The wikipedia psychology page has several good definitions of mindfulness. I like this one:
A kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is.
If there is one thing I learned - it is that our attention is like a muscle; you need to exercise it to make it stronger. You can't expect to run a marathon if you haven't trained for it right? Similarly you cannot progress in wisdom if you do not practice mindfulness.
The Ups and Downs of My Own Practice
Looking back at my own practice - I started out fascinated with the whole mindfulness concept. It made sense to me on a very practical basis. But I was quite naive as to its depth. So I kind of jumped into it full steam - thinking I will get clarity of mind in no time and fix all my problems in life. Well... did not exactly work out that away.
I did experience short-term clarity, insights and some periods of new-found joy early on... But that bubble burst quite soon thereafter. It was not sustainable. I became discouraged and stopped practicing for some time.
The Importance of Sustained Mindfulness and Wisdom
I now understand that my mindfulness muscle was too weak at the time, and my wisdom was too short-lived. The initial clarity and joy I felt were based on will power, excitement and pure concentration, which cannot take you far on their own.
Now I recognize the basic importance of "keeping it going". To continue practicing mindfulness and meditation in a gentle but disciplined manner, through whatever ups and downs life brings your way. Instead of getting caught up in the cycles, use those cycles as an opportunity to deepen your practice!
And more so, I have come to recognize that mindfulness is a path, as opposed to a binary "you have it" or "you don't". Just observe your own mind - can you spot the difference in how you look at daily events and drama today versus 3 years ago?
With each step of mindfulness, it gets more and more refined. We start noticing the finer elements of our consciousness, of our ego, and of the suffering in ourselves and those around us. Each step can give us new insights and wisdom to help us progress on the path.
Please share your stories below. Thanks for reading!
Best wishes to you,