Oakville Zen Meditation

#385 MINDFULNESS: Back to the basics Jan. 30 22


There is still confusion regarding the definition, meaning, and practice of the word mindfulness.

So, let’s go back to the basics:

Origin of the word:

Come from the Pali word, “Sati”, which means literally “ the active, watching mind on something and in the moment ”. It has been poorly translated in a single word as mindfulness and, yet, the genuine meaning has nothing to do with the conventional cerebral one. In fact, Sanskrit uses 1 word for each of them.

So, there are 2 types of mindfulness:

1) The conventional definition:

To be focused, concentrated on a specific cognitive task such as working, driving, creative work, etc.

This type of mindfulness is, by definition, mental, analytic, judgmental, and decisional.

So, we can define it as: to focus thoughtfully on a specific purpose.

2) The other definition is the true genuine mindfulness as described, taught in Zen-Buddhist writings, and Oriental spiritual practices.

Mindfulness is paying attention, to be aware of what is happening in our mind, body, and environment in the present moment without analysis, judgment, and decision.

It is both a mental state and a physical practice.

In a nutshell, genuine mindfulness is to focus thoughtlessly on something, in the present moment, and w/o any specific decision. The analogy will be a mirror reflecting the object as it is.
In the Zen Buddhist literature, mindfulness is referred to as “egoless awareness”.

Types of Mindfulness Practice:

 Since mindfulness is always present in the mind, you can technically practice it in every moment of every day.

Regardless of the types of mindfulness-based meditations, all of them share the very important feature:

To focus thoughtlessly on a target x, y, z, for example breathing, walking, hearing, touching, etc...

 The target acts to anchor our restless mind. Since our mind cannot process 2 thoughts at the same time i.e. focusing on the object and the flow of ongoing thoughts, the mind has no choice but to slow down its train of thoughts/feelings.

When a thought is popping up, you acknowledge it and go back to your focusing object.

 This back and forth process defines mindful-based meditation.

Over time and with dedicated and sustained daily practice, controlling pain, thoughts and feelings whatever positive or negative becomes possible since this practice has a significant and beneficial impact on our neuroplasticity such as unwiring our emotional brain and up wiring our non-emotional parts.

Remember also that regardless of the type and quality of mindfulness practice, its positive effects are cumulative.

Some of the most popular ways to practice mindfulness include but are not limited to:

1) Mindfulness-based Meditation:

The 2 main types of mindfulness-based meditation are 1) Being still such as sitting meditation in which we anchor our restless mind on our breathing.; or 2) During walking meditation in which we anchor our restless mind on each step.

2) Taking a “mind pause” during the day. This mindfulness-on-the-go

Taking intentional moments to mentally pause throughout your day is one of the easiest ways to insert mindfulness into your life. Any of our 5 sensorial receptors, can be used for a mindful mental pause in the present moment.

This is mindfulness-on-the-go and in the moment that we talked about before many times. It can be divided into 2 groups.

 1-  Focusing on our body,  Our mind such as thoughts and feelings, and Our surroundings

 2- Paying attention to something that we do unconsciously is a very effective tool to press the pause

button on your restless mind. Examples are unlimited and we talked about them before: being aware of your walk, the ground under your steps, sounds around, etc...

I am referring you to our previous Dharma talks called “ Mind circuits breakers.