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What Is Mindfulness?


Mindfulness is the sine qua non of right livelihood. Without mindfulness even the most meaningful job is not quite "right." By practicing mindfulness we give ourselves the opportunity to be fully present — in the moment — which can lead to wiser decisions regarding the challenges life offers us.

Mindfulness can be practiced just about anywhere under almost any circumstances.

Psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "moment-to-moment awareness . . . . cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment's thought to." Kabat-Zinn is most famous for helping cancer patients use mindfulness to ameliorate pain and find meaning in their daily lives as they approach the possibility of death, but his definition of mindfulness is equally useful to anyone who is on a quest for meaning.

On the path to meaningful work, mindfulness is sometimes used as a tool for accessing your intuition, which in turn helps you:

  • Clarify your values
  • Strengthen and direct your will power
  • Make better choices for your life

Beginning today, this moment, you can make progress on your path to meaningful work by starting regular mindfulness practice. Through this practice, you will begin to recognize and appreciate both

  • Your inner state
    • Body
    • Emotions
    • Thoughts
  • The influences of the outer world
    • Environmental factors
    • Other people's attitudes
    • The forces of culture and clan

. . . not later, as you reflect on them, but in the moment, while you are experiencing them.

Although mindfulness sometimes occurs by chance, we can also make it an active practice, a kind of meditation or contemplation, in which we:

  • Set the intent to see all aspects of the present moment with clarity.
  • Encourage deep relaxation and "flow."
  • Cultivate the skillful means to a better life.

Does mindfulness intrigue you? Would you like to explore mindfulness further? Please feel free to start a conversation with us about where to start or go to next.

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In the pursuit of learning,
          every day something is added.
In the pursuit of the Tao,
          every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done until you come to
          action without striving.
When you follow this practice,
          nothing remains undone.

All under heaven is won by
          letting things take their course.
Nothing can be gained by interfering.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 48

Those who hold fast to the Tao
do not try to fill themselves to the brim.
Because they do not try to be full,
they can be worn out and yet, ever new.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15

Moon/Finger Zen.

Mindfulness can help us appreciate a wider range of viewpoints.

Why is this important?
Because you never know where or when insights and opportunities may appear. If you close your eyes because the view doesn't suit your taste, you could miss your stop.

Why would I close my eyes?
To protect yourself from anything that falls outside your "comfort level."

But I think I'm a pretty open person.
Perhaps you are. But you want to make changes in your life, and that could be dangerous.

The human brain will always try to protect us from danger. The path to meaningful work is one of personal growth, which invariably involves thinking or doing something new. Anything new is unknown. Anything unknown holds potential danger. No matter how much you want to make a change, the protective nature of your brain is going to try to stop you. ("Don't do that! You might get hurt.")

The brain is . . . an organ of survival, like claws and fangs. It makes one think things are true when they're really only advantageous.

Albert Szent-Gyorgi, Nobel Laureate

How does mindfulness change that?
Mindfulness helps you stand back and detach from the brain's automatic response to danger. You may still heed your own warnings and choose not to make a certain change, but you will have done so with your eyes open.

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