Mindfulness – Meditation or Mindset?

Almost everything I read, see or hear these days includes the word “mindfulness” in it but when I ask people who are practicing mindfulness, I get a rather fuzzy explanation which, of course, leads me to conclude that they themselves do not understand “mindfulness” and are just parroting a term they heard on Super Soul Sunday.

Or maybe they do understand it but just can’t put it into words.

I ask because I am curious as to what the term means and how it is applied; does it simply mean being present to the moment and to what you are doing? If so, why do we need a special term for this when Classical Yoga Scriptures and Buddhism have always taught this? But never mind that – I am all for anything that helps bring peace to people stressed out, regardless of what you call it.

Can you be mindful if you do not meditate? Meditation is simply sitting in stillness and silence which seems easy enough so why is it so hard? I suspect most of us avoid practice like the plague for one or both of the following reasons:

1. We need to be doing something.

2. Meditation can bring to the forefront qualities we may not like about ourselves  and would prefer to avoid.

I don’t suggest that one has to meditate but I would think that to be mindful, a mind would have to be in a peaceful state. Can someone then really be mindful when underneath the mind is a restlessness or an avoidance habit?

Every once in awhile I will ask someone how they know they are doing mindfulness correctly. There is no tech device to measure this, no special clothes to wear and no gourmet-style water to drink that will help you. The only right answer is that as long as you are mindful and present, you are always doing it correctly.

The ones who struggle with the question – and who often need an outside reference for approval – are the ones who struggle with a restless mind, too.

I like to refer simply to the Big Mind and the Small Mind. The Small Mind’s purpose is the daily stuff: working, household tasks, etc. The Big Mind’s responsibility is to guide us with wisdom and intuition and to remind us that while we are husbands and wives and moms and dads and business owners, that is not all we are. And because that is not all we are, those parts of ourselves that are spiritual need to be nurtured as well. We need to honor ourselves at our deepest core.

We can celebrate that part of ourselves through church or art or gardening – anything that makes the heart sing.

But most of us get the two minds mixed up. We make the Small Mind the bigger influence and thus get stuck in the doing of things. We begin to believe that it is what we do and have that makes us worthwhile. This is when the polluted belief system of what I buy, what I wear, and what I have defines me. The Small Mind is now running the show.

The Small Mind is also responsible for convincing us that if we work harder and try to be perfect, then we will be happy and safe. But are we really ever perfect? And how do you define perfect? People I’ve met who define themselves as perfectionists are rarely, if ever, that. Instead these are people who force things to fit a “perfectionist” mindset. They are often unforgiving of themselves and others; have a hard time receiving from other people and would rather be the giver (another control issue). I have yet to see a perfectionist who has ever reached perfect.

The only way to become aware of these mindsets is to get to the quiet place inside that knows that the Small Mind should not be running the show. Expect a struggle, though, because the Small Mind does not want to give up its power.

When we hear the Buddhist monks or Jon Kabat-Zinn tell us of mindfulness, though, they are also connected to the truth of the Big Mind vs. Small Mind. It is hard to do one without the other.

Once the mind is sound, it is easier to make the body fit.