Mindfulness is Not about Getting Anywhere Else

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment--and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Excerpt from "Mind Reading: Jon Kabat-Zinn Talks About Bringing Mindfulness Meditation to Medicine," by Maria Szalavitz, Time Magazine, Jan. 11, 2012:

Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation.  It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention.  That’s what all meditation is, no matter what tradition or particular technique is used.

In Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention...

Any way you feel like beginning it is good. The important thing to understand is that it’s not about a particular method or technique.

The real way to start is to be open to experimenting or playing with the possibility of noticing what you’re experiencing in this moment and not to try to feel differently. Most people think that to meditate, I should feel a particular special something, and if I don’t, then I must be doing something wrong.

That is a common but incorrect view of meditation.  Mindfulness is not about getting anywhere else — it’s about being where you are and knowing it. We are talking about awareness itself:  a whole repertoire of ways of knowing that virtually all come through the senses.

My working definition of mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose in the present moment — non-judgmentally.  And the non-judgmental part is the kicker, because we’ve got ideas and opinions about virtually everything. Our consciousness is almost always colored by our likes and dislikes.  All highly conditioned, habitual behaviors really comes down to this: do I like it or not, do I want more or do I want to escape? That’s all going on below the surface of awareness and it runs our lives.