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May 27, 2022

Mindfulness is a practice rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy.  About 2500 years ago, the Buddha endeavoured to share wisdom grown out of his personal spiritual experience.  He spoke of four foundations of mindfulness (from the word "sati" in the ancient Pali language): 

  1. mindfulness of the body,
  2. mindfulness of feelings,
  3. mindfulness of mind (emotions),
  4. mindfulness of the objects of the mind (thinking and observing).  

The purpose of mindfulness was to help people cultivate an observation and understanding of themselves and of the world in which they lived, with the ultimate goal of attaining enlightenment.

So to understand what mindfulness means, it’s interesting to begin at its very origins, with the words attributed to the Buddha and written down in the ancient Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

“Thus have I heard.  On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Kuru country at a town of the Kurus named Kammasadhamma.  There he addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus.” “Venerable sir,” they replied.  The Blessed One said this:

“Bhikkus, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realization of Nibbana - namely, the four foundations of mindfulness.

What are the four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put aside covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.”

— From Living with Awareness: A Guide to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta" by Sangharakshita

Mindfulness is a capacity that can be cultivated.  It requires training and practice, but it requires no understanding of Buddhism or any particular religious or spiritual belief.  

Think of mindfulness in our modern world as a technique for self-development that is not bound to any tradition.  It’s a tool to train your mind, a tool we can all use to live a better quality of life as individuals and communities, to find more joy, peace, resilience, kindness, compassion, confidence and to relieve stress and anxiety.
 
We can do that by living with greater awareness, by noticing our experiences, thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad, by noticing the details of life around us rather than creating to-do lists, worrying about past experiences or fretting about the future. By truly living with awareness, moment to moment, it is possible to rediscover a sense of peace, enjoyment and happiness.

You can weave awareness into your yoga and meditation practice and also into every moment of your life until it becomes a habit.  Experiment and experience the present moment for yourself, cultivating awareness of everything that’s going on in your body, your mind and in the world around you. 

There are many present-day teachers and thinkers who have seen the light and the beauty of this life through mindfulness. You can turn to them for insights about the practice and the benefits of mindfulness.  You can learn from them through their writings or possibly through direct contact in workshops.

And of course…who doesn’t love a good quote for a quick moment of inspiration?

Here are 35 more quotes to inspire your mindful lifestyle.  If there is one quote here that particularly speaks to you, I invite you to find more writings from that person.


“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

"With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment."
— Thich Nhat Hanh

“Everyday we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
— Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if this activity is the axis on which the whole earth revolves. Live the moment. Only this actual moment is life.”
— Thích Nhất Hạnh

“The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
— Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Mindfulness helps us freeze the frame so that we can become aware of our sensations and experiences as they are, without the distorting coloration of socially conditioned responses or habitual reactions.”
― Bhante Gunaratana

“Mindfulness is cultivated by a gentle effort. Persistence and a light touch are the secrets. Mindfulness is cultivated by constantly pulling oneself back to a state of awareness, gently, gently, gently.”
― Bhante Gunaratana

“Accept everything that arises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even the ones you hate. Don’t condemn yourself for having human flaws and failings. Learn to see all the phenomena in the mind as being perfectly natural and understandable. Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times with respect to everything you experience.”
― Bhante Gunaratana

“We can stop struggling with what occurs and see its true face without calling it the enemy. It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything - not about winning or losing - but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is. That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate. That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives.”
― Pema Chodron

“As long as we're caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we're always running from discomfort, we're going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and discomfort, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us develop inner strength. And what's especially encouraging is the view that inner strength is available to us at just the moment when we think that we've hit the bottom, when things are at their worst.”
― Pema Chodron

“Whatever we frequently think of and ponder, that will become the inclination of our minds.”
― Joseph Goldstein

“Without the steadiness of concentration, it is easy to get caught up in the feelings, perceptions, and thoughts as they arise. We take them to be self and get carried away by trains of association and reactivity.”
― Joseph Goldstein

“Mindfulness helps us see the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves.”
— Sharon Salzburg

“With mindfulness, loving kindness, and self-compassion, we can begin to let go of our expectations about how life and those we love should be.”
— Sharon Salzberg

“With every breath, the old moment is lost; a new moment arrives. We exhale and we let go of the old moment. It is lost to us. In doing so, we let go of the person we used to be. We inhale and breathe in the moment that is becoming. In doing so, we welcome the person we are becoming. We repeat the process. This is meditation. This is renewal. This is life."
— Lama Surya Das

“Coming to our senses involves cultivating an overarching awareness of all our senses, including our own minds, and their limitations, including the temptation when we feel deeply insecure and have a lot of resources, to try to control as rigidly and as tightly as possible all variables in the external world, an impossible and ultimately depleting, intrinsically violent and self-exhausting enterprise.”  
— Jon Kabat Zinn

“It [mindfulness] does provide a greater basket for tenderly holding and intimately knowing our suffering in any and all circumstances, and that, it turns out, is transformative, and can make all the difference between endless imprisonment in pain and suffering and freedom from suffering.”
— Jon Kabat Zinn

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

“In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind right now—anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whatever—without getting carried away by it. According to the Buddha, we have three habitual responses to everything we experience. We want it, reject it, or we zone out. Cookies: I want. Mosquitoes: I reject. The safety instructions the flight attendants read aloud on an airplane: I zone out. Mindfulness is a fourth option, a way to view the contents of our mind with nonjudgmental remove.”
― Dan Harris

“But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head—the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember—was kind of an asshole.”
― Dan Harris

“The practice is simply this: keep coming back to your breath during the day.  Just take a moment.  This will give your mind a steadiness and your breath a gracefulness… There’s so much to let go of, isn’t there?  Your nostalgia and your regrets.  Your fantasies and your fears.  What you think you want instead of what is happening right now.  Breathe.”
— Rodney Yee

“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”
— Masaru Emoto

"In today's rush, we all think too much--seek too much--want too much--and forget about the joy of just being."
— Eckhart Tolle

“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”
— Toni Morrison

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”
— Wayne Dyer

“The first step in the process of mindful awareness is radical self-acceptance.”
— Stephen Batchelor

“Ordinariness has opened us up to humanity, because we have accepted and noticed it; we have listened to it, looked at it, felt and loved it, without wanting to change it or make it more beautiful, without wanting to alter it.”
— Christophe André



“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
— Sylvia Boorstein

“Nothing is wrong. Whatever is happening is just ‘real life'.”
— Tara Brach

“Clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart, is what I call Radical Acceptance. If we are holding back from any part of our experience, if our heart shuts out any part of who we are and what we feel, we are fueling the fears and feelings of separation that sustain the trance of unworthiness. Radical Acceptance directly dismantles the very foundations of this trance.”
— Tara Brach

“There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life.”
— Tara Brach

“He who sees the present moment sees all that has happened from all eternity and all that will happen throughout infinite time.”
— Marcus Aurelius

“When I dance, I dance; when I sleep, I sleep; yes, and when I walk alone in a fine orchard, if my thoughts have been occupied with extraneous matters fro some part of the time, at another moment I bring them back to the yak, the orchard, the sweetness of this solitude and to myself.”
— Montaigne

“Now the mind looks neither forward nor backward.  The present alone is our happiness.”
— Goethe

"Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
— Mother Teresa


GO DEEPER: BOOK LIST
The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, by Joseph Goldstein

Real Happiness: A 28 Day Program to Connect with the Power of Mindfulness, by Sharon Salzberg

Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat Zinn

Coming to Our Senses, by Jon Kabat Zinn

10% Happier, by Dan Harris

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, by Dan Harris


Looking at Mindfulness, by Christophe André


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