Mindfulness – What’s the Buzz?

19 January 2014


It seems as if the word “mindfulness” is seen and heard just about everywhere today, used to promote everything from weight loss regimes to being more productive at home and on the job. Being the hot topic that it is, mindfulness (like meditation) is getting more attention as more and more  studies reveal its many benefits. In some circles it may be viewed as psycho-babble, but there’s mounting evidence that being more mindful will enhance nearly every single aspect of your life; and this is spite of some common misconceptions; one being, it doesn’t take hours of sitting in padmasana (the lotus pose) to get you there.

“Mindfulness” has become a catch-all word that has many synonyms (awareness, attention, focus, presence, vigilance, etc.). The antonyms are not simply “mindlessness,” but also distractedness, inattention, apathy, heedlessness, etc.).

Mindfulness is a state of mind but can also be practiced as a type of meditation. Ironically, mindfulness can’t be developed by force. Sheer determination and willpower won’t do you much good at all. As a matter of fact, it will likely hinder progress. A mindful state is not attained by struggle. It gradually grows by simple realizing; letting go and just settling down in the present moment and allowing yourself to get comfortable with whatever experience is presenting itself. Now, this does not mean that mindfulness will happen all by itself. Energy is needed, effort is required. But this effort is not to be mistaken for force, instead it is cultivated by a gentle effort, almost an “effortless” effort. So the meditator cultivates the state of mindfulness by unceasingly reminding themselves in a gently way to maintain conscious awareness of whatever is happening right now. Perseverance and a light, easy touch are the secrets. Mindfulness is cultivated and deepened by constantly “pulling” oneself back into a state of awareness, gently, ever so gently. Whenever you’re exhibiting the state of mindfulness, you’ll find you’re fully engrossed in whatever happens to be going on around you.

You can also think of mindfulness as allowing yourself to be fully in the present moment. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center) defines it as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally; as if your life depended on it.” Although that seems to be a simple definition, being engaged 100% doesn’t necessarily come easy, especially in this modern world of endless distractions. It means actively listening and using all your senses (in even mundane situations like washing the dishes or getting dressed in the morning.

Rooted in Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness is considered extremely important on the path to enlightenment. Enlightenment (aka, bodhi) is a state of being where greed, hatred, delusion and other forms of negativity have been transcended and are absent from the mind. Mindfulness is actually an antidote to delusion and is considered as such a “siddhi” (a power developed from spiritual practice).

In a state of mindfulness, you see yourself exactly as you are. You see your own selfish behavior. You see your own suffering. And you see how you create that suffering. You see how you hurt others. You pierce right through the layer of lies that you normally tell yourself and you see what is really there. Mindfulness leads to wisdom

Mindfulness is not about trying to achieve anything, or make anything happen, it is just looking, observing without judging. So, desire and aversion are not involved in any way and competition and struggle really have no place in the process. Mindfulness does not aim at any particular thing, it just sees whatever is already present. The mindful state has a broader, deeper and larger function than concentration. It is an all-encompassing function, whereas concentration is exclusive, it singles out one item and ignores everything else. Mindfulness is all inclusive, standing back from any sort of focused attention and watching with a broad perspective, quickly realizing any changes that occur.

If you want to grow in mindfulness, patient acceptance of “what is” is the only course to follow. It grows one way and only one way; by continuous practice of mindfulness itself, by simply returning to that mindful state, and that means being extremely patient with yourself. Progress cannot be forced and it can’t be hurried, it proceeds according to own pace.

In summary, mindfulness is all about deliberately tuning in and being consciously aware of every experience. In William Blake’s poem “Auguries of Innocence” he describes the results of this kind of attentiveness… 

“To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour.” 

Stay tuned, We will continue on this subject with “Mindfulness Benefits” and “How to Practice Cultivating Mindfulness”

*Of related interest, click on: The Importance of Meditation to Yoga Practice

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

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