Mindfulness is something that has gotten great traction in western society over the past few decades. This should perhaps come as no surprise. Given the increasingly bifurcated nature of our lives, mindfulness, as a practice that focuses on the present moment, is a deeply enriching experience for some, and a survival tactic for others.
Jon Kabat-Zinn¹ says mindfulness is ‘to pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, as if your life depended on it.’ Wow.
First, pay attention! How often have you heard that, or said that to yourself? So many things call for our attention…constantly and loudly. Our ability to pay attention gets pre-empted by so many things…worries, plans, passing thoughts, flies, the smell of dinner cooking…almost anything can interrupt us.
Then, on purpose. Pay attention with intention. Mindfulness does not evaluate what you pay attention to…except that it be whatever is happening in the present moment. As Thich Nhat Hanh² says, don’t wash the dishes in order to clean them, wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes. Only be present to what you are doing in the present moment.
And, non-judgmentally. We cannot expect to suspend all judgment; Kabat-Zinn suggests that we just not judge how judgmental we are! Neuroscientist Amishi Jha³ speaks of judgment as the “value-laden, affectively-charged meaning we give to things,” and just the heaviness of her description makes me realize how burdensome judgments can be. We may be judging/comparing beings, but at least there is hope, in the practice of mindfulness, that we can stop judging our judgments.
As if your life depended on it!? Well, Kabat-Zinn says this is literally true, because the present moment is the only time you can be alive, so if you’re not present to it, you’re missing life.
Life is not to be missed, my friends. May we be ever more mindful,
~ Rev. Julie
²The Miracle of Mindfulness