What is Mindfulness?
21 Current Limited Definitions
The current wave of exploration and interest in Mindfulness started 2600 years ago with the Buddha. He employed the use of mindfulness (Pali language: sati) to apply to a variety of other teachings and applications for the welfare of human beings.
There are significant differences in definition between the original meaning of sati and its contemporary use.
A word does not have inherent existence. The meaning of a word arises through agreement.
Here is a list of current definitions of mindfulness. Mindfulness practitioners might find it useful to distinguish between the Buddha’s use of mindfulness and the current use.
Current Notions and Definitions of Mindfulness that differ from the Buddha
- It is not necessary, nor possible, to be mindful in every moment. Mindfulness is applied to the extent necessary in a variety of experiences and situations.
- Mindfulness does not claim that everything takes place in the present moment. Mindfulness acknowledges the long passage of time in the evolution/becoming of conditions which arise, change and pass.
- Mindfulness does not make available compassion, wisdom or action for the welfare of others. If it did, the world would be a radically different place.
- Mindfulness does not have an independent existence. Mindfulness depends on other factors/conditions for its arising, its staying and its passing and its arising, staying and passing again.
- Mindfulness does not mean being in the moment. Mindfulness also includes reflection on the past and consideration for the future.
- Mindfulness does not mean being in the present moment with a non-judgemental mind. Mindfulness includes activities outside the present moment. Mindfulness includes mindfulness of a judgemental mind.
- Mindfulness does not mean concentration. We can be concentrated and absorbed into an activity with little mindfulness of the process and the potential outcome.
- Mindfulness does not mean absence of thinking. Mindfulness includes thought.
- Mindfulness does not mean giving purpose to the application of attention. Mindfulness includes the view of having purpose and not having a purpose.
- Mindfulness does not mean the same as attention. We can give a lot of pointless attention to much which is mundane, unnecessary or problematic. We can be mindful of every puff on a cigarette and die a painful death from cancer.
- Mindfulness does not reduce stress. Mindfulness only reveals stress. Practices alongside insights and understanding reduce stress.
- Mindfulness is not confined to the self, to the personal life. We can direct mindfulness as much to the external or outer situation, as to the personal or individual.
- Mindfulness is not tied to a method, technique, form, structure or approach. Mindfulness has the function to reveal – with or without method.
- Mindfulness is not inherently healthy and wholesome. A burglar can be exceptionally mindful from moment to moment while robbing a home in the night.
- Mindfulness is not the absence of problematic states of mind. Mindfulness sees the selfish and fearful state of mind and the selfless and fearless state of mind. Mindfulness sees the expansive mind and the contracted mind.
- Mindfulness is not the continuity of focus on oneself or another. Mindfulness includes recognition of what is not present.
- Mindfulness is not the same as consciousness. Consciousness prevails in states of mind, dreams, nightmares and a coma.
- Mindfulness is not Being, Presence or Abiding in the Now. Mindfulness sees what leads up to something and sees what leads away from something and to something.
- Mindfulness does not reject the past and future. Mindfulness sees intentions, actions and results/consequences.
- Mindfulness is not the base for anything. Mindfulness requires the support of various conditions, internal and external.
- Mindfulness does not lead to awakening, liberation or Ultimate Truth. Isolated from the body of deep wisdom teachings and their application, mindfulness can only lead to mindfulness and a handful of minor benefits.
PS. What is Mindfulness? 26 Definitions. See next blog