The Missing Link to Mindfulness
May 5, 2021 • Awareness & the Mind
Mindfulness is a popular buzzword at the moment with everyone and their grandma wanting to practice it, but most people don’t quite understand what mindfulness actually is.
Let’s start by defining mindfulness. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” I am going to abbreviate this definition but still keep the wording and say, “the practice of maintaining a state of complete awareness of one’s experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
Said this way, it is clear that mindfulness is really the power of observation. Observation is being aware of one’s thoughts, emotions and experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
You don’t practice mindfulness. You don’t practice being observant. Mindfulness or observation is a state of mind that comes as a by-product of awareness being trained to be concentrated for prolonged periods of time. Mindfulness or observation is a by-product of prolonged states of concentration. When people say things like, “Practice being mindful,” technically they are making an incorrect statement. What you can practice is concentration, and the byproduct of prolonged states of concentration is the state of mind of being mindful or observant. But the ability to be mindful is only possible when you can concentrate. If you are distracted, which means your awareness is jumping from one thing to another, then how can you ‘maintain a state of complete awareness of one’s experiences on a moment-to-moment basis’?
You can only be mindful or observant if your awareness is not jumping from one thing to another. Which means you need to be concentrated first. Once you can concentrate, you can keep your awareness on the object of concentration long enough to start being observant of it. Now you are being mindful.
To tell someone who is distracted to practice being mindful is erroneous. One must first tell them to practice concentration by holding their awareness on one thing at a time, and when they can consistently do so, they can slowly become mindful of their experiences from a moment-to-moment basis.
If I concentrate for extended periods of times I develop my powers of observation and I become more observant and as a result, I am able to be mindful of my thoughts, my emotions and my experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Mindfulness and observation are states of being and not something that can be practiced. Concentration is what you practice. Mindfulness and observation is a resulting effect.
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