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Jon Kabat-Zinn: What is Mindfulness?


If you don’t know anything at all about
meditation, what it really is is it’s about paying attention in a systematic way and for no reason other
than to be awake, because a lot of the time, if you pay attention to where your mind is at, it’s
not in the present moment. It’s off someplace else, either in the future or in the past. You know
all this. You spent huge amounts of time worrying and planning and then being upset about what
happened or what didn’t happen, and the present moment, which is the only time we have to
create or to be in relationship or to love or to do anything, it gets kind of squeezed, and so
we’re blasting through our present moments to get hopefully to better moments at some point,
whether it’s the weekend or vacation in the Bahamas or whatever it is, where it’ll all fall
together, and of course it doesn’t, because it rains and the kids are cranky or sick or you can’t go
or whatever it is, so the conditions are never actually right for being in the present moment, which is
why we don’t want to be there so much. I mean, if they were just great, then we’d all just
be here all the time, but since it’s never really satisfactory, we drive ourselves insane, really, trying
to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic as opposed to sort of understanding that we’re not
the Titanic to begin with. So anyway, that calligraphy is the calligraphy for “mindfulness,” and
I just want to say that in Chinese, various ideograms are made up of other ideograms, and the character
for mindfulness is made up of the ideogram for “presence.” That’s the top one, like
the little hat over the character for “heart,” so when you hear the word “mindfulness” you have to understand
that it’s “presence of heart.”

Jerry Heath

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