Mindfulness is only a starting point. We could analogize it to God or Faith. We can be devoted with a very dear part of ourselves, but the question is how much is this integrated into our life? We can go to church on Sundays, but not practice or express our faith during the week. We can have faith in God, but not treat our fellow man/woman with our hearts and compassion.
Mindfulness, as it is most commonly taught, can support us to be present, but that doesn’t mean we will be using it to express and cultivate compassion. It doesn’t mean that we will necessarily be aware of how we treat the next person we interact with or be more sensitive in our tone of voice. Compassion needs to be a more central tenet of mindfulness or it runs the great risk of being in danger of compartmentalization. We need to be interested in our own personal psychologies and realize how our subconscious so often takes over our lives.
Mindfulness is a great starting point to open our hearts, develop a caring spirit, be more honest, and be more generous to ourselves, the planet and those close to us. It needs to be emphasized that mindfulness, when it is taught like another form of meditation, simply gives us a better chance of developing our hearts.
There is no significant reason to believe that just simply being more present is going to give us the guidance we need to live a wholesome life. We need to examine our central motivations in life. Where are we generous and where are we self-centered? How much do we care about others beyond ourselves? Mindfulness is like a golfer being given a good golf lesson, but the question is, how dedicated is the golfer to execute what is being shown? This is not meant to be a put down on Mindfulness itself, but simply recognizing that it is only a very beginning important starting point of preparing ourselves to live a meaningful life.
As the article demonstrates, mindfulness can clearly be used for great purposes — or, for someone who has negative intentions, it can help them carry them out more successfully. Teachers of mindfulness need to be more careful, as the Buddha was, to include elements of compassion, altruism and awareness of inner states. Otherwise, it will indeed be no more useful than a compartmentalized form of religion or spirituality.
Photo credit: An endangered man at the exhibition ‘The Weight of the Ashes’ by Anna Malagrida at the Valencian Museum of Modern Art, 2018. | Flickr/Ralf Steinberger. CC BY 2.0. (Open Democracy)