What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around us and with what we are doing.
The benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness is now being recognised as offering significant benefits in mental and physical well-being. With it, we can train our minds to improve our memory, concentration, creativity, and resilience to deal with life’s challenges. It is believed to improve our immune systems, heart and circulatory health, and is now widely used in pain management. With it we can also gain the insight to live more peacefully and joyfully every moment of every day.
Being mindful has been a Buddhist practice for 2,600 years. And Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has spent over 40 years making this practice accessible to everyone, irrespective of religious views, nationality or culture. Thich Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through being mindful, we learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Because dwelling in the present moment is the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
Through simple practices we can incorporate mindfulness into our daily activities. In this way we can develop happiness in ourselves and compassion for ourselves and others. And this changes our ways of being – in our relationships with others and with the world we live in.
The global context
Being mindful alone will not change the world for the better. It could make you a stealthier burglar or more accurate sniper. We need two extra dimensions. These are:
- Interbeing: the wisdom to see that we are all interconnected and interdependent
- Ethical conduct: making compassionate choices which lead to happiness for ourselves and others
Through mindful practice we can view our interbeing with the world around us differently – with compassion and kindness. But to achieve this we need a moral compass.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are not a set of rules or commandments. They are concrete and practical guidelines of ethical conduct that can be accepted by people from any culture. They are the sensible choices we make when we widen our view from ‘just me’.
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that in a world marked by moral and spiritual emptiness, the Five Mindfulness Trainings offer us a path to the restoration of meaning and value. He calls them a “diet for a mindful society”. And he presents them in a simple yet powerful way so that people can develop a happy, compassionate, and healthy way of life. Because this is the only way to bring harmony to the world and help in the preservation of the planet Earth.
When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.
Thich Nhat Hanh