We normally think of mindfulness as something we do that has effects on our physiology and indeed developing mindfulness has been clearly shown to do just that. Most of these physiological effects are positive and enhance our health and well-being. We also tend to think that through our experience and learning, external events, we decide to begin to cultivate mindfulness through contemplative practice.
But, is it possible that in fact the physiology may in part determine our level of mindfulness, perhaps there are factors that affect mindfulness from both our environment and our physiology? Today’s Research News article “A Multivariate Twin Study Of Trait Mindfulness, Depressive Symptoms, And Anxiety Sensitivity”
explores just that question. They show that a substantial amount of our mindfulness is due to our inheritance. Indeed, they find that the environment is also responsible, just as we thought, but surprisingly, so are our genes. In other words, mindfulness originates in both our environment and our physiology. In a sense, we are born to be mindful and our experiences shape our mindfulness from there.
In a modern environment, the influence of the environment on mindfulness is negative. That is, it shapes us not to be mindful. We learn to immerse ourselves in thought to the detriment of our awareness of the present moment. Nature endows us with mindfulness. We are programmed to be attentive to our immediate surroundings, but our culture intervenes to replace it with thinking, thinking, and thinking.
This is not the fault of our parents. In fact, today’s article demonstrates that our family environment, what they termed shared environment, has no influence whatsoever on our mindfulness. It is the influences outside of the family, our culture, which affects our degree of mindfulness. So, don’t blame your parents, blame the society and world that we’ve created for making us oblivious to our present moment.
The mindfulness movement, the current revolution of engagement in contemplative practice is hopefully the antidote bringing us back to our primal state of mindfulness, bringing us back also to our primal state of happiness.