Mindfulness? Head on a swivel.

 Opinion by Phil Mitchell, New Life Foundation Staff

mudbrick“The role of mindfulness is to keep the mind properly grounded in the present moment in a way that will keep it on the path.” – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Living in a mindful community, I am constantly reminded when I am not “being” mindful.  That is OK, because there are times when I am not.

But what exactly does it mean to be mindful?

Sati, the Pali word translated mindfulness, can also be translated awareness.  More meaningful and perhaps more powerful than the word mindfulness, awareness actually helps us stay alive.

Aware. Watching. Having or showing realization or knowledge.

Mindful.   Bearing in mind.  Inclined to be aware. For me, there is quite a difference to “watching” and simply “bearing in mind.”

Living in Afghanistan, living inside the wire, it was easy to “bear in mind” I was in  a situation that was potentially dangerous.  But, when I was traveling off the military base, it was simply not enough to bear in mind I was in a hostile environment.  I had to be aware.  I had to be aware every second.

Sorren, ZuluThe military used the term “head on a swivel.”  Looking.  Watching.  Studying every person.  Every look, every disgruntled pair of eyes and every toothless grin.  Surveying the entire landscape for an enemy that is indistinguishable from my friends.

That is the difference between being mindful and being totally aware.

Sure.  We can be mindful.  We can “bear in mind” that we are alive and living.

But for me, I want to be aware.  Aware of every moment.  Aware of every joy.  Aware that I am alive.  Because, without that awareness, I would simply exist.





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