Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing your attention to the experiences occurring in the present moment and has been used by almost all major religious and spiritual traditions for many many years. There are meditation practices in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and most other religions and spiritual traditions. Meditation practices can take many forms, including sitting, breathing, and walking meditations. Meditation has many benefits, but one of the main purposes of meditation is to quiet the mind.

Quieting the mind basically means training the mind to think about one thing, instead of being distracted by the many things that the mind wants to think about. Some people describe the mind as being like a monkey. The monkey-mind wants to wander off wherever it wants to go and whenever it wants to go. It is hard to control. Frequently, the mind wants to worry about what might happen in the future and to also obsess over what has happened in the past. The objective during meditation is to bring the mind back to the present moment. One of the easiest ways to do this is to concentrate on breathing. We all have to breathe, and so a good technique for meditation is to simply follow and observe the air coming in and going out of the lungs. This causes us to recognize the stillness of the mind and helps bring your attention back to the present time.

Being more aware of what is really going on right now helps us not be distracted by thoughts of the past or the future. Pay attention to the place you are right now, the person you are with, the sights and the smells that are present at this very moment. Meditation is a good way to practice mindfulness, but there are many other techniques. Mindfulness is being taught in many places all around the world. In the west, a lot of this training has been pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created a program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with the University of Massachusetts. The research they have done has clearly shown that mindfulness training can help in many situations including depression and stress. It has also been shown to increase happiness. Mindfulness is now being taught and practiced in many workplaces, schools, and other institutions.

Where mindfulness practice relates to addiction is interesting, because mood altering drugs inhibit mindfulness. Addictive drugs put the brain in an "other place" and decrease the ability to live in the present moment. Smoking pot, drinking alcohol, using opiates or any other drug puts the mind in an altered state, away from the present moment. In some ways, they create the opposite of mindfulness. This can be pleasant for occasional short periods of time and, for most people, it does not turn into a problem. But, as we all know, some people will use drugs and alcohol much more often and it does become a problem. Occasional alcohol use can be like a pleasant vacation. But vacations should end, and to have the most fulfilled life, we need to stay mindful and live in reality.

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