As I work through Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book FULL CATASTROPHE LIVING — Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, I’ll be taking notes and posting them regularly on this blog. This way, I’ll know where to look if ever I need to refresh my memory, and maybe some of you will find the notes interesting and/or inspiring.
For the sake of clarity, the notes/excerpts from Kabat-Zinn’s book will be written in black. I will also, at times, use bold letters to emphasize certain passages. As for my personal views, they’ll be written in whatever colour I choose on any given day. Hey… I need to feel creative. 😉
… from our point of view, as long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong. Over the next eight weeks, we are going to pour energy in the form of attention into what is right with you — much of which we never notice or take for granted, or don’t fully develop in ourselves …
In this spirit, mindfulness, and in particular the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program described in this book, is an invitation to become more familiar with the field of your own body, mind, heart, and life by paying attention in new, more systematic and more loving ways — and thereby discover important dimensions of your own life that you may not have noticed or that, for some reason, you have ignored until now.
“we should pay at least as much attention to where our minds are as to what our bodies are doing — yet for most of us, the focus of our thoughts isn’t part of our daily planning… we ought to [also] ask, ‘What am I going to do with my mind today?’” — Harvard Business Review. Jan-Feb 2012:88.
What it means for each of us to be human, coupled with the Harvard researchers’ question, “What am I going to do with my mind today?” lie at the heart of mindfulness as a way of being. Only, for our purposes here, I would rephrase that question slightly, putting it in the present tense:
“How is it in my mind right now?”
We can also extend the question to ask:
“How is it in my heart right now?”
“How is it in my body right now?”
We don’t even have to ask using thought alone, for we are capable of feeling how it is in the mind, in the heart, in the body — right in this moment. This feeling, this apprehending, is another way of knowing for us, beyond merely thought-based knowing. We have a word for it in English: awareness. Making use of this innate capacity for knowing, we can investigate, inquire, and apprehend what is so for us in profoundly liberating ways.
As you will see, I define mindfulness operationally as the awareness that arises by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Awareness is not the same as thinking. It is a complementary form of intelligence, a way of knowing that is at least as wonderful and as powerful, if not more so, than thinking.
Moreover, when we speak of mindfulness, it is important to keep in mind that we equally mean heartfulness. In fact, in Asian languages, the word for “mind” and the word for “heart” are usually the same. So if you are not hearing or feeling the word heartfulness when you encounter or use the word mindfulness, you are in all likelihood missing its essence. Mindfulness is not merely a concept or a good idea. It is a way of being. And its synonym, awareness, is a kind of knowing that is simply bigger than thought and gives us many more options for how we might choose to be in relationship to whatever arises in our minds and hearts, our bodies and our lives. It is a more-than-conceptual knowing. It is more akin to wisdom, and to the freedom a wisdom perspective provides.
For the record, I must say I’ve gotten pretty good at noticing when my mind wanders — especially when it wanders into negative territories! I usually notice it right away and quickly say, out loud when I’m at home, “Don’t go there!” Which automatically brings a smile to my face. It has helped me to quit ruminating and move on with my life!
Okay, that’s it for today. Now I’m off to do something else with my mind!