What Is Mindfulness?

Lotus FlowerMindfulness is a set of attitudes toward living and techniques for cultivating those attitudes.

Some folks interpret living mindfully to mean trying very hard to focus on being present all the time. That isn’t my approach. Why? Because it doesn’t work. I say that based on my experience and that of many people I’ve talked to over the years. The problem is that effort only gets us further from living in the present, not closer. And even that isn’t quite the right way to say it, because ultimately we’re always living in the present. (Where else is there?) That more ultimate viewpoint is part of what I mean by More Than Mindful.

So what does work? A regular meditation practice, a particular kind of meditation using techniques that mainly come from Buddhist practices refined for more than 2500 years.

That doesn’t mean modern mindfulness is a religious practice or a religious doctrine. It’s not. It doesn’t have any religious agenda and it doesn’t conflict with any religion. I mention its Buddhist roots only to emphasize that it’s stood the test of time. Think of the popular image of a Zen Buddhist monk, living with grace, efficiency and equanimity. Those are some of the qualities a mindfulness practice can help you to experience.

When we meditate regularly, we start to have a different perspective on focusing, on paying attention, on being present. This new perspective lets us relax physical and emotional tensions we may not even have noticed. It’s liberating! You can begin this practice yourself by signing up for my free five-part email series, An Introduction to Mindfulness. You’ll learn to meditate in the first lesson.

The father of the modern secular mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, put it this way:

“Mindfulness is basically just a particular way of paying attention and the awareness that arises through paying attention in that way. It is a way of looking deeply into oneself in the spirit of self-inquiry and self-understanding.”

~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living

Kabat-Zinn has been teaching mindfulness in clinical and other settings since the 1970s. Many thousands of people have learned and benefited from the techniques he developed. They’re the foundation of my teaching and coaching, and they confer many important benefits on their own.

In my teaching and coaching I also add the More Than Mindful approaches and techniques, which I’ve developed out of a lifetime of study and practice of nonduality.