CHUCK STANFORD, lama emeritus, Rime Buddhist Center: The term “mindfulness” has significance in Buddhism but has also become a popular topic in psychological circles, as evidenced by the number of non-Buddhist articles and workshops on this topic.
For Buddhists, “mindfulness” means paying attention to the present moment, in a particular way, without judging. It means living in the present moment and awakening to experience.
We spend so much of our lives lost in discursive thought. For example, we may be thinking about what we should have done yesterday, the fight we had with our boss or spouse, or about the person who cut us off on the freeway. We are very rarely fully present in our lives.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present moment. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging. Instead of letting your life pass you by, you can be mindful by living grounded in the moment and awakening to experience.
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Mindfulness can be practiced any time by simply bringing your full attention to what you are doing. Using the technique of mindfulness meditation is an excellent way of cultivating mindfulness in our lives.
Through meditation one can clear one’s mind of the storm of discursive thoughts. Living mindfully means living fully in the present moment. When we live fully in the present moment, we can manifest great compassion and dignity for others and ourselves.
THE REV. BOB HILL, pastor emeritus, Community Christian Church: In the Christian tradition, Jesus’ most famous oration (the Sermon on the Mount) contains a clarion call for living in the moment: “So do not worry about tomorrow. … Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Not that Jesus disdained his roots. To the contrary, Jesus honored his Jewish heritage again and again, keeping the commandments, practicing time-honed rituals, treasuring the words of Scripture, especially the Psalms and the prophets.
Nor did he dismiss the future as inconsequential. Jesus regularly urged his followers to be prepared and hopeful in the face of the future, as the apostle Paul also did with the early Christians.
But Jesus’ preponderant emphasis was on current righteousness and an awareness of God’s present nearness. The Bible consistently exhibits a fondness for the present moment.
In the New Testament “today” is used three times more often than “tomorrow” and 10 times more often than “yesterday.” According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ first sermon in his hometown began with the word “Today.”
Focusing on living in the moment helps to avoid languishing in nostalgia for a sentimentalized (and perhaps fictional) past as well as adoring some idealized fanciful future. And while memory is always instructive and anticipation always energizes action, the path for an ultimately invigorating and life-giving faith follows the beckoning path of the present.
An example is author E.L. Doctorow’s wise counsel: “You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”