Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Blog Index
    The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

    Mindfulness: The Basics

    By Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Mindfulness:  The Basics

    I’ve been giving a lot of talks on mindfulness lately, and I thought that I would share some of what I’ve been presenting (please pardon the pun!).  Many people have expressed appreciation for this simple breakdown of mindfulness, and I hope that you find it useful, too.  So, here are the basics of mindfulness:  what, who, when, where, how, and why.

    The What

    Mindfulness is a special kind of attention characterized by attitudes of openness, curiosity, and acceptance.  We notice our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and sense perceptions as we're having them in the present moment.  Recently, I learned of another definition that I liked:  mindfulness is paying extra-ordinary attention to ordinary experiences.

    The Who

    Who can practice mindfulness?  Anyone, even you!  You don’t have to be a guru on a hilltop or a Zen monk in order to become more aware to your experiences.

    The When

    We can practice mindfulness anytime.  Admittedly, some times are better--or easier--than others.  It is hard to be aware of our thoughts and feelings, for example, if we’re caught in a very emotional moment.  It helps to have a modicum of alertness, but the main ingredient is simply the intention to be mindful.  There is no perfect time to practice.  We simply need to use whatever time we have and get right into it!

    The Where

    Relatedly, there is no perfect place to practice mindfulness, but some places are easier than others.  Quiet, tranquil places are a bit easier due to the lack of distractions, but we can be mindful anywhere (even on the subway).

    The How

    There are two dimensions to consider when practicing mindfulness:  (a) the kind of attention being employed and (b) the degree of formality associated with it.

    Kind of Attention

    We can focus our awareness like a laser beam and become very immersed in noticing a small detail or perception.  Alternatively, our attention can be diffuse, allowing us to become aware of--but not focused on--whatever arises.

    We experience this attentional difference easily through visual perception.  We can really stare at something and describe its properties (in my recent book, I describe becoming mindfully aware of an object at work, like a stapler) or we can gaze at a point in space and allow ourselves to notice objects in our peripheral vision.  This is the difference between concentrated and diffuse awareness, and reflects the two ways in which we can practice mindfulness.


    Mindfulness can also be done formally (through meditation) or informally (through activities of daily living).  There are many different kinds of meditation, and I do recommend that people try it.  Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness is a nice, structured introduction to meditation, and I’ve used it as a textbook in my class for undergraduates.  If you find it difficult to sit still (or if your mind is particularly active), walking meditation can be a helpful place to start.

    Informally, we can become aware anytime of whatever we think, do, feel, or sense.  We can notice our thoughts (e.g., what is going through our minds when stuck in traffic), become aware of our actions (e.g., how it feels in our body to walk), feel the physical embodiment of emotions (e.g., what happens to your breathing when you’re angry), or pay attention to our senses (e.g., see any visual signs of the changing seasons).  Often, people make the mistake of glorifying meditation and dismissing informal practice.  This is unfortunate.  Ideally, we apply mindfulness in both ways.  An exercise analogy is appropriate here:  Working out helps us get stronger, faster, and leaner more quickly, but it doesn’t help if we’re also overeating and being a couch potato.  Walking more, taking the stairs (vs. elevator) and other informal forms of exercise will help us get in shape over time, but it takes more time and consistency.  Within Buddhism, some teachers have noted that meditation can develop insights strongly and quickly, while informal practice slowly cultivates a solid, experiential wisdom.

    The Why

    Why practice mindfulness?  This is a very important question, actually.  Why do this at all?  Mindfulness helps us pay more attention to our experiences, which is great when they’re pleasant, but not so much fun when they’re painful.  Each person needs to articulate an answer for him/herself.  Here are some of the general ones that I discuss in my presentation:

    • Research has shown that mindfulness increases attention, lowers stress, improves physical health and immune functioning, and provides relief from certain kinds of psychological difficulties.

    • It allows us to pause before reacting in ways that might be unhelpful or hurtful, or interrupt times when we’re already stuck in a negative spiral.

    • It invites us to experience our lives more purposefully and more fully.

    • It makes it possible to realize that our actions are not limited by our thoughts or feelings.

    • It allows us to be more present for the joyful and happy moments of life.

    • Often, it feels better than distracting ourselves or being “stuck in our heads.”


    I hope that this basic introduction to mindfulness has been interesting and--dare I say--enlightening.  If you have other thoughts, questions, or reactions, please feel free to share them.


    Urban Mindfulness: Public Talk in NYC

    Submitted by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    Dear friends, readers, and fellow travelers,

    I'll be giving a public talk next week on mindfulness practice in the city.  I'll discuss the basics of mindfulness (i.e., the what, how, where, when, why, and even who!), and apply the practice of mindfulness to common experiences in town, like waiting in line or riding the subway.  The talk will be held from 7 - 9 pm on Wednesday, September 7th, at The Interdependence Project in the Bowery.  For more details, please visit the Registration Page:  UM at IDP.  Hope to see you there!

    Seeing along the Journey

    By Jennifer Egert, Ph.D.
    Good to be back on UM after also taking a break like Jon! I've been writing a lot, but poetry rather than blogs, so I figured It might be nice to share something here. I wrote this in the midst of a lot of transition, seeing how mindfulness practice helped to create spaciousness that allowed for the whole range of experiences to have their place... and teach me a little something.  Enjoy.



    and in this light

    things seem clearer

    which does not presume


    or dazzling

    but rather crisper

    along the edges

    cutting lines through the haze and glare

    leaving illuminated corners and pathways



    and in this light

    tears flow more readily

    which does not presume


    or despair

    but rather a rooting

    of seeds thought forgotten

    or dormant

    during the long winter and stormy skies

    urging towards singular slumber


    and in this light

    a breath can be breathed

    a note can be played

    a line can be drawn

    a smile can form

    which does not presume


    or achievement

    or termination

    but rather rightness in all

    its simplicity

    and truth

    and disorder

    along the journey.

    Mindfulness and Mr. Rogers

    By Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    To UM readers, I hope that you'll excuse my unannounced hiatus from blogging.  For the past few months, I have been prioritizing other pursuits:  reading (vs. writing), listening (vs. speaking), parenting (vs. working), and being (vs. doing).  This has proven to be a very helpful and enriching practice.

    The stillness that accompanies mindfulness practice allows for the natural arising of many things:  emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and particular human qualities.  In particular, I've taken notice of the ways in which compassion surfaces as a way of considering and treating others.  There are some meditations that specifically cultivate compassion (such as metta meditation within Theravada Buddhism) and psychotherapies that promote its expression as well (e.g., naikan therapy and compassion-focused therapy).  It also becomes present for us when we allow ourselves to see the inherent sufferings and joys in the world, less mediated by our own psychological baggage.  We care genuinely for others, and are more prone to ask "Are you okay?" or "How can I help?" as opposed to "What's wrong with you?!"

    Interestingly, I've seen this same kindness being expressed naturally in young children as they play with each other.  This observation prompted me to recall an anecdote from Fred Rogers (Mister Roberts to you and me), delivered as part of a commencement address a year before he died.  I've saved the New York Times clipping of this story for almost a decade now, and I'm happy to share it with you (it's mid-way down the page):  Mr. Rogers on compassion.  I hope you like it.


    Good Reviews for Urban Mindfulness--The Book!

    Submitted by Jonathan S. Kaplan, Ph.D.

    I know it's been a while since I've posted a new blog entry, and I'm working on a few that I hope you'll enjoy.  In the meantime, I'm happy to report that my first book, Urban Mindfulness: Cultivating Peace, Presence, and Purpose in the Middle of It All, has been getting positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.  This month, it was favorably reviewed by Barry Boyce of Shambhala Sun, too.

    The book provides practical tips for practicing mindfulness in the city, including instructions for meditating on the subway and extending kindness towards noisy neighbors.  Please check out it out yourself or consider sending it as a gift to someone interested in mindfulness.  And, as always, thanks for your interest and support.
    Page 1 ... 2 3 4 5 6 ... 28 Next 5 Entries »