Updated: Aug 17, 2021
By Sabine Grunwald
All human beings are born with the seed of the most beneficial universal qualities, such as compassion, creativity, integrity and wisdom. Ancient wisdom tells us to abide and rest in the present moment and emptiness dismantling our narcissistic ego structures. In modern Western society we struggle with being in the present moment because we multi-task, keep our lives filled with activities that keep us busy, we are caught in distractive behaviors, such as watching TV or spending hours on social media.
Importantly, #mindfulness does not belong to Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism or Christianity, just as the breath we inhale and exhale does not belong to any one of us. Though we can learn from the Wisdom Traditions and what they had to say about mindfulness. Mindfulness originally appeared in old Buddhist texts. “Sati” – mindfulness – stands for awareness, attention and remembering. Wisdom traditions provide the non-secular roots of mindfulness practices that are typically integral part of a religious or spiritual practice. For instance, meditation practices are foundational to train the mind and look deeply at Self and No Self in Vedanta, a Hindu philosophy based on the doctrine of the Upanishads, Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and others. Tibetan Buddhist teachings (dharma) distinguish between #shamatha (mindfulness practice) – to develop a stable and restful mind, #tranquility and #peace and vipashyana (awareness, clarity, insight, #prajna = wisdom). Out of shamatha-vipashyana arise naturally qualities of compassion, kindness, gentleness, generosity and expanded consciousness.
You may not be inclined to adopt a specific spiritual or religious path and cultivate a meditation practice. I like the striking example Daniel Rechtschaffen (2014) provided: Coffee originated in Ethiopia and for millennia made its way to the Middle East and now it fills the cups of drinkers around the world. The effect that coffee has on people is universal and is beloved equally by many Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews. The effects of mindfulness practices are considerably more mellow than coffee, but they are just as universal. Of course, just as drinking coffee will not make you Ethiopian, practicing mindfulness will not make you Buddhist.
Rechtschaffen, D.J. (2014). The way of mindful education – cultivating well-being in teachers and students. Norton Books, New York, NY.