"Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Meditation or contemplative practices have always been a part of human endeavor. There is a renaissance of sorts in contemporary life of these reflective skills appearing in many spheres: medicine, the military, corporate America, the Arts, and professional sports to name a few. The side effects, also known as "emergent properties" of meditation, are an enhancement in performance, resilience to stress, decrease in error or adverse events, improvement in medical symptoms and treatment outcomes, less existential anxiety and dysphoria and a more positive orientation toward the ups and downs of life. Mindfulness meditation has arisen as a simple, learnable system of cultivation of a contemplative, reflective way of life. There is also an early suggestive body of scientific evidence directly pertaining to the acquisition of mindfulness, supporting that the above statements are accurate. Please note the careful choice of the word "early". This scientific effort is just beginning and is not a done deal no matter what you read.
Mindfulness is a non-conceptual experience it is not about thoughts or thinking. It watches thoughts and thinking. Thus, learning it does not lend itself to an intellectual approach. It is best learned in groups with an experienced teacher and success is dependent on personal practice. Learning mindfulness is very very simple, the positive effects however are dose related and require a certain effort over time very similar to exercising, learning a musical instrument or another language, although not nearly as difficult as these examples.
Rich Panico is a physician, an artist and has been meditating and practicing classical Yoga for about 45 years. He is the founder of the Athens Regional Mindbody Institute and is currently practicing mindfulness based psychotherapy at the Athens Associates for Counseling and Psychotherapy. He began teaching mindfulness woven into an oriental approach to pottery making in the late 70's and has been teaching mindfulness formally since 1997.