Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mindfulness is about Intentionality

It is tough to define mindfulness. Zen masters completely refuse to define it in any way and instead use paradoxes to induce mindfulness within the disciple. The English language, belonging to a culture devoid of any tradition of meditation, is ill equipped to express such concepts. However, it helps to have some starting points, some approximate definitions.

One way to define mindfulness is awareness. You are training your brain to be aware of the present moment. It could be the physical aspects of the present moment – the sights and the sounds that surround you -- or it could be a mental construct that you’ve defined to be your present moment , like the work you’re doing right then. And given the amount of things that could be happening right now, what does one choose to become aware of?

That is an important question. And the answer is, it’s not what you choose that’s important, it’s that you choose at all. Often, we find ourselves going on auto pilot. We start on a train of thought or a well-practiced activity and are not even aware that we’re doing it. And then after a while we may pause and wonder, why am I doing this or how did I end up thinking about this.

Thus, mindfulness can be seen as a practice where you choose to do something in each moment and maintain the intentionality of doing it. You mind will wander, for sure but you will need to bring it back, with intention and awareness.