Mindfulness, as commonly practiced, refers to a type of awareness that is both tolerant of and interested in the many experiences – both habitual and novel – that make up the human condition. Such awareness allows one to see how past choices influence current and future experiences. In this volume of chapters, we have shared the benefits of mindfulness in the pragmatic, secular realm of performance. With the increasing pressure on performers and the aligned emotional challenges – from significant fears, to harsh self-judgment, to boredom – we believe strengthening our research base and continuing to create clear mindfulness-based pathways supported by solid empirical, evidence-based interventions is essential. In this quest, we must also create nuanced interventions to meet the needs of a range of performers, from the novice to professional – from dancers, singers, athletes, as well as coaches, mindfully oriented clinicians, mindfulness coaches, and sport psychology practitioners – and in such tailored interventions address the many unique demands of performance.
Mindfulness promotes a particular type of presence – a presence that is intentionally aware of and interested in what is occurring moment to moment. Contrary to mainstream assumptions, mindfulness does not necessarily include a quiet, stress-free experience. In fact, mindfulness includes the full spectrum of human experience, from intense fear and anxiety to moments of joy. Mindfulness includes the ability and willingness to engage in the present moment, whether it is fascinating, joyful, or riddled with physical, emotional, or social pain. The high value of being mindful in the performance realm is retaining the ability to focus on task-relevant cues – to concentrate – and to interact mostly wisely moment to moment with one's environment. When performing with mindfulness, one is able to tolerate distractions, such as fear, threat, or boredom such that the given distraction does not derail the performer from being present to opportunities (internal and external) for optimal performance.
A Brief Definition of Mindfulness: Buddhist and Langerian Mindfulness
Attributed to the pioneering work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the dominant approach to mindfulness in North America within the clinical setting, both medical and psychological, has its roots in Buddhism. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as, “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4).