The Mindfulness Blog

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Black Lab Consciousness*

Mindfulness = being present in the moment, without judgment, right? Kinda, but not exactly.

If mindfulness was that elementary, then all animals (including Black Labs) would be mindful. Don't get me wrong, I love animals--especially Black Labs--but I don't think of them as being particularly mindful. As a matter of fact, I'll go out on a limb and say (with genuine affection), they are not.

I'll grant you that animals don't likely pass judgment on others, and don't seem to dwell upon the past or think about the future, but they do seem to be ruled pretty much exclusively by their instincts and desires--which is not particularly mindful. In fact, it's downright mindless.

Mindfulness (the state we seek to achieve, through the practice of meditation) is about knowing that we are presently thinking or feeling--that's where the added component of awareness kicks in. Knowing that we are thinking a thought, or feeling an emotion--something that animals do not appear to appreciate.

Awareness
enables us to create a bit of space between us and our thoughts or emotions. It allows us to recognize our thoughts or emotions for what they are--things that come, and go. Of course, thoughts and emotions register with us as very real--like a rainbow appears to be very real. But just like a rainbow, they're actually not real--not in a way that should govern our behavior, or rule us.

Awareness
creates that brief nanosecond that allows us to respond skillfully to thoughts and emotions, rather than blindly react--and the difference between response and reaction, is a distinction with very real meaning. In that space (the space that allows us to respond, rather than react) lies our humanity, according to the Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl.

If that sounds like a bunch of new-age hocus pocus, then I suggest you cogitate about it for a while, and come to your own conclusion. But I can assure you, it's not hocus pocus--and that's not coming from someone who has, "drunk the Kool-Aid". It's coming from someone who is very much of this world, and it's coming from my own personal experience.

Self-regulation of thought and emotion is only one of the many benefits that flow from mindfulness and a meditation practice, and I think it's a particularly important one for all of us, both personally and professionally.

If you don't believe me, just ask your pet!



* Credit to Joseph Goldstein for coining the phrase.



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