Mindfulness — what is it? It seems to be everywhere. There are talks, magazines, books, classes — all kinds of opportunities to become more mindful. What does it mean to be mindful, and why does it matter?
The 20th century Catholic mystic, Thomas Merton, described our society in this way: “Now let us frankly face the fact that our culture is one which is geared in many ways to help us evade any need to face this inner, silent self. We live in a state of constant semi-attention to the sound of voices, music, traffic, or the generalized noise of what goes on around us all the time. This keeps us immersed in a flood of racket and words, a diffuse medium in which our consciousness is half diluted: we are not quite “thinking,” not entirely responding, but we are more or less there.”
Many of us seem to wander through life as Merton described. Or we approach people, situations, and ideas with the presumption that we have already figured out most of life’s searching questions, so we have no need to humbly listen and learn. But mindfulness is a state of being that realizes that we superimpose our own perspectives and ideas on every new situation we encounter. It is realizing that we need to learn to see people for who they are — deeper than just the surface presumptions or prejudices that so easily cloud our thinking. It means learning to approach people, situations and groups that may be foreign or new to us with an attitude of humility and compassion.
Being mindful means that we are learning to see and love our neighbor as we want others to see and love us.
The Dwelling Place
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash