Mindfulness & Meditation


Active member
By many accounts, mindfulness isn't necessarily "meditation," per se, even though by an equal number of accounts there is a form of meditation known as "mindfulness meditation," thus my implicit distinction in the thread (topic) title. I suppose the distinction comes down mainly that "meditation" is generally thought to be a "formal practice," while mindfulness can be brought to any of our daily activities, from washing dishes to walking the dog. Or anything else, I suppose.

This thread is for discussion of any and all aspects of mindfulness and meditation, be they "secular" or "religious".
I'm currently reading a book titled, Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing, by David A. Treleaven. (Use your search engine to learn about this book. I don't want to violate any link/URL policies by posting a link.)

I've only just begun reading it, but so far I find it to be an important and valuable book -- the only real limitation being that the scope of the topic(s) makes it nearly impossible to address in just one book. Treleaven nevertheless provides a good basic introduction to trauma in relation to mindfulness and meditation practice.

Whether you are a trauma survivor or a mindfulness (or meditation) practitioner (or teacher), you will likely find something of value in this freshly minted book.

I'll have more to say soon. But don't wait for that if you'd like to chime in.
I’ve gotten a lot out of my meditation practice over the years. I honestly feel like taking 5-20 minutes a day to do some silent meditation has rewired my brain to be calmer and less anxious. It took many months of consistent practice to get there, though.

Mindfulness is one of the main ways I deal with my chronic pain. I engage with the present moment, and my senses, and take note of everything *else* that is going on in addition to something hurting. That was a pretty powerful practice to develop, too.
Mindfulness is simply being in the present, not thinking about the past or the future. It's impossible to worry when you're in the present, so awareness of mindfulness is really helpful for people who are prone to anxiety and worry. Plus, it just feels good. Mindfulness is nothing more than choosing to focus our attention on the present. Mindfulness can be practiced all day, every day or just in moments here and there and all points in between.

Meditation is tuning into peace for a block of time. It need not be a formal practice at all or it can be a regular thing, but it's a finite period of time in which you pointedly focus on the larger peace/well being that underlies all of life. Many people experience this as divine presence, but spirituality need not be involved. Meditation is a block of time during which we re-set our internal compass and re-align with the quality that is peace.

Both practices promote and support peace of mind, body and spirit, but they are two different practices. Them's my thoughts.
Both practices promote and support peace of mind, body and spirit, but they are two different practices.

And then there's the overlapping of these "both" -- these two, which is known as "mindfulness meditation". It's both being (or, rather, intending to be) present in the moment and engaging in a formal meditation practice of just the same.

There must be over a thousand -- if not ten thousand -- unique and different approaches to mindfulness meditation practice, each of these with their own unique variants.

As a long time student and (more recently) teacher of mindfulness meditation, I continue to grapple with words and ideas about the practice. "Being present" sounds like such a simple and easy thing, but for most of it it is anything but easy, and not so simple either. Part of the reason for this is that so few of us are truly in our bodies (embodied), but sort of hovering over them "in our heads". Being fully present requires being fully embodied, and that takes a lot of practice for most of us to accomplish. Also, most of us have deeply embedded, and not easily dropped, habits of persistently fleeing the present moment. The presence of unresolved trauma, which most folks have some of, relates to these habits, of course.

My interest in mindfulness and mindfulness meditation started out as an interest in Buddhism, but became increasingly secular over time. That's another complex thing... the whole question as to whether Buddhism is a religious or a "secular" practice from the get go. These days, my inclination is to think that Buddhism has mainly been expressed as a religion, over most of its history and geography. But it has been basically a non-theistic religion, like religious Taoism (which is distinct -- somewhat -- from philosophical Taoism).
Lately, I'm more and more wanting to toss out the religious bath water while keeping the baby. But that's not so simple a matter, either. Since the rich knowledge and wisdom of mindfulness meditation practices have their root in Buddhism, the serious student of these practices will probably always be sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's an ongoing process.

I'm a pretty modern person, and Buddhism originated in a very non-modern context, so it has its wisdom all tossed together with its superstition. For example, check this out.:

"Modern Buddhists, especially those who have only been exposed to the minimal and highly selective Buddhist sutric and commentarial literature available in English, may be bewildered by the views of revered masters of the past, who debated endlessly over such subjects as imaginary worms living in women’s vaginas, what sexual positions are forbidden, which level of hell one goes to for having engaged in oral sex, and whether or not the Buddha had a real penis." -- from the second link below

Revisiting the Traditional Buddhist Views on Sex and Sexuality
by José Ignacio Cabezón

Buddhism and Sexuality: It’s Complicated
by Jeff Wilson
Last edited:
And then there's the overlapping of these "both" -- these two, which is known as "mindfulness meditation". It's both being (or, rather, intending to be) present in the moment and engaging in a formal meditation practice of just the same.

All meditation is mindfulness meditation. There's no way to meditate without being in the moment.
All meditation is mindfulness meditation. There's no way to meditate without being in the moment.

It might possibly be true to say "There's no way to meditate without being in the moment". I don't know if it is true, but it has a ring of truth in it--, perhaps.

Let me now ask a very "zen" question: Can we be anywhere other than in the present moment?

If you answer "No," your above-quoted statement could be stretched into an argument for all human activity (including perhaps even sleep) being meditation.

But if all bicycles are cars and buses we will surely run into challenges in communicating. And if all boxes are chairs....

One thing I do know, however, is that of the myriad kinds or approaches to mindfulness mediation, all can be situated somewhere on a spectrum from the very concentration oriented on the one side to the very "open awareness" approaches on the opposite end.

Lately, I'm wondering if the open awareness meditative practices (of a mindfulness type) are supported and nourished by the more concentrative practices. This seems to be the historically common view, and it makes a certain kind of sense. One might also wonder if there is a mutual benefit going both directions, so that concentration is also supported and nourished (as a capacity) by the practice of open awareness.

The phrase "open awareness meditation" (in this context) simply means intending to be aware of the total field of one's present moment experience as a form of meditation. The "total field" would be sights and sounds and smells and tastes and inner sensations, feelings ... all of it. Everything.

Concentration meditations are on the other end of the spectrum, and offer various degrees and kinds of narrowly focussed attention / awareness.

Awareness can be big and open and expansive or narrowly focussed attention, in other words.

In formal practice at both ends (and the middle) of this spectrum -- in Buddhist-inspired practice --, the aim is to sustain awareness and not drift off and forget that one is being present in this prescribed way. If one "drifts off" one tries to notice that this drifting off has occurred and then to gently, kindly return to the intended practice. One famous teacher said this resembles potty training a puppy by putting him on a newspaper whenever he is pooping. Or something like that. :p The puppy will want to wander off and poop somewhere else, but you've got to gently encourage her to poop in the proper place.
It's fun to hear Sam Harris speak on the subject.
It's fun to hear Sam Harris speak on the subject.

Yeah, and I'm in basic agreement with him. However, my agreement is not cut and dried.

There are actually some strong arguments in favor of fully naturalizing certain kinds of religion (especially, perhaps, the non-theistic ones like Buddhism or Taoism), rather than tossing out all religion on account of it not being naturalistic.

However, most of those arguments basically amount to a critique of the most popular version of naturalism in the contemporary world--which version we might simply call modern scientific naturalism. The critique centers on the notion that religion has historically served a valuable function which hasn't been well-served by modern scientific naturalism as a complete world view. What might that function be? I'd call it by one word: wholeness, also known as integrity.

People who have lived in non- and pre-modern cultures which have religion (broadly defined) at their cultural core might be said to have had a kind of wholeness in their lives which modern people generally do not. Most crucially, I suppose, this wholeness I speak of relates to the relation of facts and values. You might say that there was a generalized (whole) sense of 'meaning' in those cultures. Life was "meaningful" in certain ways which is less the case within societies centered on the modern scientific world view (its form of naturalism).

I'm in basic agreement with Sam Harris about the enormous amount of fetid, disgusting, filthy bath water which are the most familiar components of what we generally know as "religion," but I'm not at all convinced that there is no baby worth keeping in the tub.

Sam seems to be proposing that there is no baby in the tub -- that all of religion is just fetid water and a tub, both of which he'd toss in the land fill, then bury deeply.

There is a great long list of things which are traditionally known as "religion" which I'd certainly want to get rid of, starting with its authoritarianism. Most religion has been profoundly authoritarian, and usually also hierarchically so. I'd then throw out purely imaginary, invisible beings of every kind: devils, demons, gods, etc. And then I'd throw out the ridiculous notion of the eternal soul, rebirth, reincarnation ... and anything resembling these. And so I would do with supernaturalism.

Is there anything remaining to the notion of "religion," after having done so? According to most -- if not all -- folks who subscribe to the popular modern form of naturalism (or naturalistic science), no. But I think they are importantly mistaken, though by no means am I stuck on keeping the WORD religion to indicate what's left which is worth keeping and which is compatible with scientific epistemology.

Modernity has had a major problem, which is the sustenance of a picture of life and the world which is whole, which sustains a basic wholeness between fact and value (among other things which comprise what I'd call "meaningfulness" in a general sense). Yes, the popular modern scientific world view has ways to find meaning in various particulars, but has it got a broad and general sense of meaningfulness? Most people would probably say, no.

Some very staunch modernist types would even insist that the word "meaning" can only refer to what words mean, not to value considerations of the sort that I'm talking about when I say "meaningful".

But I'd say that a culture, to be whole, must have meaningfulness and wholeness -- and, traditionally, this wholeness and meaningfulness was provided by "religion".

Sure, traditional religion has been a blight on people and planet. I get that. It still is! But we've not yet evolved a meaningful and whole culture in the wake of the collapse of religion resulting from the creation of modern science. And that's a huge problem for us. And it's one I think we have to resolve within a naturalistic frame.

We may, in fact, be needing a very modern (or contemporary) and secular "nature religion" -- or ... something. (Even the word "spirituality" seems inadequate.) Hmm....
PS -

Sam Harris, along with myriad others who subscribe to a certain version of modern scientific naturalism, speaks about human beings in a way I find both questionable and potentially catastrophic in consequence. That is, he speaks of our mind, our experiencing, our consciousness, our psyche... as something entirely centered in our brains.

Believing this brain-centered story basically means believing that we ARE our brains, and that the purpose of the rest of the body is to serve as some sort of vehicle for the brain's mobility in the world.

It also assumes that what we most fundamentally ARE is an organ and a lump of cells. This is not only a philosophically contentious belief but it would seem to me to render "meaningfulness" impossible. And yet this belief seems to be in the ascendency in the academe. It may even be a new mythic dogma or doctrine in the Church of Science.
Medication can help to overcome many mental health issue problems.

Perhaps, but only just barely, if that much -- as a generalization.

Now, please, recognize that I'm responding to the word "medication," not "meditation". It's hard to know when a word is actually a typo.
As a longtime meditator (not a medicator) and (for five years) meditation teacher, I'm super, extra impressed with The Little Book of Being! http://www.dianawinston.com/

The explanation (and model) she calls The Spectrum of Awareness Practices is worth several times the price of admission, alone. If you are seriously interested in meditation, please read this book as soon as humanly possible!