Secular Mindfulness

Is mindfulness meditation? Or something else?

Mindfulness is the art of paying attention. To be mindful is to be consciously aware of something. Mindfulness is the state being consciously aware. Recently, mindful meditation has been promoted, which is a practice designed to help you to be more mindful in your everyday life.

The problem with meditation is that it is often packaged with woo. Woo, for those of you who don’t know, is a derogatory term used to describe non-science teachings and practices. Most of what passes for self help these days is woo.

But is mindfulness and/or meditation woo?  Well, not necessarily. There are secular non-woo versions of both. Secular meaning non-supernatural and non-woo meaning some has actual science to back it up.

But to get back to the central question, is mindfulness meditation? Or something else?  Yes and no. Mindfulness is a state of being consciously aware. Meditation is a practice which depending on the method can help you become more consciously aware, at least in the moment.

So why do meditation? Well, it turns out that it is surprisingly hard to be mindful. Focusing your attention and awareness for any length of time is something most brains fight. Our minds seem to have a mind of their own. They think what they want to think and it might not be want you want to be thinking about.

Just try and sit still and be aware of nothing but your breath. I dare you!

Most people can’t just be aware of their breath and nothing else without practice.  This is why meditation is called a practice. Meditation, in its most secular non-woo form, is the practice of concentrating.

Assuming you have no medical reasons why concentration would be hard, most people can train their brains, through practice, to concentrate more effectively and presumably on your command. That’s all secular mindfulness or meditation is.

To learn more about how this works and the science behind it, consider taking Rick Heller’s excellent program, Humanist Meditation: Answers for Skeptics at Humanist Learning Systems.

1 comment:

  1. So true, Jen! Mindfulness is not as easy as it sounds. But it's easier to hone, for me at least, when I meditate regularly. Both do take practice!

    ReplyDelete

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