The evolution of mindfulness

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ELIZABETH DENLEY shares some ideas on the evolution of Mindfulness over the last 200 years, and where it might be headed.


The Mindfulness Movement is often thought to have its roots in vipassana, Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. The word ‘mindfulness’ was probably coined by the Pali language scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids in 1881, when he translated the word sati as ‘mindfulness’.

Davids explained that sati literally means ‘memory’, but is used with reference to the constantly repeated phrase, sato sampajâno, meaning ‘mindful and thoughtful’. He elaborated it as “that activity of mind and constant presence of mind which is one of the duties most frequently inculcated on the good Buddhist.”


“The heart is the field of
action of the mind.”


But it has not been the eastern practices of Buddhism alone that have shaped Mindfulness in the world today, as is well explained by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In fact, one of the most wonderful aspects of Mindfulness is the integration of western and eastern approaches, various philosophies and practices, all merged into a modern synthesis that speaks to people of all backgrounds and faiths. And this has been developing slowly throughout the world in an incredible way during the last 200 years. It has been a gradual evolution, which is still continuing today.

For example, the Transcendentalists of the 19th century in North America also shaped the evolution of modern-day Mindfulness – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott and Walt Whitman, among others. They took their inspiration from European Romanticism, as well as eastern practices and philosophy. In fact, when we examine the history, we see an  ever-increasing integration of West and East. Looking further ahead to the 20th century, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in the south-west of France is yet another example of the way this integration has molded our modern approach to Mindfulness.

And the latest evolution in this global movement is the continuation to Heartfulness. When you dive deep in meditation, you soon learn that the field of the human subtle body does not separate mind and heart. One of the foremost Yogis of the 19th and 20th century, Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh called the subtle body the ‘heartmind’. His student and successor, Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur said it in a slightly different way: “The heart is the field of action of the mind.” …


Read the complete article in Volume 2, Issue 3

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Article by ELIZABETH DENLEY


 

Elizabeth Denley

About Elizabeth Denley

Elizabeth is originally from Australia, and is the founding editor of Heartfulness Magazine. She loves meditating, writing, singing, playing the piano, gardening, thinking, spending time with her two grown up children, and life in general. She is active in researching and publishing the writings of the Heartfulness masters of the 20th and 21st centuries. She considers every moment of every day to be precious.

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