History of mindfulness

All contemplative traditions, irrespective of traditional persuasion and spiritual orientation, promote mindful presence.

Contemplation by its very nature invites us to be sensitive to and aware of the present moment. It encourages an expansive, spacious awareness that provides a holding space for whatever arises in the present moment. Mindfulness thus spans spiritual traditions, sectors and religions and crosses many divides.

It emphasises the common experience of what it is to be human. It facilitates an awareness of our inter-connectedness and in this way crosses boundaries and divides that ordinarily separate and compartmentalise.

Mindfulness, through virtually all traditions, cultivates a sense of community, of togetherness and concern for all. It emphasises the individual as part of society and the imperative of being human together.

Expressed by Archbishop Tutu in the philosophy of Ubuntu, mindfulness…

“…is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.”

Mindfulness initiatives as taught in the West, while having roots in what is called ‘the dharma’ which roughly translates to mean ‘the teachings’, and while sometimes associated with Buddhism, have spread across most sectors. These include clinical settings, schools, hospitals, businesses, prisons, governments, and the sporting world, all of which show improved efficiency and better health for their participants. As scientists show how mindfulness makes us smarter, kinder, more creative, productive and well-rounded people, governments propose to use mindfulness to address issues such as unemployment. We are seeing ancient teachings come alive and take root in today’s world.

As mindfulness spreads like wild fire in our world thirsty for its applications, the foundations of the ancient teachings and practices become all important. These emphasise ethics and values and underscore concepts like embodiment and authenticity.

The value of mindfulness in the modern world is to help us remember our humanness and our humanity. Mindfulness highlights compassion and wisdom. It encourages caring both for ourselves and for others. It builds bridges and forges relationship and cooperation. The ancient teachings appear to be minding the gaps of modernity.

CMI initiatives seek to contribute to this groundswell of authentic mindfulness practices that help us remember to be human and to realise the fullness of our potential for the purposes of all of humanity, the planet and the whole world.
training in mindfulness
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