Body - Mind - Heart - Spirit
Mindfulness is a mental state, characterized by concentrated awareness of one's thoughts, actions or motivations. Mindfulness (Pali: Sati; Sanskrit: smrti) plays a central role in the teaching of the Buddha where it is affirmed that "correct" or "right" mindfulness is an essential factor in the path to enlightenment and liberation. It is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path, the practice of which is held in the tradition to engender insight and wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā). The Satipatthana Sutta is one of the foremost early texts dealing with mindfulness in a meditative context. Mindfulness techniques are increasingly being employed in Western psychology to help alleviate a variety of conditions. Examples from contemplative and daily life Buddhists hold that over 2500 years ago, Buddha provided guidance on establishing mindfulness. Right mindfulness (often termed Right meditation) involves bringing one's awareness into the present moment (from the past, the future, or some disconnected train of thought). By residing more frequently in the present moment, practitioners begin to see both inner and outer aspects of reality. Internally, one sees that the mind is continually chattering with commentary or judgement. By noticing that the mind is continually making commentary, one has the ability to carefully observe those thoughts, seeing them for what they are without aversion or judgment. Those practicing mindfulness realize that "thoughts are just thoughts." One is free to release a thought ("let it go") when one realizes that the thought may not be concrete reality or absolute truth. Thus, one is free to observe life without getting caught in the commentary. Many "voices" or messages may speak to one within the "vocal" (discursive) mind. It is important to be aware that the messages one hears during "thinking" may not be accurate or helpful, but rather may be translations of, or departures from truth. As one more closely observes inner reality, one finds that happiness is not exclusively a quality brought about by a change in outer circumstances, but rather that realizing happiness often starts with loosening and releasing attachment to thoughts, predispositions, and "scripts"; thereby releasing "automatic" reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant situations or feelings. However, mindfulness does not have to be constrained to a formal meditation session. Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time; it does not require sitting, or even focusing on the breath, but rather is done by bringing the mind to focus on what is happening in the present moment, while simply noticing the mind's usual "commentary". One can be mindful of the sensations in one's feet while walking, of the sound of the wind in the trees, or the feeling of soapy water while doing dishes. One can also be mindful of the mind's commentary: "I wish I didn't have to walk any further, I like the sound of the leaves rustling, I wish washing dishes weren't so boring and the soap weren't drying out my skin", etc. Once we have noticed the mind's running commentary, we have the freedom to cease identification with those judgments/perceptions: "washing dishes: boring" may become "The warm water is in unison with the detergent and is currently washing away the plate's grime, the sun is shining through the window and casting an ever greater shadow on the dish's white ceramics." In this example, one may see that washing does not have to be judged "boring"; washing dishes is only a process of coordinating dishes with soap and water. Any activity done mindfully is a form of meditation, and mindfulness is possible practically all the time.