Mindfulness in education

Katherine Weare


The term mindfulness refers to the ability to direct the attention to experience as it unfolds, moment by moment, with open-minded curiosity and kindness (Kabat-Zinn 1996). Mindfulness is partly an ability that can be developed, and practices that encourage mindfulness are designed to train the attention and ability to “be with” present experience in an interested rather than judgmental way. This process is intended to help loosen the grip of habitual, mindless activity, including negative ruminations and worries, and produce less reactivity and impulsiveness, and a greater ability to examine thoughts and feelings more rationally and thus respond more skillfully to life’s challenges (Holzel et al. 2011a).

The process of applying non-judgmental curiosity to experience often of itself induces a greater sense of kindness and compassion toward the self and others, and some approaches to mindfulness include specific work to train these empathic abilities. Over time, shifts can take place in unwanted repetitive mental and behavioral patterns that otherwise create and maintain negative mental states, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and hostility (Ma and Teasdale 2004). Mindfulness practice can also cultivate positive mind states such as mental stability and calm, giving rise to greater happiness, more effectiveness in everyday life, and a stronger sense of well-being and satisfaction with life (Williams and Penman 2011).

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