Mindfulness is defined as is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience (www.psychologytoday.com).
I have read the book called "The Plastic Mind" by Sharon Begley. This book explores the theory, that for decades neuroscience stated the brain was hardwired by the time we reach adulthood - there was no room for any new neurons/ connections to occur. There is much discussion and research in this book to disprove that theory ie. "that you can't teach an old dog new tricks!" One of the research methodologies applied was Mindfulness, which is used in Buddhist meditation. There were many dialogues with the Dalai Lama as he has a personal interest in science and the mind - he even volunteered his monks to be part of the research. As a result, the Mind and Life institute was born. Another contributing factor was that some scientists previously practiced as Buddhist monks (a couple with the Dalai Lama) and pondered the effects of meditation on the mind and applications in science.
Mindfulness was used as part of the research in neuroplasticity which revealed the brain is capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons, even into old age. The research shows that the brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma and compensate for disability.
The book documents how this fundamental paradigm shift is transforming both our understanding of the human mind and our approach to deep-seated emotional, cognitive and behavioural problems. The book details these breakthroughs showing that it is possible to:
- reset our happiness meter,
- regain the use of limbs disabled by stroke,
- train the mind to break cycles of depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and
- reverse age-related changes in the brain.
It becomes paramount then, by applying mindfulness ie. focusing on the present moment - enables us to learn and apply new information, skills and experience more effectively. It seems if you are in a state of active, open attention on the present then it enables more effective learning and retention. Being in the present moment increases learning effectiveness, aids in acquiring the new skill, information or strengthening your experience. Without judgement, your mind is opened to many possibilities and learning something new creates new neurons, forging new connections in your plastic mind. It gives more weight to the saying "Learning something new keeps you young!"