“Mindfulness” has been a catchword in medicine, psychology and, and even in golf. Everybody and their dog, regardless of their qualifications, are teaching what they call mindfulness. It is usually described in a vague sort of way as “being in the present moment.” Every health practitioner knows that mindfulness practices will lower blood pressure, help with overeating, assist with pain management, enhance recovery from addiction and even make you into a nicer person. These are good and reliable results of mindfulness training, but because of them mindfulness has become just another feel-better fad.
But true mindfulness is about more than feeling better. Mindfulness is a deep spiritual practice that is rooted in ancient Buddhist teachings. The Buddha said, “Monks, for living a fulfilling life and finding good help, there is nothing like remembering not to forget to be mindful. If you practice mindfulness, robbers of desire cannot enter you. Therefore, you should always maintain mindfulness in yourself. When your mindfulness is solid, you will not be harmed even if you go into the midst of the robbers of the five sense desires. It is like wearing armor and going into a battlefield, so there is nothing to be afraid of. It is called ‘not to forget mindfulness.”
Buddha knew the human mind well. He knew that when faced with a strong desire for something that brings temporary pleasure but that harms us, we forget to remember that in the long term going after these temporary pleasures will cause anguish. We get caught up in strong desire for salty/fatty foods or mood changing drugs, for example and lose mindfulness of the first two practices of awakening beings, “Have few desires.” and “Know how much is enough.” Giving into those desires rob us of physical, mental and spiritual well being.
Mindfulness is much more than “being in the present moment.” With true mindfulness we bring the spiritual practices of generosity, kindness, patience, calmness, wisdom and joyful effort into every one of our daily encounters. When we can do this, we fulfill the highest principle of Buddhist teachings, to work for the happiness of others. This is true mindfulness.
Suggested practice: Insert a mindfulness prompt into your day by setting a timer at 40-minute intervals. When the timer goes off, pause and be mindful of one of the first five practices of great awakening. Remember to have few desires, to know how much is enough, to enjoy serenity and to make diligent effort to realize your highest spiritual values.