"We're naturally born with it, and it goes away," said Joseph Croskey, director of
Clarion's Center for Advising Services and resident mindfulness guru. "When we're
born, we have a more pure acceptance of the sensations around us. We learn to like
something – or not."
What is mindfulness?
Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that "the present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it."
Social psychologist, mindfulness researcher and founder of the Langer Mindfulness Institute, Ellen Langer, describes it as "an active state of mind characterized by novel distinction-drawing that results in being situated in the present ..."
Psychologytoday.com defines it as "a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience."
Croskey prefers the definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn, scientist, writer and meditation teacher: "The attention that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally."
"Decades ago, I became interested in mindfulness, probably in church and also by reading a Herman Hess novel, 'Siddhartha,' assigned by my 12th grade English teacher," Croskey said. "Most recently my interest came when I found support for mindfulness practices at Google when I was looking for a research question for my dissertation topic."
Google offers many mindfulness courses. Its most popular course, "Search Inside Yourself"
has been offered since 2007. According to Harvard Business Review, "Google believes
that these mindfulness programs teach emotional intelligence, which helps people better
understand their colleagues' motivations. They also boost resilience to stress and
improve mental focus. Participants of the Search Inside Yourself program report being
calmer, more patient, and better able to listen. They also say the program helped
them better handle stress and defuse emotions."
Croskey has seen similar results in his own life.
"My wife would agree that I probably suffer from some type of ADD," he said. "When I started to research for my PhD work, I'd get on the internet and easily get distracted. It would take me way too long to accomplish what I was trying to do. Practicing mindfulness helped me to focus so I could be more efficient and effective."
Croskey, who has been practicing since 2010, said it also helps him handle stress.
"Mindfulness helps you to realize that this, too, shall pass. Pretend you're standing outside and rain is coming down. You can accept it, because you know it's going to pass. If someone cuts you off in traffic, the typical reaction is to respond reflexively without conscious thought. With mindfulness you can realize the person probably meant you no harm."
Croskey now shares the benefits of mindfulness with others, but it took a lot of practice before he was able to master the concept.
"The instructions are simple, but it takes practice to do it," Croskey said. "You
have to commit to dedicated practice."
He recommends starting with a short period of time such as this one-minute mindfulness exercise.
"It's better to start with a little and build. When you realize that (period of mindfulness) felt better, you realize you can do two minutes, or five minutes, or maybe I don't need to watch that TV show and can do 25 minutes," Croskey said. "For me, it might take a 45-minute session to have a sense that I've attained a concentrated state.
He recommends finding a posture in which one can be alert and relaxed. "A LazyBoy might not support those efforts," he joked.
"The postures are designed to help people overcome. Use a posture to help you achieve what you want, one in which your body is supporting you without having to hold yourself rigid," he said. "Starting out, it's nice to hear something guided. There are apps, like Simple Habit, that have guided meditations."
His passion for sharing mindfulness has altruistic roots.
"If, by experiencing mindfulness, by learning to develop concentration and awareness, an individual can find more peace and happiness in themselves, then expand it out and there's more peace and happiness in communities. It might be an expensive solution to a lot of complicated problems.