We asked Deanna Burkett, registered yoga teacher at UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine, for tips on practicing mindfulness-based meditation in the New Year.
What is mindfulness?
A. One of the most referenced definitions is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s description of mindfulness as an attentional quality, that is – intentional, present-moment and non-judgmental. Mindfulness is also defined as “to hold something in mind.” Mindfulness, in its non-secular context, communicates an element of remembering what to do with the present moment. This practice stitches the present moments together and helps us aim them toward our goals and resolutions.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
A. Mindfulness-based meditation teaches us how to relate differently to stress in our lives, and the results are wonderfully unpredictable. One of the greatest benefits I’ve seen in my own life is in my relationships – my reactivity decreased, and this benefit translates into personal and professional arenas. For me, less difficulty and regret in relationships means less anxiety, sadness and rumination. Other researched benefits of mindfulness-based practices include decreases in depression and anxiety, reduced pain, greater ability to meet pain, better sleep and increased feelings of well-being.
What’s the best way to begin practicing mindfulness?
A. It’s helpful to have a teacher and a group to practice with regularly. If that isn’t available, there are applications, books, videos and online courses. At the UPMC Center for Integrative Medicine, I teach a weekly yoga class that has mindfulness as its context. Live situations like this give students a chance to ask questions and get personal feedback.
What would you suggest to people who say they are too busy for meditation?
A. I understand where they’re coming from, but I would ask them to make space for the idea that some time-consuming activities are simply habits that don’t offer us much in return. What would happen if we could learn new mental habits to help us live life differently, more skillfully and more intentionally? This isn’t a matter of meditation being “one more thing to do.” Meditation means setting out to learn a new habit, a new mental training that we can apply to our lives outside of meditation.