Mindfulness Now:Meaning


Mindfulness has been understood to mean many things by many people of many backgrounds for many years. Just for fun though, I went online and did a search for “mindfulness definitions.” Guess what? I came up with 3,240,000 hits. Three and a quarter million! Really?! Yes and yikes. It might take me a whole lifetime to thoroughly read each of the hits. As I recall, I spent 286 past and future lives trying to find the “true meaning” of mindfulness, so I’ll take a pass on that exploration in this lifetime, thank you. I’ll just practice mindfulness and see what happens. To be of service to my meditation students, I came up with a working definition of mindfulness as a practice which integrates several sources. Here it is: “focusing awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and body sensations.” Let’s briefly examine the subcomponent meanings of the definition, shall we? Focusing means letting go of external distractions and paying attention to something in particular. Awareness means being aware, awake, conscious. Present moment means here and now and not the past or future. Calmly means not getting reactive or triggered emotionally, but stating peacefully centered. Acknowledging means seeing what’s there without running from it or denying it because it’s bad or naughty or a no-no. Feelings means emotions, such as the “basic 4”: sad, mad, bad, and glad. Thoughts means the words that we are noticing which create thinking-impressions in our cognition. Body sensations means those physical things, such as pain/comfort and hot/cold, that our body is experiencing though a connection with our physical senses. What does mindfulness mean to you? Sometimes we can’t really flesh out a thorough definition of something abstract until we experience it directly for a few days/months/years. Give mindfulness a try. And another try. Try again. Besides, there are so many ways to know something experientially—by intellect, intuition, instinct, and insight. I call those the “4 ins of knowing.” In grad school we have precise words for that philosophical field and its processes; we call it (drum roll please) epistemology. Fancy pants. And don’t get me started on the triadic view of ancient yogis that described how we know something! Holy three to know thee. The old rishi scientists really thought this knowing thing through. Curious? Explore pratyaksha (perception), anumana (guessing) and sabda (Sastraic authority) and see where you go.

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