Faith Without Religion
Peace Without Absolution
Being in a state of awareness of yourself, your morality and the world around you is an innate trait any human being can reach. Many religious traditions and spiritual practices teach people how they can access this part of themselves, but pursuing the state absent those is itself a therapeutic practice known as ‘mindfulness’. It’s independent of tradition, it’s a physical and psychological state of being.
In these times, awareness of all the ills of our civilization is traumatic. We are not built to withstand the psychological strain of so much awareness. It may be getting to the point where achieving a state of mindfulness is necessary for our continued survival.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a psychological practice that has roots in ancient practices of meditation. It is centered around bringing your focus of attention into the present moment, mentally placing an emphasis on your immediate environment and thoughts related to that. A person engaging in mindfulness is not ignoring their internal state, rather they are allowing those mental processes to proceed without rumination in favor of immediate awareness. It places an emphasis on open-mindedness and curiosity over internal analysis.
If this is starting to sound goofy, that’s natural. Imagine you’re in a crowd in a cafeteria with a buzz of indistinct voices and you’re angry about being ignored when your words drowned out in the din. You can focus on your internal feelings, reminding yourself of the slight and allowing that pressure to build, or you can allow that feeling to slip back from your focus. If you’re practicing mindfulness, eventually the din becomes less of a buzz and individual voices begin to float to the top. You can detect, if not follow, multiple conversations. You can recognize specific voices. You become more aware of the flow of bodies around you. Your anger might still be there, but it’s not “on your mind.”
In today’s world, we may need to develop a cultural meme of mindfulness that goes far beyond the traditions of meditation and prayer that have incubated this state of mind since recorded history began. Rather than focus on the religious or spiritual elements, we may need to make it a civic ideal. In mental health fields it’s already being done on individual levels, but is still an unknown concept to too many.
There are roots in other cultures of similar civic ideals, but they are esoteric in the modern western sphere. We need to do more.
Spreading mindfulness as a virtue would increase our individual ability to cope with information we do not abide. It would allow for more open dialogue, dialogue with patience and listening as a central focus. Empathy is a key factor in mindfulness. Sympathy is more easily achieved when individuals put their internal dialogue toward the backs of their minds.