More on Mindfulness
How does one define Mindfulness?
There isn't one agreed upon definition.
My teacher, John Bruna, defines Mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness is consciously attending to the present moment, with as much wisdom and clarity as possible, without bias or prejudgment, and initiating actions (body, speech, and mind) which are beneficial to, and in alignment with, the life you define as meaningful.”
Not that John's definition is lacking in anyway, I loosely define mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness is a non-forgetful expansive state of attentive present-moment awareness which fosters virtuous living, introspection, wisdom and an open heart cultivating a meaningful and purposeful life.”
Because there are so many different beliefs about what Mindfulness is and isn't, and the scope of Mindfulness is so broad, I feel like it's better to simply think of Mindfulness as a practice which allows one to live more skillfully.
That said, I do believe it's important to recognize that Mindfulness is much more than a non-judgmental, present-moment awareness that we tend to read and hear so much about. Much of the Mindfulness being taught in the West has been described as "watered down" and referred to as, McMindfulness. Though within it's context it can be quite useful and beneficial, many of the forms of mindfulness being taught in the US are missing one key component: Ethics. Though this non-judgmental component is quite useful, outside of its context it can actually lead to complacency and indifference. Traditional mindfulness is rooted in three higher trainings: Ethics, Concentration and Wisdom. Without the inclusion of these three higher components, one may not get the full benefit from a Mindfulness practice.
To make the teachings more universally appealing, the Mindful Life Program broke down the three higher teachings into the Four Keys of Mindfulness: Attention, Values, Wisdom and an Open Heart. These Four Keys underlie all the Turning Leaf Foundation's services which are designed to help you live a meaningful and purposeful life.
By nature, and/or by conditioning, we are habitual creatures. We frequently act out of habit. Sometimes, these often unmindful actions conflict with our values. If we were to juxtapose our values to our day to day actions, we would likely see inconsistencies. These inconsistencies create suffering. It's only when we are Mindful – present – that we can make intentional decisions that are in alignment with our values.
Mindfulness can also help to cultivate wisdom, not just knowledge. We can read books and go to retreats and listen to podcasts and gain knowledge. Practicing Mindfulness helps one to apply what we know. For instance, many of us have heard that happiness is an inside job. Nevertheless, if we examine our lives, we’ll likely find that we spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy arranging people, places and things so that we can be happy. The tools and skills offered through the Turning Leaf Foundation help one to cultivate their own happiness by doing things they feel good about as opposed to doing things that make them feel good.
As previously mentioned, there tends to be a lot of talk about being non-judgmental. There are times, such as during a mindfulness meditation, when this is quite helpful. Nevertheless, a comprehensive Mindfulness practice helps one to have good judgement, based on values, clarity and wisdom.
A Mindfulness practice promotes the development of insight – introspection. This insight helps to identify subtle and pervasive attachments and aversions which are a significant source of suffering. Many of these attachments and aversions are driven by emotional responses which we learn to identify as we get into touch with our body.
Mindfulness also helps us to better understand our motivations. Without even realizing it, we can be motivated by worldly concerns, for instance, material wealth or the need for praise. If unaware, we may compromise our values in the pursuit of money or recognition.
A comprehensive Mindfulness practice can also help us to recognize the true nature of our relationships with one another. We are in fact, inseparable. As we start to see our connectedness, interdependence and our commonalities, we develop empathy. This empathetic awareness leads to living with an open heart – extending loving-kindness and compassion to all.
Most important, Mindfulness is NOT about trying gain anything! Its not about gaining things like presence, peace, genuine happiness, serenity and compassion. These qualities already reside within us. A Mindfulness practice, therefore, helps you to identify and LET GO of the things within yourself that create suffering in your life.
The Turning Leaf Foundation takes these valuable qualities of traditional mindfulness to heart. You don't have to be stressed out, distracted and caught up in turmoil. Through a comprehensive mindfulness practice, you really can experience a happiness that isn't dependent upon outside circumstances. You really can experience a sense of peace and ease no matter what is happening in your life. You really can live a meaningful and purposeful life.
Now is the time.