Mindfulness: Multiple Definitions

Mindfulness: Multiple Definitions

Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word “sati”. In Buddhism its definition refers to an activity that is said to defy conceptualization through language and logic and can ultimately only be approached through experiential understanding. The term mindfulness has been associated with participatory observation, non-judgmental observation, impartial watchfulness, non-conceptual awareness, present-time awareness, non-egoistic alertness, bare attention, awareness of change, goal-less awareness, mirror-thought, wakeful experience of life, and pre-symbolic function, as well as remembering in the sense of a wordless knowing of what we are doing and how we should go about it.

In psychology and medicine the basic definition of mindfulness has been conceptualized on three levels. One of the pioneers of the movement in medicine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defined mindfulness as ‘‘paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. According to this definition there are three main compomnents that are directed towards uprooting entrenched habits that cause stress and unhappiness. When we become aware of what is happening within and around us we can shape our lives more intentionally, we learn to focus our attention, and we develop attitudes that help us master hard times.

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