Monday, October 26, 2015


I recently attended a presentation on mindfulness, a subject I've been intrigued by for a couple of years due to its recent use in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. According to the speaker, the three central principles of mindfulness are "Presence," "Compassion," and "Acceptance." By "Presence," he meant being focused in the moment. "Compassion" means kindness toward all. "Acceptance" means embracing suffering and accepting reality while not judging others or one's self. He also talked about meditation, viewing one's thoughts and feelings as though a distant observer, periodic solitude, and diminishing one's worldly ambition.

He led us through a bit of deep breathing and being quiet. He shared a few anecdotes and his own thoughts, but he didn't seem to be interested in sharing any one else's insights. I appreciated some of the information he presented and the chance to think through some ideas without my little children underfoot. I did find his presentation more self-centered than I would have expected from someone who makes his living teaching mindfulness to others, and that was distracting.

One audience member objected to the instruction to be non-judgmental, arguing that judgment is a valuable attribute of being human. I agree with that objection for two reasons. 1) The term "non-judgmental" currently carries the connotation of condemning judgment, which is contradictory and negative; mindfulness is about presence, not avoidance and repression. 2) From what I've read of mindfulness--at least when used therapeutically--it's not so much that one turns off judgment as chooses to delay it while observing and accepting what is. I believe that, instead of wasting effort trying to turn off judgment, it's essential to focus on being humble, for keeping in mind one's own limited knowledge makes it easier to stay judgment while seeking new insights about the thoughts and feelings of ourselves and others.

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