AN OVERVIEW OF MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is a way of
being in the world – it is a clear awareness of the present moment. One is open to the way things
are in each moment, without trying to manipulate or change the experience. It is also to meet each moment
with kindness. Mindfulness is
a way of living, not just a technique.
"In Western traditions, mindfulness is often associated with devotional practices in which we
walk with God as our constant companion within us, or apprehend the presence of God. It has been described as
looking at the world with the eyes of Christ's love, or as walking with Jesus by our side or within our
deepest self at all times. In Jewish Kabbalah, the idea that creation is continually renewing itself moment
to moment helps us bring a sense of wonder and awe into every moment, allowing each moment to be one
discovery and revelation." [Joel and Michelle Levey, Luminous Mind:
Meditation and Mind Fitness (San Francisco: Conari Press, 1999), 77.]
Purpose and Process
The purpose of
mindfulness is to meet the mind with openness and care. One can think of the mind as a clear blue sky, and
the thoughts (perceptions) and emotions that pass through as weather patterns. Mindfulness is the process, then, of returning again and
again to each moment and open awareness to what is happening now. It is a way to be – not pushing away, or grasping.
It is simply being open.
Intention and Focus
Mindfulness is not about intending to achieve a goal such as enlightenment or an insight – rather one’s
focus is on the process of
paying attention. One’s intention is to pay attention to the present moment to the degree that one is able –
and to return to the present moment when wandering away.
Thoughts and Suffering
One has thoughts. In mindfulness, one observes them without labelling. One stays in the
present with these thoughts. Suffering can occur when a person tries to manipulate thoughts, to change their
experience of them, or to evaluate them as happy, sad, or angry. Also, thoughts can take one away from the
here and now – into the past, or into the future.
Practice and Outcome
Mindfulness is a practice – that is, one learns to be mindful by practicing being mindful. It is
being present with one’s experience from moment to moment – discovering the richness of each moment, and
holding what one discovers without judging it, clinging to it, or pushing it away. Nevertheless, there is an
outcome – in the process of
paying attention, one begins to see oneself and one’s life more clearly.
In mindfulness there is a balance between effort and relaxation. One is engaged and not passive – it is an active way of being in the
present. There is effort, but not striving.
In sum, mindfulness is a way for living more fully – of experiencing the awareness of the
present moment, without judgment. Its benefits potentially include reducing stress, solving problems,
improving health, adding meaning to life, and boosting one’s sense of well-being. Mindfulness enables
kindness shown to oneself – in embracing all of one’s inner landscape – and thereby opens the door to having
loving kindness to others, indeed to all beings.
A further article on mindfulness is as follows:
Source: Above notes based on thoughts taken from Anne Ihnen and Carolyn Flynn, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to
Mindfulness (New York: Alpha Books, 2008), 1-42.
Photo credit: Intellimon