Preconditions for mindfulness

The question that comes up clearly for me, after the rousing discussion on yesterday’s post, is whether meditation is a precondition for mindfulness.

We all understand the concept of mindfulness — what Ram Dass refers to as “Be here now”. It is the ability to directly experience and enjoy the moments of your life, to see, hear, taste and touch what is around you, rather than needing to continually guard the gates of your psyche, and therefore remaining trapped inside your own internal emotional mindstorm. Openness to the people and experiences around us is certainly something that just about everyone wants.

But is it literally true that meditation is to mindfulness as physical exercise is to strong and limber muscles, or (to cite an example with which I am familiar) as practicing the guitar is to mastery of the guitar? If we want to be able to experience our lives calmly and openly, letting experiences in without requiring them to be strained through a defensive filter, then do we need to devote a certain amount of time every day to meditation? Or can mindfulness be attained in any other way?

4 Responses to “Preconditions for mindfulness”

  1. Sharon says:

    I think that to be good at mindfulness you need to practice it, like almost any other human endeavor. Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness, and probably not the only way. We have to be a little careful here about how we define meditation, though. There are many kinds of meditation other than the sitting kind (which is what most people think of). For example, there’s walking meditation, where you pay attention to each step as you walk. If you stop for moments during your day to really pay attention to the signals coming in through your senses, or to notice the thought patterns that have been driving your mind, is that a form of meditation? I don’t know what the experts would say (since I’m far from an expert).

    Whatever you call it, being aware of a variety of mindfulness practices and having triggers that remind you to apply them is really helpful in my experience, especially in dealing with highly stressful situations. So often we play out negative scenarios in our minds as “practice” for dealing with potential future bad situations, or perhaps just out of a kind of morbid curiosity. When I catch myself doing this (a form of mindfulness) I remind myself that this negative fantasy is a creation of my mind. I can choose to stop the fantasy and, instead, notice what is around me and happening now, which is almost always better than what I was thinking about. In any case, now is “true” and not to be wasted.

  2. manooh says:

    So if meditation refers to “any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize benefit” (Wikipedia), and mindfulness is a mode of consciousness, an “attentive awareness of the reality of things”, then yes, I think that meditation, by definition, is the way to practice mindfulness 🙂

  3. admin says:

    Unfortunately the Wikipedia definition is too broad to be useful. If we label as meditation any situation “in which practitioners train their minds to realize benefit “, then just about everything we do is meditation, including dieting and learning to cross the street without getting hit by cars.

    I think the part that says “self-induce” a mode of consciousness” might be more useful. To me it calls for thinking about what would be a useful taxonomy of modes of consciousness.

  4. Sharon says:

    Here’s an article that directly addresses the question of whether mindfulness can be practiced without meditation (answering “yes”). It makes sense to me.

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