Is the diversity of Mindfulness its true beauty and ultimate teaching?
Definitions of Mindfulness
There are many definitions of mindfulness available in the Western academic literature and many translations of mindfulness from original Eastern Buddhist and African texts that different slightly but overlap significantly to allow for some general assumptions about what mindfulness is or how it is experienced.
Importantly, because there are so many different scientific definitions of mindfulness (over 56 since our last review) it is challenging to agree upon a single definition that defines what mindfulness is in its entirety. Therefore, at the Urban Mindfulness Foundation, we accept the nuance and complexities in defining mindfulness and consider it a demonstration of its fluidity and diversity. Nonetheless, we also accept that each reputable definition has something valuable that helps to reveal the true nature and infinite depths of Mindfulness practice and application.
Forming an understanding of mindfulness
To help form an understanding of what mindfulness is or what it may come to mean to you; we encourage you to embark on a dedicated practice for an extended period of time before coming up with your own definition based on lived experience.
Moreover, whilst words alone cannot answer the question of what mindfulness is? The following suggestions might be useful as a starting point to help us gain a common understanding when speaking about mindfulness as we embark on our training and practice.
Definition 1 – Urban Mindfulness Foundation
“Knowing and recognising how we are relating
whilst we are relating
to everyone and everything
moment by moment.”
Dean Francis – Urban Mindfulness Foundation
Definition 2 – Jon Kabat Zinn
The next definition is from Jon Kabat Zinn, one of the West’s most renowned teachers considered to be a founder of Secular Mindfulness in the West. It is a definition we use throughout all of the programmes we deliver but critique in a healthy way to make room for other ideas of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way;
On purpose, moment by moment, non-judgmentally.”
Jon Kabat Zinn
Definition 3 – Rob Nairn
One of the definitions that we use in our training programmes is from the late Rob Nairn, Founder of the Mindfulness Association. Rob defines Mindfulness in a wonderfully simple way:
“Knowing what is happening when it is happening;
no matter what it is.” Or “without preference.”
Rob Nairn – Mindfulness Association
Definition 4 – Chinese writing
The final important definition we use is from Chinese Calligraphy. Mindfulness is depicted as a symbol that communicates what we believe is the essence of Mindfulness. Whilst the above definitions are extremely useful, we feel this definition is probably most important to share. The symbol looks like this:
The literal translation of the Chinese symbol is “Now, or present heart.” The top part of the symbol represents a shelter or hat meaning “now” or “present” and the bottom half of the symbol representing the word “heart.” This symbol suggests that Mindfulness is connected with the heart.
“Essence of heart”, “loving presence” or “heartfulness” are all ways that the practice has been described. Jon Kabat Zinn affirms this by confirming:
“If love and kindness or essence of heart is missing from Mindfulness Training, then the training is likely to be missing it’s essence”.
Jon Kabat Zinn