October 7, 2013
As the seventh factor of the Eightfold Path, Wise Mindfulness is the practice of careful moment-by-moment, non-judgmental observation of the body, feelings, thoughts and experiences without grasping or rejecting; just being present with bare attention.
Building the awareness and capacity to stay with what is actually happening in any given moment requires tremendous discipline and focus. But with practice, this kind of mindfulness softens and reduces reactivity, and we learn to see things as they are outside of the stories we tell ourselves. This direct experience allows us to pause before we react, making space for wise, considered, and skillful response. Paying attention in this way strengthens, stabilizes, and balances the mind.
As with wise effort, well-developed mindfulness cultivates the ability to recognize and let go of unskillful, painful or harmful habits, and to recognize and nurture skillful, supportive and effective habits. We learn to inhabit our lives with awareness and care.
We need to be clear which emotions are harmful and which are helpful; then cultivate those that are conducive to peace of mind. Often, due to a lack of knowledge, we accept anger and hatred as natural parts of our minds. This is an example of ignorance being the source of our problems. To reduce our destructive emotions we strengthen the positive ones; such emotional hygiene can contribute to a healthier society.
HH Dalai Lama
Mindfulness requires focus and patience, and when it is rooted in kindheartedness with a commitment to the ethics of non-harming, it is transformed from the application of a sterile technique for paying attention to an inspired, compassionate and powerful way of engaging our lives.