What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of deliberately paying full attention to what is going on in the present moment without judgment. I’m sure you have experienced moments of mindfulness sometime in your life. These moments of mindfulness can come when you see a beautiful sunset or gaze down on your infant child in awe or in many other common circumstances. You know where you are and what you are doing.

The only difference between mindfulness and what you do in everyday life is the quality of awareness. If you are eating something from a fast food restaurant on the run, this is not mindfulness. If you are carrying on a conversation with someone and your attention is on what you will be doing next, or on your iPhone, this is not mindfulness. But if you are listening to someone with your full attention as if there were nothing else to do in that moment, this is mindfulness.

Today, being the first day of spring, I am reminded of the famous Japanese poem:

Sitting quietly,
Doing nothing,
Spring comes,
And the grass grows all by itself.

As the poem states, mindfulness is sitting quietly implies “doing nothing!” In order to achieve mindfulness of sitting is to just sit there!

I will have a lot more to say about mindfulness in the days and weeks to come. For now, consider this. Mindfulness is a state of mind that can exist outside of meditation. For example, when you are paying close attention to what you are reading in this blog, you are being mindful. When you are engrossed in your work or play, you are being mindful.

Consider this little story. A servant to the maharaja who has committed an unforgivable mistake is given a chance to redeem himself. He must enter the palace throne room carrying a bowl full of oil on his head. Behind him is a guard with a sword ready to chop off his head. If he can make it to the throne without spilling a single drop of oil, he will be forgiven. In order to save his life, he must be very mindful of not only his every step, but also his breathing, and every movement he makes.

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