Present Centered Awareness
The wisdom traditions have known for over two millennia how the practice of intentional, nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience can profoundly affect a person’s well-being, equanimity, and vitality. Now science is confirming what the wisdom traditions have known all along with studies that show improvements in many aspects of mental and physical health. It might sound incredible to imagine that by intentionally focusing our attention on moment-to-moment experience, without being swept up by judgments or preconceived ideas and expectations, we can actually change the structural connections in our brain over time. We are now beginning to understand how this type of neuroplasticity can result from mindfulness mediation and present centered awareness. This way of looking freshly at the world and our experience can be primed by contemplative practice.
Mindfulness practice is now becoming successfully integrated with several therapeutic approaches. Ongoing studies continue to substantiate benefits such as: a decrease in stress and anxiety, the prevention of chronically relapsing depression, improvement in obsessive compulsive disorder and attentional difficulties (including ADD), enhanced self-esteem, decreased burnout (especially in the helping professions) and the ability to avoid getting ensnared in repetitive destructive emotions, and impulsive or addictive behaviors. Meditation has also been shown through MRI studies and self-report to reduce pain through multiple brain mechanisms.
As a therapist, I find my own ongoing explorations and practice in contemplative, meditative awareness incredibly valuable and a great aid in helping me to be present with another person’s subjective experience, even when that experience is profoundly distressing. This kind of awareness necessitates a nonjudgmental, open, curious and caring stance where theoretical knowledge is utilized with careful respect to the uniqueness of the individual’s self and circumstances. This kind of fluid, empathic, open awareness provides the most favorable situation for the change process to flourish.