What Is Mindfulness?

As a Global Community Hub we pondered on this important question the past few days:

What is mindfulness?   Scientists in the field of mindfulness stated that the term mindfulness has a plethora of meanings.  Mindfulness is an umbrella term used to characterize a large number of practices, processes, and characteristics, largely defined in relation to the capacities of attention, awareness, memory/retention, and acceptance/discernment.  We could limit ourselves by staying in our heads with academic terms, but really, should mindfulness perhaps rather be heartfulnessJon Kabat-Zinn and others made a case that in the Chinese language mindfulness is written with a character for presence over a character for heart.  Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of meditation for practitioners in both Eastern and Western  cultures.

We asked our own hub members for input. Shay, who has a deep passion for transformation and to bring future possibility into form, whether with voice or re-creating a home, favors this definition from the Hakomi methodIt is a distinct state of consciousness, characterized by relaxed volition, a surrender to and acceptance of the happenings of the moment, a gentle, sustained focus of attention inward, a heightened sensitivity and the ability to observe and name the contents of consciousness. It is self reflective.  Yvette, who is making time for an hour of journaling, art, and meditation as part of her daily routine that prepares her for the day ahead, said:  Mindfulness to me is, appreciation of this singular moment in time, not remembering the past or projecting into the future, but staying in the now.   Surin mentioned: Mindfulness is being aware of what one is doing in the movements of the body, in the movement in the mind, and putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world.

Most of our members are also actively involved in the MIT ULab course of Otto Scharmer and team. This highly experiential course is based on Theory U, a framework, method, and way of connecting to the more authentic aspects of our self. It introduces the variables of awareness, attention, consciousness, and presencing into self, business, and society.  By keeping an open mind, open heart, open will,  mindful presence is key of the U process as we  lead from the emerging future.

I spent one day this past week at a monastery where l love to go on retreats. I learned a lot of wisdom from the monks during my various visits there over the years, because for them mindfulness is an integrated part of their lifestyle, every day, in everything what they are doing. Over the years I learned that  mindfulness is an integral part of who we are,  every breath we take, as Jon Kabat-Zinn stated it recently: ‘a life-long love affair’ that gives purpose and meaning to every moment of where we are,  in the here and now.   In our Global Community Hub we welcome new members who would like to be introduced to some of the basics of mindfulness in small, incremental steps.  For members who are already practicing mindfulness, we want to give an opportunity to grow in their practices and encourage them in their individual journeys when we meet in our coaching circles, or other ways we connect as a virtual community.  We also welcome practitioners who have integrated mindfulness as part of their daily life routine, because we have plenty of opportunity where we can all learn from each other.   I agree with Richard Davidson when he said that when we want to take care of our body, we make sure to get enough sleep, eat  healthy, and make time for daily exercise.  We get our body in shape to be in better service of others. The time is ready for us to also integrate contemplative aerobics into our daily routine with our mindfulness practices.  He predicts that in 30 years it will be as common to do our mental exercise as it will be to do our physical exercise as part of our daily routine. I don’t want to wait another 30 years, do you?

8 Replies to “What Is Mindfulness?”

  1. I really agree with you and those you referred to, especially Richard Davidson. In my opinion, a human life is perhaps composed of two principal parts, body and mind. The weight ratio for a person as the owner of life to look after one’s whole life should be equal 50:50. That means one should spend time, resource, attention etc. for the body the same as the mind in daily life. But the fact is opposite to this because one usually looks after the body much more than the mind such as three meals a day, taking a bath, dressing, curing when being sick, resting or sleeping when being tired etc. but the mind doesn’t get enough food or rarely any rest each day. Thus, the ratio weight ratio between body and mind actually is 80:20, 90:10, even 99:1. The food and rest of mind are meditation, mindfulness, praying and all good acts. The mind works hard but less meal and less rest. The result then comes out as one’s body is generally bigger, stronger, fatter but one’s mind is thinner and thinner even being sick [some condition such as apathy, narrow-minded, greedy, aggressive, selfish, absence, etc. that leads to one’s own troubles, family’s troubles, social chaos. The key may be starting from the small point, that is to balance between body and mind at the beginning using the power of mindfulness & meditation including other effective and positive tools such as U lab. Then, shift to emphasize the mind. I think the most important thing is the mind [ for me it may be called inside, heart, spirit etc.]. I would like to refer to the Buddha’s teaching as followed :
    “Mind foreruns all mental conditions,
    Mind is chief, mind-made are they;
    If one speaks or acts with a wicked mind,
    Then suffering will follow him
    Even as the wheel, the hoof of the ox.”
    Thank you.

    1. Surin, thank you for sharing from your perspective and your active participation in our Facebook group! Great comparison that we spend much more time on taking care of our body rather than focusing on nurturing our whole being, including mind with heart and spirit.

  2. Contemplative aerobics? I like the concept. Your Hub interests me. This is my first time with the U Lab courses. I began with Mindfulness Training through Vipasana in the mid-1970’s. The 3-month silent retreat in Barre, MA in 1979 produced many experiences that continue to bear fruit. I would say in one sentence—not following any manual: Mindfulness engages awareness of the body, breath, senses, and thoughts with sustained attention moment by moment. To extrapolate—I would add that each dimension—body, breath, senses, and thoughts—can be opened to understanding using various meditative strategies. These skills, when applied, can influence deeply our awareness of past, present, and future, our understanding of emotion and embodiment, the nature of self, all of our relations, our connection to inner and outer environment, our understanding of many different disciplines—including religion philosophy, psychology, literature, environmental and ethnic studies, to name a few—and ultimately, can be a compass for our life’s purpose(s) and sense of fulfillment, inviting joy, happiness, love, and caring in bountiful ways.

    1. Loving beauty in the moment of reflected light, contrasting values indicating distance and closeness can become the self and then can be taught to others not familiar with the art of being in the moment. I love your perspective and creative energy. Love and blessings. Thank You, Steve

      1. Thank you for being part our hub from the beginning two years ago as one of our founding members, Steve! Your presence with your caring spirit is felt by many!

    2. I’m pleased to meet you, Eric! You are more than welcome to join our Facebook group if you are interested. I like how you explain mindfulness from your personal experience – so deep with so many layers to unfold as we continue our journey. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thank you Ronelle and everybody sharing all these meaningful “descriptions” of mindfulness. I really hope too we have not to wait 30 years until this meditation practice will become a daily practice.
    I just like to add that mindfulness allows me to get to a free space inside where something new and fresh can come.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Caterina! I like your description of ‘a free space inside where something new and fresh can come from’! We need to remember that…

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