What is Mindfulness?

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

I used to believe there was a personal “me” that could choose to be mindful or not mindful. I know now I was clinging for decades to a widely-held consensus belief of being, existing, as a personal me in the story of my separate and unique life.  Truly there is no chooser, no me, to be found, as much as it may seem. 

For many years I believed I could move this body and mind into a mindful, watchful, and noticing place of seeing and being. I see now that I was mistaken and innocently misinformed with this assumption, this deeply programmed belief. 

And while it seemed that I initiated the movement, I have come to understand that the movements occurred before the body laid claim to them. 

So, no matter whether you believe, or not believe, that you are making choices, mindfulness is a worthy experiment to demonstrate just how dualistic the mind is.  If you like learning, as I do, here is an article about neuroscience and free will.   Wikipedia article about neuroscience and free will. 

What is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness points to the sensory awareness of what is presently appearing as the pure seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, and hearing that arises, without the commentary or overlay of opinions or descriptions projected by the brain.  Just the sensating.

Mindfulness is simply being fully aware of this sensating as is appears.  Of course, the brain will continue to offer commentary as it jumps to label, name, claim, and categorize each moment in relation to what it has claimed as past moments.

When I began studying the art and science of meditation in 1992, I was overwhelmed with the swiftness of the brain producing thoughts about me in the center of a tangible world looking out onto this world.

I assumed the thoughts passing through awareness belonged to me, so I eventually had to question the ownership of these thoughts.  Later I realized that none of these thoughts are personal…they only seem so to what is taken to be a personal self.

Sensory Inputs

Being mindful of the sensory inputs of the body will always be a more wise, accurate, and authentic impression of what is than any thoughts, beliefs, or facts conjured by the brain. For example, being aware of hearing is not the same as awaring, hearing, or pure impersonal hearing.

When we’re hearing we may be somewhat aware of hearing but we’re likely to be living in the land of thoughts and thinking about many other things at the same time so we miss the perfection of this moment. We may only be marginally aware of the physical sensations of this raw, pure hearing.  We live in our heads in the story of the past instead of the freshness of the moment.  

And mindfulness is a wonderful tool for noticing/observing the textures, colors, and feelings of what is appearing, or simply, presence. Initially, we may be overwhelmed at how we are living in our heads, totally asleep to the aliveness of presence. Initially, we may be overwhelmed at how we are living in our heads, totally asleep to the aliveness of presence.

Paradoxically, it seems more logical to refer to mindfulness as mind-less-ness since we are tuning in to what is appearing as sensory experiences and ignoring the endless stories, lies, and useless trash spewed forth from the brain’s mental chatter.  But that’s simply my opinion.

Mind-less-ness or mindfulness, whichever label you prefer, is simply noticing perceptions and sensory inputs of the sense organs…noticing and accepting what is without bias or judgments, opinions, and conceptual overlays of beliefs conjured by the brain.

Good Reads:


Dr. David Eagleman

Sam Harris

Buddha’s Brain – Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Richard Mendius, M.D.

Molecules of Emotion – Candace Pert, Ph.D.

Minding the Body, Mending the Mind – Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.

The Biology of Belief – Bruce Lipton – Ph.D.

One Mind – Larry Dossey, M.D.


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