Right Mindfulness is a way, not an instrument or tool, or a means for achieving an end ~ Most Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
Smrti or mindfulness is an integral part of the Buddha’s 2600 year old Noble Eightfold Path. When practiced in conjunction with the insight of interbeing, or interconnection of all things, it helps individuals and the collective move away from ill-being towards well-being. With right mindfulness we recognize what is happening within and without, and use proper attention to cultivate compassion, joy and non-harming towards all beings. When practiced separate from the noble path, mindfulness has the potential of doing good, as well as harm to ourselves and the planet. While secular mindfulness is popularly defined as “non-judgmental present moment awareness”, we might meditate on whether it’s truly possible for mind consciousness to see through the eyes of non-discrimination. Experience informs me that perceptions and thoughts are colored by world views and behaving as a separate self. Mindfulness-based practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is being employed in psychology to reduce a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.
With right mindfulness, experienced teachers are able to offer a living example to help students water joyful, positive seeds within themselves, to find happiness in the moment and relieve their hurts. Classrooms filled with calm, peaceful students show curiosity about the wonders of life, including themselves and others, and find joy in the being together, as well as the learning. It’s also possible, that as a by-product of their ease and happiness, they will do well in their projects and exams.
As mindfulness-based trainings are being requested by, and offered to, military soldiers and business leaders, we can reflect on the question of whether this is right mindfulness or not? If awareness of how to better kill the enemy or exploit the resources of our precious planet for profit are the aim of mindfulness practice, then it cannot be called right mindfulness according to Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. However, if military leaders and soldiers are taught to respect the preciousness of life, including the lives of so-called enemies, avoiding killing and destroying, then it has the element of right view. When business leaders and companies practice mindfulness to cultivate happiness and harmony as the aim of the business, and stop focusing on being number one at any cost or making as much profit as possible, which generally creates suffering for people, animals and nature, then it can be called right mindfulness. The noble eightfold path is walked step by step, breath by breath. Arriving in the present moment with each step, mindfulness is recognized as a journey, not a destination. Mindfulness, concentration and insight have the power to change the situation and make sure that we all have beautiful continuations.