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Home >> What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the sine qua non of right livelihood. Without mindfulness even the most meaningful job is not quite right. By practicing mindfulness we give ourselves the opportunity to be fully present — in the moment — which leads, inevitably, to wiser decisions regarding the challenges life offers us.
Mindfulness can be practiced just about anywhere under almost any circumstances.
Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "moment-to-moment awareness . . . . cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment's thought to." Kabat-Zinn is most famous for helping cancer patients use mindfulness to ameliorate pain and find meaning in their daily lives as they approach death, but his definition of mindfulness is equally useful to anyone who is on a quest for meaning.
On the path to meaningful work, mindfulness is a tool for accessing your intuition, which in turn helps you:
Beginning today, this moment, you can make progress on your path to meaningful work by starting regular mindfulness practice. Through this practice, you will begin to recognize and appreciate both
- Environmental factors
- Other people's attitudes
Not later, as you reflect on them, but in the moment, while you are experiencing them. Although mindfulness sometimes occurs by chance, we can also make it an active practice, a kind of meditation or contemplation, in which we:
The ancient followers of the Tao were
subtle, mysterious and penetrating.
They were too deep to be fathomed.
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Hesitant, as if crossing a winter stream.
Watchful, as if aware of neighbors on all sides.
Respectful, like a visiting guest.
Yielding, like ice beginning to melt.
Simple, like an Uncarved Block.
Open, like a valley.
Obscure, like muddy water.
Who else can be still,
and let the muddy water slowly become clear?
Who else can remain at rest,
and slowly come to life?
Those who hold fast to the Tao
do not try to fill themselves to the brim.
Because they do not try to be full,
they can be worn out and yet, ever new.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15
Why is this important?
Because you never know where or when insights and opportunities may appear. If you close your eyes because the view doesn't suit your taste, you could miss your stop.
Why would I close my eyes?
To protect yourself from anything that falls outside your "comfort level."
But I think I'm a pretty open person.
Perhaps you are. But you want to make changes in your life, and that could be dangerous.
The human brain will always try to protect us from danger. The path to meaningful work is one of personal growth, which invariably involves thinking or doing something new. Anything new is unknown. Anything unknown holds potential danger. No matter how much you want to make a change, the protective nature of your brain is going to try to stop you. ("Don't do that! You might get hurt.")
The brain is . . . an organ of survival, like claws and fangs. It makes one think things are true when they're really only advantageous.
Albert Szent-Gyorgi, Nobel Laureate
How does mindfulness change that?
Mindfulness helps you stand back and detach from the brain's automatic response to danger. You may still heed your own warnings and choose not to make a certain change, but you will have done so with your eyes open.