“This noble eightfold path . . . right views, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation” (The Pali Canon).
A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE, AS THE SAYING GOES, BUT WE OFTEN WASTE OUR MINDS BY NOT BEING “MINDFUL” ENOUGH. Most of us are busy tending to a multitude of concerns. Distracted by so many competing priorities, it’s difficult to focus our minds on anything as beneficially as we should. It would be a step in the right direction if we could simply be more mindful of this problem.
Awareness. In its most basic sense, mindfulness simply means awareness. But while being aware is usually better than being unaware, we can be mindful in much better ways.
Thoughtfulness. To a correspondent, Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “For all that you have done, I am ever mindful.” Used in that way, mindfulness means that one is attentive to another person in an appreciative way. When we are mindful of others, we give heed to them. We take conscious thought for them, dwelling consciously on the good things they have done. What is more, we often use the word “mindful” to describe a person who has an inclination to do this. He or she has a marked tendency to be mindful of those around them.
Purposefulness. Here is the third, and best, meaning of mindfulness. Being mindful in this way involves paying attention on purpose. It is the discipline of devoting deliberate thought and focused meditation to an idea or a person. And while I do not endorse Buddhism, I must say that the Buddhist concept of mindfulness has much to recommend it. There is great value in learning how to mindfully focus on important matters. Not only are those around us benefited, but we come away refreshed, informed, and strengthened.
When we give ourselves to others as more mindful persons, we honor them. So I urge you to practice a greater degree of mindfulness, especially with those who are nearest and dearest to you. Give them the gift of your deliberate attention. Be present for them — mindfully.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers” (Thich Nhat Hanh).