A Definition Of Mindfulness?

by Scott Morrice on 03/20/2012

Looking for a definition of mindfulness?

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about my Meditation vs. Hypnosis post, and the fact that I was taking steps to learn more about meditation with a view to incorporating its practice into my own life. Knowing of my interest in learning this modality, my wife recently bought a book for me called Insight Meditation by Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein, which is a step-by-step course on meditation. I have just started reading the first chapters, and doing the first exercises, and I was trying to describe these to my friend. I was expounding forth on the idea that, at least according to this book, there were essentially two pillars of meditation. The first is concentration (though tranquil and relaxed), and the second pillar is the quality of mindfulness.

He asked me for a definition of mindfulness.

And I told him to read this post.

Now I am pretty sure that anyone with any exposure to the field of mind/body/spirit, and certainly anyone who has ever practiced any form of meditation, knows what mindfulness means. But, as I said in my About page, this Blog is about my journey, and I know that this journey will cover lots of ground long since explored by most others.

As it turns out the question is quite easy (in a sense) to answer. It is also a very neat concept to get your mind around. And I have personally found that experiencing mindfulness, which is not particularly difficult (though very difficult to maintain for anything other than a very brief period of time), is quite liberating.

At its most simplistic mindfulness is bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience, on a moment-to-moment basis. It is paying complete attention to the present moment, and doing it nonjudgmentally—that is without adding our emotions, conclusions or judgments, or reacting to what is going on. In fact it has been said that as soon as you have an emotion, you are no longer present. There is judgment there of your experience.

It is akin to sitting in a chair and paying close attention to the feeling of the chair against your back, the feeling of the seat of the chair on your buttocks, the feeling of your feet on the floor. And perhaps the back of the chair is pressing sharply into your back. But although you notice this feeling, and acknowledge it as being there, you don’t move forward to conclude that it is pain that you are feeling, or that it is uncomfortable—because that would mean that you were judging your experience.

Achieving a state of mindfulness takes practice. A lot of practice.

It turns out that mindfulness practice, in addition to the part it plays in meditation, is also being used, even in the West, to treat a variety of mental and physical conditions such as pain, stress, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and for help in strengthening the immune system.

But achieving a state of mindfulness in our everyday life is also considered to be a good thing.

We are starting to understand that in our world we are too often spending our lives worrying about the future, and if not the future then the past, instead of concentrating on living in the present moment. And the present moment is all we really have. In a state of mindfulness we experience a sense of peace. As Eckhart Tolle says in his book The Power of Now,

Make the Now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your situation.

There is much to learn here, and I intend to come back to Tolle’s book The Power of Now, which is really centered on this whole idea of living in the Now, and mindfulness, in a later post.

I’ll keep you posted.

  • Diana

    Interesting discussion I had with my Dad JUST today! He was asking a question about our upcoming trip which sounded like…..”what happens if this occurs…?” My response was: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get too it” Which prompted a discussion about how appropriate the “old wives tales” or “old expressions” REALLY are if you stop to think about it! In your comments on this blog entry, “…we spend our lives worrying about the future”. We must actually LIVE today, and anticipate the “adventure” the future will unfold for us. ergo….”we’ll cross that bridge when we get too it”!!!

    • scottmorrice

      You know, I have always said that the best thing about a vacation is the anticipation. But in the larger picture, I think we have to be careful that this does not lead to what Tolle warns us about—and that is “dwelling in the future”. I like that comment “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” because, to me, that is also what Tolle is suggesting with respect to how we should be living our lives—dwelling in the now, but with brief visits to the future when required. Good to hear from you.

      Scott

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