Mindfulness A to Z - Preface
A sweeping field guide to the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to our life as it unfolds, moment-by- moment.
“To be mindful” is to bring a particular kind of attention to our experience—one that is keen and focused on what is actually happening, as opposed to what we wish would happen. Mindfulness privileges perception over imagination. At its deepest levels, developing mindfulness helps us to clearly see that we construct much of our experience of the world and ourselves. And by construct I mean the quality of our minds determines the quality of our experiences. We are “put together” by our beliefs, stories, and attitudes. By practicing mindfulness we can learn to relate to the world, others, and ourselves in a more open and accepting way, without so many preconditions for happiness. A serious commitment to mindfulness, practiced over time, can help to move us toward a more awakened way of being-in-the-world.
Mindfulness has been the central theme of my adult life; I make maintaining a mindful demeanor a daily aspiration. Though many days I fall short of my goal, the wonderful thing about life is that it offers us another chance to be mindful in the very next moment. Even lapses in mindfulness provide useful opportunities to develop our skill! The cultivation of mindfulness in the service of awakening is a lifelong endeavor.
This book is a field manual for awakening mindfulness within yourself. It is composed of 108 brief chapters that contain seeds of practical wisdom that you can cultivate in your life. The bits of wisdom collected in these pages are drawn from my decades of practicing mindfulness and are informed by my experience teaching mindfulness to clinical patients, members of the community, fellow health care practitioners, university students, and Buddhist seekers. Many of the entries contain personal stories; some of the entries are based on metaphors, a common literary form that the Buddha used in his teaching, and one that I explored more deeply in my book Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness.
The alphabetized reflections contained herein are intended to inspire the integration of mindfulness into the fabric of daily life, and to encourage regular practice of mindfulness meditation. They can be read straight through or at random. I suggest you read the first entry on acceptance and then move where you like—on to the next or to whatever topic captures your interest. Read and reflect on one per day, and in a few months you may notice yourself living more intentionally, deliberately, and with greater ease. Each entry is an invitation to entertain, embrace, and embody a facet of mindfulness. Some entries contemplate Buddhist teachings that extend considerably beyond the practice of mindfulness as a means of managing stress, to the possibility of awakening itself.
Claiming the here and now is preferable to spiraling down into reactivity—being upset at being upset and missing out on the opportunity of this moment. I’m no stranger to that spiral. I’m right there with the rest of humanity, trying to live a happier, more meaningful life—trying to find a way beyond mere reactivity as some of my stories will reveal. Remembering to be mindful in every moment can be difficult to do. Yet the ideas in this book are not difficult to understand. They are straightforward and available to anyone at any time. Since you are reading this, I am pleased to know that this may be your time.