It’s a catchphrase that’s everywhere these days… Mindfulness. On its own merit, that’s quite amazing actually. The news paints a bleak picture of the human condition, and there certainly are a lot of problems to solve – from regional conflicts to global climate change. But human consciousness has undeniably elevated from a historical perspective – to the point now where mindfulness and meditation have become culturally ubiquitous. It used to be that your village was walled off, and you stepped outside the gates at your peril. Now you can travel to nearly all corners of the world in relative safety and your chances of dying are associated to what you eat rather than wars and conflict. And we talk about mindfulness in the global community.
So back to our topic. If you Google it, you’ll get 434 million results. It is literally everywhere, and everybody is talking about it. From our children’s schools to the workplace, and to the retirement home, as well as everywhere in the media – it is touted as the hot solution to cultivating some inner peace in our chaotic world. Most discussions about mindfulness gloss the surface and quick definitions drift around notions like being attentive to the present moment. But asking “what is mindfulness?” is a little like asking “what is art?”
Mindfulness entails certain essential ingredients. Many liken mindfulness to living in the now, and yes that is a component but that is not enough. Our pet dog lives in the present moment but there isn’t a whole lot of mindfulness going on! So, the critical distinction is the act of conscious observation, in other words, knowing that you know what is happening in the moment. There’s a little space there between the awareness and the subject observing the object. Yet even this isn’t enough for a fully flowered mindful practice. That’s because we all have conditioning and all sorts of lenses and identifications through which we take in the outside world. Being mindful entails recognition of the identifications, at the very least. Then true mindfulness means going further, to drop those identifications, pure awareness without any judgement or any filters like attachments and aversions. True mindfulness is absent of any lenses inbred into the personality, and the character we imbody. We can say that a pure mindfulness practice is not tainted by egoic blemishes.
The goal is to integrate this ability into daily life, so it’s not just for 20 minutes a day when it’s convenient. Mindfulness eventually flowers into ever-present pure awareness. As it is now, we try to overlay mindfulness onto our busy minds, but eventually we realize that the clear witness has always been there in spite of our everyday drama. It takes us from a default mode of clinging to one of non-clinging. In Buddhism, non-clinging uproots suffering. In yoga, chitta vritti nirodha means the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. That the culmination of true mindfulness.
Here are a few more articles with helpful pointers to mindfulness:
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