreds of beauty and wellness brands. She is currently an educator for the Esthetics Spa International speaker series, a member of ISPA and CEW(Cosmetic Executive Women). On Nantucket she is the Spa & Fitness Director at The Westmoor Club and is committed to promoting wellness and providing inspiration and tools for healthy living. Joanna is a runner, occasional yogi, entrepreneur and co-founder of ACKFresh, and mama (or tamer of wild beasts) to Luke and Noah.