Mindfulness has its roots in non duality which is a teaching of universal oneness that under pins many spiritual teachings specifically In the east. The idea of non duality is that we are all connected not only with each other but with the cosmos at large. In fact in non duality when we say we are all connected in this is meant quite literally. Meaning that not only are you one with all forms and objects around you. You are also one with everything that can’t be sensed with the five senses. The reason for this is because we are all the one unified consciousness. experiencing this reality from different vantage points i.e different people, species etc.
So in order to discover you’re essential nature as all inclusive consciousness what would you need to do? Well nothing really as you would already be it right? Why would there be any reason to look for it? In fact many non dual teachers say that there is nothing to do at all.
So why doesn’t it feel that way? and how does non duality tie into mindfulness?
Well first of all bringing you’re attention to this present moment is essential if you are to realize that you are pure awareness. Because it re-introduces us to our true identity which is awareness, keep in mind this doesn’t mean that our awareness ever went anywhere. Our engagement in thoughts, emotions and identifying with our mental persona creates a contrast in awareness. For example we can’t really exist in the past or future without a time machine to take us there. So when we do it is always in the mind and this is just thinking and not our reality right now. To get out of this contrast we must bring our attention to this moment. As this is were our life is really being lived.
Mindfulness is an action to bring us closer to ourselves as consciousness, which simply put is who we are right now! and our sense of aliveness in this moment. Without this realization mindfulness could arguably be simply put as mundane training in focus and conscientiousness.
Is mindfulness traditionally Buddhist?
If we are looking at the origins of mindfulness from a western secular stand point it could seem this way. Many different clinical and psychological modalities have sprouted up within the last 30 years. All using mindfulness as a fundamental element to their processes. The list of Acronyms keeps growing with every new hybrid of western psychology and mindfulness these include MBSR, MBCT ACT, MIBCT, ect. All these disciplines acknowledge Buddhism as their reference and inspiration in which they draw their mindfulness practices from.
These modalities also acknowledge mindfulness as a stand alone practice dislocating it from its Buddhist context. This does have many benefits as it doesn’t ask practitioners to buy into any belief systems such as karma or Samara or call on people to change there religious beliefs. This dislocation adds a human element to the practice calling on participants to inquire into their own experience and intuition for evidence of the efficacy of these practices.
On the other hand these western hybrids of psychology and traditional Buddhist meditation. Have been criticized for taking the practice of mindfulness out of context and not fully integrating other Buddhist ideas that without them don’t create the full picture of mindfulness. Many argue that the appropriation of this Buddhist meditative practice in the West leaves a lot to be desired. And that more work needs to be done to responsibly integrate Buddhist ideas into western psychological mindfulness hybrids.
But who said mindfulness is exclusively Buddhist anyway?
Ofcoarse we can literally trace the translation of the word mindfulness back to Pali Sanskrit which is of buddist origins. But does that make Buddhism the authority on awarness or attention?
I know from my own back ground I discovered mindfulness from Chinese philosophical Daoism and in practicing Qi gong. I also study Advaita Vedanta a branch of Hinduism where present moment awareness is stressed as mans unified connection to each other and the universe. These teachings both pre date Buddhism and point to their core practices as being awareness in the present moment.
Although some argue that Buddhist mindfulness is not only present moment attention but the discernment of what is happening. I would say that it is a branch of mindfulness as many other traditions point to the present moment as a fundamental element to their teachings.