I have been re-visiting my ideas about mindfulness in the last few days in preparation for an event which I am facilitating.
I first came across the term ‘mindfulness’ many years ago when I was sent an early copy of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Wherever You go, There You Are, with a view to my being the UK publisher for it. Jon Kabat-Zinn had taken ideas from ancient Buddhist practices and explored how to make them accessible to the mainstream. He believed that Western society had lost touch with the universal human qualities of paying attention and living with awareness.
This was 1994 and the thinking behind the book was all completely new to us at Piatkus. We had published books on meditation but this was so much more.
In the introduction the author explains that ‘wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you are thinking right now, that’s what’s on your mind.’ It looks at first like a simple observation but in fact it requires much practice and self-awareness to observe your thoughts in this way. The important question we must each ask ourselves is how best to respond to any given situation in which we find ourselves and the answer to that question lies in responding with your full awareness to whatever is going on for you right there in that moment.
Whatever has happened has already happened. The future is unknown. When we can truly learn to live in the present, to ‘be in touch with where we already are’, then we are in a situation where we have the most to gain for we can understand more of ‘the truth’ of what we are really experiencing and ideally respond with wisdom and heartfelt understanding.
I took the book to the editorial meeting and we were all keen to go ahead. But the ideas were so new at the time, that we thought we would need to change the title of the book or we would have difficulty in selling it into the bookshops (this was long before the days of amazon). Accordingly we retitled it Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life. We printed an initial edition of 3000 copies. The Daily Mail wrote a piece about it which resonated so profoundly that the book sold out within a week. It nevertheless took many years before it was taken up by psychotherapists as a tool to help their patients and subsequently the concept of mindfulness found its way into the NHS and after that became mainstream.
Now mindfulness has become an industry. People know that practising mindfulness is good for them but they are not sure why. It takes time to become mindful of who we are as individuals, how we respond to different situations in the way that we do, whether we are truly living our lives the way we want to, whether we are living from our hearts.
Mindfulness has been an extraordinary gift to the world. and the gifts it offers are available to each and every one one of us every day of our lives – as long as we are aware when we are truly ‘there’.
For those interested you can click here to purchase or review Jon Kabat - Zinn's book: Wherever You Go, There You Are.
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