Mindfulness has become a popular word nowadays. We hear it within multiple context. And if you have ventured to know more about it you may have realized it seems to have something to do with meditation.
But what is mindfulness? Is it really a kind of meditation?
The short answer is yes and no.
But in order to get to the heart of the issue, we need to get a better understanding of what really mindfulness is all about.
So what is mindfulness?
It has been defined as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment non-judgmentally.” This is one of the most popular definitions of mindfulness used by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Of course, there are variations of this definition that you may come across, but this one captures the essence of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is really a way of paying attention. But it is not paying attention to anything because someone asked you to. Like your teacher in the classroom, when you were lost or distracted. It is paying attention on purpose, even without being asked.
It is really nothing other than awareness. Awareness is something we are all intimately familiar with. Awareness comes naturally to us. More formally it is said to be the explicit knowledge or perception of any fact or situation.
But is mindfulness same as plain vanilla awareness? Not really. It is actually a kind of awareness that we usually are very unaware of! That is why sometimes it is said that awareness that we refer to in the context of mindfulness is something we are all intimately familiar with but at the same time complete strangers. It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to us.
If I ask you to become aware of your face you will immediately become aware of your face. But as soon as you become aware of your face, your mind will start passing judgments like, “I don’t like my face”, “my facial skin texture is not as good as I would like it to be”, “my face is too big”, or “my face is too small”.
The plain awareness will immediately be colored by judgments. That is why simple awareness usually is associated with judgments. If you recall earlier definition, with mindfulness, we are trying to cultivate non-judgmental awareness.
So far it was said that mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness or purposefully paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Purposefully paying attention in the present moment also means, being in the present moment.
Mindfulness is the state of mind that arises by purposefully paying attention to the present moment. Alternatively, we can say, mindfulness arises by paying attention to the present moment.
Also, it may not be clear in the beginning, but when we talk about cultivation of mindfulness, the implicit assumption is that we train such that we maintain mindfulness for the longest possible period of time. The cultivation of mindfulness means bringing about the non-judgmental awareness and maintaining it throughout the day or as much as you can.
We don’t cultivate mindfulness, only to be practiced in specific situations. By its very nature, we need to maintain it as long as we can, so that it is available when we need it the most.
As you can see, mindfulness is really a mind state. Is that a meditation? Well, when you meditate you are also working towards achieving a mind state, whereby your mind is calm and controlled rather than sputtering with thoughts. In meditation you repeatedly try to be in the mind state that you train to cultivate.
But, wait a minute. When we meditate, we are essentially training our mind to be focused on one thing at a time rather than being lost in random thoughts all the time. It turns out that this very attention training by focusing on one thing at a time, goes long ways to help cultivate the mindfulness.
We know that mindfulness arises through, training to be paying attention in the present moment and not getting lost in planning, remembering or thinking. We can say mindfulness arises through focusing our mind on one thing, the present moment, at a time.
Hence, meditation leads to mindfulness for sure. That is the reason, we meditate to cultivate mindfulness.
But it is not far fetched to say that being present in the moment, or being non-judgmentally aware of the present moment is in itself a meditation. As meditation means, pretty much focusing on one thing at a time, the anchor of the meditation and bringing ourselves back non-judgmentally when we realize we have wandered away.
We can say that mindfulness is a meditation in itself.
You formally meditate a lot and while doing so, you develop this capacity to pay attention to one thing at a time. And over the period of time, your ability to focus on one thing at a time sharpens enough. Subsequently, even when you are not meditating formally, your meditation carries on with your daily activities, in the form of being able to be paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
In this sense, being mindful is same as being meditating to be in the present moment.
Some people are naturally good at paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. Even without any prior meditation training. Have you ever noticed how you were lost in thought, but someone else had the presence of mind to notice what is happening right in front of you?
From this perspective, it is a trait. We all possess this trait in varying degrees. But to take this trait its fullest extent, we need to cultivate it through formal meditation.
As we can see that meditation leads to mindfulness and mindfulness is a meditation in itself. We can also say that it is a mind state. It is also a trait that we naturally possess in varying degrees.
Rene Doumal is a writer with expertise in mindfulness and meditation. You can check out his latest website How to Reap Miraculous Meditation Benefits, where he provides details, guided sessions and step by step advice about how to learn meditation, how to cultivate mindfulness and how to reduce stress, anxiety, worry, depression and promote better health and well being.
Article Source: Is Mindfulness a Meditation?