I no longer believe in New Year’s Resolutions, because making a resolution is the ticket to breaking it. Actually, someone just suggested to me that resolutions are for those who need goals and have difficulty meeting them. Sometimes, I wish that was me. I am a high achiever, which sometimes forces me to look ahead rather than to live in the moment. So if there was any resolution I choose to make this year, it would be to be more mindful.
A recent issue of Discovery’s Edge, put out by the Mayo Clinic, had an extensive article on the subject of mindfulness, and to me this means that medicine is headed in the right direction. The article focuses on the research and work of Roberto Benzo, M.D., a Mayo Clinic pulmonologist and epidemiologist with an interest in behavioral medicine. His current research involves combining conventional medicine with mindfulness meditation. He claims to have seen changes in his patients by not only decreasing their hospitalizations, but also by making them feel better overall.
Dr. Benzo defines mindfulness as “being completely present and seeing things as they really are, not as we want them to be.” Mindfulness has its origins more than 2500 years ago in Buddhist traditions. The idea is to remain in the moment and not to focus on goals, which so many of us tend to do. Thich Nhat Hanh, the renowned Zen monk, and probably one of the most widely known Zen instructors after His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has written many easy-to-understand books addressing the subject of mindfulness. He advocates that “our true home is not in the past. Our true home is not in the future. Our true home is in the here and the now. Life is available only in the here and the now, and it is our true home.” He suggests a simple practice to help us become more mindful, he suggests breathing in. Then say to yourself, “I know that I am breathing in.” Mindfulness, he says, “gives birth to joy and happiness.”
When teaching his patients, Benzo found that when they understand the importance of their role in their own health that they try harder to stay healthy. The Mayo uses wellness coaches to help with the process by teaching patients to be aware of their body’s sensations and movements.
There is no doubt that mindfulness practices reduces stress and pain and as Benzo summaries, “awareness and appreciation of the life that they [the patients] have right now is the key.”
Diana Raab is a Santa Barbara, California-based memoirist, poet and writing instructor whose passion is keeping a notebook. This post originally appeared on her blog, Diana's Notebook, Literary Musings.