What is Your Definition of Mindfulness?By
This is a text exchange I had with a private client late last night. She was preparing a proposal to bring mindfulness into her kids’ school.
Sorry to bug u. What is ur definition of mindfulness?
Oh, there are many definitions of mindfulness – depends on who you ask. Jon Kabat-Zinn would probably say something like “present moment non-judgmental awareness” while my teacher, Shinzen Young, would probably talk about how mindfulness is the use of (and development of) a “3-fold skill set” of concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity. (Actually, he’s got an essay called “What is Mindfulness?” on his website: www.basicmindfulness.com.) Personally, I will often say something like “tuning into your present moment sensory experience with clarity and acceptance.”
I like urs And ur definition of sensory clarity? Sorry for late text.
Ah, sensory clarity. Sensory clarity is your view when you have paid specific attention to your sensory experience – your body sensations, sights, sounds, touches, mental images, internal talk, energy – and you have seen them in detail. You have higher resolution power. You KNOW well (intimately) what you’ve seen – you’ve seen INTO it (or THROUGH it) and you see its components – and how it is a component of something else. One could say that it is what the Buddha discovered could lead to ultimate freedom. They had jhana and shamata practice before he came along (that’s concentration & equanimity), but he’s the one who said, “Wait a minute!” – that sensory clarity could help in a big way – leading to critical insights. So, Sensory Clarity = VERY clear about your sensory experience.
After having this text conversation with her late last night, I was thinking it might be nice to share the exchange here. And, out of respect to my teacher, Shinzen Young, and his emphasis on concentration, sensory clarity & equanimity as the 3 main ingredients, I will now add the question that she didn’t pose. So, let’s imagine that she then asked:
And equanimiry? How would you define that?
My response would have been:
Ah, what most people are needing. What could alone help heal the world. Equanimity is when we are open, accepting, not resisting or judging our experience. Can you imagine that? You could think of relaxation in the body as equanimity in the body, you could even think of love as an ultimate equanimity or acceptance. Shinzen teaches a strategy for working skillfully with pain called “Loving the Pain to Death.”
And when when the open, acceptance and non-resistance of equanimity is combined with concentration (for efficient, effective, committed attention) and sensory clarity (yielding richer, more complete experience + deep insights) – all aimed at our sensory experience – the resulting experience is, indeed, a yellow brick road to freedom from suffering and a new perspective which is, I believe, our next stage of evolution.
I’m glad she asked. (And I hope the school adopts a mindfulness program. Teaching this to kids while the clay is soft is, I believe, a key ingredient to healing the planet – so … fingers-crossed.)