A Word by any other Name

The word “mindfulness” has become a main-stay in our vocabulary these days.  I hear it used every where and it takes on a very individualistic meaning.  The speaker could be referring to a course they took, a skill they learned, or it can even be a way of playing that one-up, one-down game of the spiritual conquistador.  I have, on my shelf, a number of books on mindfulness to be reviewed – it’s a revolution, a moment, a movement, an integration, but no one’s come up with a colouring book!

This morning, I read a terrific blog post by David Riley, author of The Endless Further.  It is titled Mindfulness is just a four letter word.  He begins with the evolution of the term in Buddhist usage – and that’s worth reading because it reveals the flexibility of the concept even in its original context 2600 years ago.  Then David writes:

…“mindfulness” is a rather controversial word in Buddhism these days. It seems some people object to mindfulness. They say it’s been over-used, it’s just a buzz-word, a cliché, that it points to a watered-down form of Buddhist practice, it’s nothing more than a balm, an elixir, a feel-good term. What is never entirely clear to me is whether these critics merely object to the word or if they also object to the practice, or both.

And there you have it!  It’s one of those choice points we try to convey in the teaching of skillful living.  We can get caught up in the head stuff… the words, the images, the stories… or we can simply make the choice to practice.

David’s article goes on with more richly textured examination of what mindfulness is and it’s a valuable contribution to our understanding of the way we can get caught in the net of this process.

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