Chapter 2What Is Mindfulness?

We are born with the ability to be fully in our moments, but we can grow out of if we get overly caught up in the world of thoughts.

About 2,500 years ago, in a region that is now known as Northern India/Southern Nepal, there lived a prince named Siddhartha Gautama. As in most parts of the world at that time, suffering and death were everywhere, and Siddhartha's father wanted to protect his son from these harsh realities. When he grew into a young man, Siddhartha surreptitiously ventured out into the villages surrounding his palace, and was stunned by the sickness, old age, and death that he saw. How could he enjoy the pleasures of the palace knowing that so many others were suffering? What was the point of living such a life if disease and death could take it all away without warning?

Siddhartha decided to seek out the spiritual teachers of his time, most of whom taught a practice known as absorption meditation (shamatha or samadhi). This is a very blissful state to achieve. Practitioners describe it as feeling “one with the universe.”

Interestingly, researchers such as Newberg and D'Aquili1 have scanned the brains of those in this absorptive state. In the parietal lobes of the brain, they found reduced activity in a place called the Orientation Association Area. Basically, the left side senses “this is my body,” and the right side senses “this ...

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