Mindfulness is quite simply the practice of being aware – knowing what is going on. It is essentially what is practiced with meditation, though meditation is more formal and structured (and usually involves sitting still). Mindfulness, however, can be done anywhere and at any time. Typically, you use your breath to return to a state of awareness of what is happening around you in the present.
It might sound easy, just being aware of your breathing. But, the truth is that it is not always so. The human mind likes to wander and busy itself with things unrelated to our automatic inhalation and exhalation. This is often important, but as many of us know – and as Thich Nhat Hanh, a master worldwide teacher of mindfulness has said – it can often be harmful. The science on the matter is clear: Mindfulness has profound benefits for those who practice it.
“People who have anger problems fall victim to their emotional reactions when certain triggers set them off. By learning mindfulness, they are far better able to take pause and react in a more constructive way to conflict,” said clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., in an article written in Psychology Today.
This is something I have been able to see within myself. In the past, I struggled a lot with anger. I was extremely reactive, and the smallest thing could ignite a destructive inferno. With mindfulness, I have become much more easygoing.
In a 2013 study by Jeena Cho for Forbes Magazine called “6 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation,” 93 people with general anxiety were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness-based group or a control group. The mindfulness group resulted in a significantly greater anxiety reduction than the control group.
I, for one, know the suffering associated with anxiety. Hanh said that if you practice mindfulness, you will “melt through anxiety.” I can attest to these benefits.
I have personally practiced mindfulness for three or four years on a regular basis, beginning when I was about 16. I still consider myself very much a beginner, and the practice is as difficult as it ever was. But the results have shown themselves. Mindfulness has been a source of strength for me throughout the years of practice (and even the years of no practice). Whether I am in the rhythm of a daily or weekly practice regimen or it has been months since my last mindful inhale, I feel encouraged to know that I can always return to that wonderfully calming technique of listening to my body and mind.
Because of both my experience with mindfulness and meditation and the widely recognized benefits of it, I have decided to start a club dedicated to these skills at UNO. I am not alone—I am being greatly helped by English faculty member Kim Schwab. We have already found an interested student or two and multiple possible locations to meet. We’re planning on a weekly meeting of about an hour in duration.
But, we need help! We have not yet met the requirements to officially be recognized as a UNO club. We are in search of at least another couple of students who are willing to join and a dedicated student treasurer, as well. If mindfulness is something that interests you or that you may have a passion for, please reach out to me. My email is Jrothe2@unomaha.edu. I mean, the studies speak for themselves. Isn’t better mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing worth a try?
This practice is life changing. I know it has changed mine for the better. It gives me a sense of calm and encouragement to know that wherever I go or whatever may happen, I will still have the practice of mindfulness to bring me fulfillment and peace. If you are familiar with the practice or even if you have never heard of it before, I encourage you to join our group and help us form a club dedicated to mindfulness at UNO. I am confident that an organization like this will be beneficial and positive for anyone who is involved.