What is mindfulness?

The purpose of this post is to highlight a range of definitions for the term “mindfulness.”

I’ve written this post primarily to organize my own thinking with regard to how the term is defined, by different people, in different contexts. I believe there is value in precision in the use of language when concepts such as mindfulness are discussed.

In this post I will highlight two definitions of mindfulness meditation, and one definition of mindfulness as presented by Ellen Langer. In a subsequent post I will outline how three major forms of Buddhist meditation are defined in a November 2014 Scientific American article about mindfulness.

Oct. 22, 2014 New York Times article highlights two definitions of mindfulness

As noted at an earlier post, an Oct. 22, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “What if age is nothing but a mind-set?”

The article features two definitions of mindfulness, in the following paragraph:

  • If people could learn to be mindful and always perceive the choices available to them, Langer says, they would fulfill their potential and improve their health. Langer’s technique of achieving a state of mindfulness is different from the one often utilized in Eastern “mindfulness meditation” – nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts and feelings drifting through your mind – that is everywhere today. Her emphasis is on noticing moment-to-moment changes around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms. When we are “actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual” categorizations, we’re alive; and when we’re alive, we can improve. Indeed, “well-being and enhanced performance” were Langer’s goals from the beginning of her career.

[End of excerpt]

New York Times contrasts mindfulness meditation and Ellen Langer’s definition of mindfulness

According to the article, “mindfulness meditation” entails “nonjudgmental awareness of the thoughts and feelings drifting through your mind.”

The article notes that Langer’s definition of mindfulness is based upon an emphasis “on noticing moment-to-moment changes around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms. When we are ‘actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual’ categorizations, we’re alive; and when we’re alive, we can improve.”

Definition at Mindfulness for Health website

In 2004, I attended an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, as I’ve noted elsewhere at this website, taught by Lucinda Sykes, M.D. The Meditation for Health website speaks of mindfulness in the following terms:

“Mindfulness is a particular way to be aware of the present moment.

“When you’re mindful, you pay attention to what you’re experiencing right now. You’re simply aware, without trying to judge or change anything. You just experience the present moment as it is.

“To practice mindfulness, we often focus attention to things we usually ignore, such as:

“Noticing the sounds you’re hearing right now …

“or the feeling of your eyes moving… blinking…

“Experiencing your feeling of sitting here in this chair…

“Can you feel your next breath beginning?…

“Here you are … sitting, breathing…

“being here, now…

“This is mindfulness.”

[End of excerpt]

Update

An oct. 12, 2015 CBC article is entitled:  “Memory Care Centre recreates past for dementia patients: Ontario retirement home intentionally blurs lines between today and yesterday.”

 

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