Mindfulness FAQ

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is often defined as nonjudgmental moment-to-moment awareness. While this is essentially true, it is a tad misleading.  We would define mindfulness as having neither a positive nor negative reaction to our experience. It is superficially about judgment and more fundamentally about how our body-mind system (namarupa) responds to internal and external experience.

Is mindfulness the same as meditation?

No.  Meditation is one of the widely used practices for developing mindfulness.

Did mindfulness meditation originate with the Buddha?

No.  Mindfulness is a natural state.  It did not originate from a teaching or a teacher.  In his teachings, the Buddha offered us a practical method for developing mindfulness in his primary discourse, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Satipatthana Sutta.

Is mindfulness just a form of awareness?

Mindfulness is based on a non-personalized awareness.  If we personally identify with an object of awareness it becomes me or mine.  We then have a positive or negative reaction to it.  Our awareness needs to be properly developed to support the cultivation of mindfulness.

Are mindfulness and insight meditation different?

There is a qualitative difference between them.  Mindfulness is a necessary condition for insight.  When we practice mindfulness meditation we create a momentary refuge from the ordinary consciousness of craving and aversion. In this state, first we gain insight into our personality, and later we gain insight into how we adhere to the appearance of permanence and solidity.  Insight meditation assists us to access the nature of suffering, change and the absence of self (dukka, anicca and annata).

Can I develop mindfulness without meditating?

Yes.  It is a natural state of mind.  But if you hold the intention to develop mindfulness, meditation is the primary method used.

How does being mindful help me?

Wow, great question.  Being mindful assists us to experience things based on the present moment rather than the past or projections into the future.  Being mindful opens us to a more clear and accurate experience.  It makes us more spacious and enables us to have a greater capacity to respond rather than react.

Are there different types of mindfulness?

Yes and no.  The quality of mindfulness changes with the development of one’s practice.  At first we summon energy to be mindful.  Later we find it occurs naturally, as a natural experience within our system, as just the way we respond to things.

Are there both formal and informal mindfulness practices?

Formal mindfulness practices usually refer to a period of time set aside exclusively for mindfulness meditation. Informal mindfulness practices are any activity that brings us into awareness of the present moment.  The revered teacher Thich Nhat Hahn refers to these as a mindfulness bell.  An example would be to place your awareness on a single respiration cycle every time you hang up a phone, send an email or send a text.  This may give 60 or more opportunities each day to rest in the naturalness of the breath.  This type of informal practice assists the development of formal practice, which in turn deepens the development of awareness.