Mindfulness has been defined by the psychologist and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmental. Mindfulness is also a meditation technique in which one allows thoughts, images, feelings, and body sensations to pass through the mind without reacting to or becoming involved with, those things.
If, while meditating, one notices an itch on the end of the nose or in the middle of the back the meditator recognizes the sensation and allows it to pass. Simply, ‚I have an itch‚ No attachment, no internal discussion, just ‚ I have an itch. Most of the time, after acknowledgment, the itch fades away and your mind has already moved on. We use the gentle, persistent returning to the Now to dismiss these sensations from our mind.
If you are a regular meditator and particular thoughts or sensations keep arising during your sitting you will take note of them, return to the moment and ponder them at a later time. Quite often simply becoming aware of the recurring thoughts or images can provide a very clear picture of what’s causing us to lose our center and/or grounding.
Please note the particulars of the definition cited above: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.
We practice mindfulness on purpose. We decide it is a useful aspect of meditation, we become sensitive to it and it becomes part of our life. When we practice mindfulness in the zendo and with our sangha it’s very hard not to take it out into our daily lives.
We practice mindfulness in the present moment, in the Now. The Now is the place most meditation starts but when moved into our daily world mindfulness in the Now provides us with the real context of the events and emotions we experience, not the context we impose upon them.
We practice mindfulness without judgment. We accept what is, simply because it is. As the author R.A. Heinlein once wrote, ‚the observed phenomena requires no explanation, it simply exists‚. Observing without judgment keeps us from jumping to conclusions. How many times have we made hasty assumptions about a situation or person and later discovered that if we had just kept ourselves open and nonjudgmental we would been saved a great deal of embarrassment? This same concept dispels the ‚why me?‚ and it’s not fair‚ kind of thinking. Whatever it is, it just is.
Mindfulness can be used to help us relieve stress and anxiety simply by allowing it to pull us back into the Now. Stopping the whirling thoughts helps us move to a more stable mental place. When our technological world starts to overwhelm us a return to the Now of nature can reset our physical and mental clocks from the frantic pace of today’s techno-environment to the unique tempo nature imposes upon herself. We must never forget that it’s also our natural tempo and anything else is artificial.
Personally, I think I’ll go outside and mindfully feel the breeze on my face, smell the flowers in the garden and enjoy the Now.
Jim – Serenity Community Member