“Most of us are rarely in the present moment.
We focus on past experiences and emotions.
We are constantly thinking about what might happen next.
Humans are ‘bundles of habits’.
We are often ‘on auto pilot’.
We are often unaware of what we are doing”.*
When seen in general terms, it can be an attitude or state of mind.
Mindfulness can also involve formal practice where, with attention to breathing and with non-judgmental awareness of thoughts and feelings, we may train ourselves to recognize and get beyond random thoughts and distractions, and also biases and preconceptions, and come to see ourselves and things around us more clearly. Prominent teachers include the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and the American Jon Kabat-Zinn.
In Buddhist tradition, mindfulness may be a path toward enlightenment.
In religious naturalism, mindfulness, for some, may be a way of describing the type of awareness and appreciation that can prompt a sense of reverence in our relation to the natural world.
As Ursula Goodenough put it, “In the broadest and deepest sense, the naturalism part of religious naturalism is all about mindfulness.” This can include recognition that, alongside attention to breathing, a scientific understanding enables a deeper and (in some views) richer sense of what occurs during respiration and all of life, with a sense of the air that is inspired, the function of the lungs and blood circulation, the importance of oxygen for cellular activity, and of our nature and place in the scheme of things, and that all life is interconnected, the need for diversity, the benefits of nurturing, etc. It involves the difference between knowing about things and being mindful of them.
As is discussed in an essay by Michael Barrett, mindfulness is common among many religious naturalists, and this type of attention, awareness, and appreciation of the natural world may be seen as a central or distinctive practice in religious naturalism. As is described in a quote by Donald Braxton, this can include some distinctive elements in mindfulness.
“My suggestion for religious naturalism’s ethical framework is the cultivation of a scientifically informed mindfulness as a novel hybrid of meditation/introspection and empirical investigation.”
“Is there a natural affinity between mindfulness, or other secular forms of meditation, and Religious Naturalism?”, Michael Barrett
Mindfulness – Ursula Goodenough, Zygon, 2003
Oxford Mindfulness Centre, Oxford University
Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Center (Thich Nhat Hanh)
…..Bill Moyers video
Mindfulness (the basics, at the Psychology Today website)
How to do Mindfulness Meditation, Shambala Sun
Mindfulness: A Short Course
* Quote: from a short video at Mindfulness.net