What is Mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness Meditation

Understanding Mindfulness

Mindfulness can simply be defined as the observation of “what is”. The awareness of what is taking place in the outer environment and the inner environment.  Thus, being aware of the trees, the breeze and the sounds of the birds is mindfulness and so is being aware of your thoughts, feelings and movements.  But, there is a deeper level of understanding with regard to what mindfulness is and in this article I want to explore this deeper meaning with you.

Being always mindful is the goal of a meditative life, where Self Realization is of the highest importance.  This is far easier said than done, as the mind, the way it is currently conditioned, is always lost in thoughts of one kind or another.  While thus lost in thoughts, there is no mindfulness as there is simply the reactions of the mind, and no attention to what is taking place. 


Why the need to be mindful though?  What does happen is we are deeply mindful and how does that lead to transformation?  Unless we understand this, we wont realize the importance of mindfulness and we wont be able to truly answer the question, What is Mindfulness?

To help explain Mindfulness in it’s deeper sense, I have selected the following excerpt from the great meditation master J. Krishnamurti.  In it, although he does not use the term mindfulness specifically, it is mindfulness in it’s true sense that he is explaining. 

I know it is a bit long, but due to the importance of this topic, I did not want leave out parts that contribute to understanding it.  Below the excerpt, I discuss how this is related to the real meaning of Mindfulness.

In the following excerpt Krishnamurti is discussing how to be free of ambition (desire).  He is explaining what must be done in order to end ambition.  Seeing the urgent need to end ambition stems from understanding that ambition is an ego centric activity that inevitably leads to isolation and loneliness, and that as long as one’s relationships are simply to escape this loneliness, then those relationships are filled with dependency, attachment, fear, envy, hatred, etc and always lead to suffering. 

So to have loving relationships, it is essential to be free of loneliness and to be free of loneliness it is essential to be free of the ever isolating activity of ambition.  Here is how mindfulness is the key to accomplishing this…

Book: On Right Livelihood

Author: J. Krishnamurti

So am I ambitious?  Now I am going to learn.  I am going to observe, and find out if I am ambitious, not just in one direction, my whole life.  Not the ambition to have a bigger house, the ambition to be successful, the ambition to achieve a result, money, but also the ambition to transform “what is” into the perfect state.  I am ugly and I want to transform that into the most beautiful state.  All that and more is ambition.  And I watch it.  That’s my life, you understand?  I am going to watch it with passion, not just sit down and discuss it.  I am watching it night and day because I have realized the truth that loneliness is the most terrible think because it is most destructive in relationship.  And human being cannot live by themselves.  Life is relationship.  Life is action in that relationship.  It in that relationship there is isolation there is total inaction.  I realize that, not verbally, but as a burning reality.

Now I am watching.  Am I ambitious to transform “what is” into “what should be”, the ideal?  You understand?  That’s a form of ambition to change what I am into what I should be.

So I watch, and I say, yes, I want to change “what is” into “what should be”.  And I realize how absurd that is.  It is a part of ambition given to me education, culture, tradition.  In school “A” is better than “B”, copy “A” – you know all that business.  The religions have said, change from what you are to what you should be.  So I realize the falseness of it, and I totally discard it.  I will not touch it.  So I accept “what is”.  What a minute.  I see “what is”, and I see “what is” isn’t good enough.  So how am I going to transform it without the ambition of changing it into something?

Now I see what it is; I am greedy.  I don’t want to transform it into non-greed.  I am violent; I don’t want to transform it into non-violence.  But that violence must undergo a radical change.  Now what am I to do with it?   What is my mind to do, which has been trained, educated, disciplined to be ambitious, violent?  When I realize that to change that into something else is still violence, I won’t proceed along those lines.  And I am left with “what is”, which is violence.  So what takes place?  How am I to observe it, how is the mind to observe it without wanting to change it?

How is the mind to change this educated, sophisticated ambitions so completely that there is not a breath of ambition?  All day I am watching how my ambition is active.   Because I am very serious, because the loneliness is a terrible thing in relationship, and man can’t live without relationship.   He may pretend, he may say he loves, but still fight with another.  So how is the mind to transform the think called ambition?  Any form of exercise of will is still ambition.  All this is observation.  I see that any form of exercise of will to transform “what is” is another form of ambition.  I have discovered that.  The discovery of it has given me energy, so that I can discard will.  The mind says that is finished, I will never in any circumstances exercise will – because it is part of ambition.

(This next section goes into the deep meaning of mindfulness and how it is essentially the means with which to be free of ambition.  Understanding this part and living it, will give you the answer to the questions, what is mindfulness).

Those are all the activities of ambition that have produced this sense of desperate loneliness.  So all kinds of neurotic activities take place.  And as I have observed it, watched it, without doing a thing about it, then out of that observation the activity of ambition has come to an end because the mind has become extraordinarily sensitive to ambition.  It is as if it cannot tolerate ambition, therefore becoming very sensitive it has become extraordinarily intelligent.

What is Mindfulness Analysis:

In the above excerpt, you can substitute the word mindfulness for whenever Krishnamurti speaks of watching, seeing or observing “what is”, for that is what mindfulness really means (I have marked those sections in bold).  So we can see from the above the full power of mindfulness and how it holds the key to transforming the mind into something extraordinary.

By being acutely mindful of ambition as it moves within our mind, we develop great sensitivity to the actuality of ambition and this sensitivity is the state of a highly alert and intelligent brain, which is then able to reject ambition as it arises.  This complete rejection of ambition (desire) frees the mind from the inevitable suffering that an ambitious life brings.  The reason that ambition is rejected, is because one understands the danger of allow ambition to rule one’s heart and life.

As you can see from the above, Krishnamurti alludes to the requirement of constant, passionate vigilance (mindfulness) in order to develop the sensitivity required to catch and negate ambition as it arises.  So what is ultimately necessary for having a mind free of desire and having a mind capable of love, is having the passion to practice moment to moment mindfulness.

So what is mindfulness?  It is acute sensitivity to “what is” and it is the way to freedom and enlightenment.

Mindfulness Techniques and Further Reading:

Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners

Mindfulness Meditation Tips and Techniques

Is Mindfulness Mediation Right for You

Advanced Mindfulness Meditation (SM)

Zen Story on Mindfulness – True Meaning of Laziness


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5 replies
  1. Maja
    Maja says:

    Yeah, ok. But why did he observe (why do we all even start with meditation and self-improvement?) at the first place? Because he had ambition. So does that mean that ambition is just wrong? It leads to loneliness and unhappiness. But it also leads us to happiness, self-improvement and self-awareness, it creates will to change something in our life for better. I’ve heard a lot that we should just accept what is. But if I would accept what is for so many years now, I would be really unhappy now and I would make other people unhappy, because I wouldn’t feel that I need to change. So what I’m egoistic and I hurt other people? Accept what is, right? Well, no. In everything You have to find golden middle. It is good to feel urge to change ourselves to be better people. It is also good to accept ourselves as pure beings.

  2. PID
    PID says:

    Anmol, I too am very interested to the answer on Pix’s question, how can a person have absolutely no desire in a world like this where everone asks you to do certain things, like homework, u have to have the desire to make your homework or you will not do it right? Please do elaborate!

  3. Pix
    Pix says:

    Hello. Thankyou for your site. I have been reading you for about 1 year now.

    I have a concern about this word ambition or desire and how we should not have it. Surely we must have some minimal amount of ambition/desire; air, water, food, shelter, or should we just pick a spot and lay down and wait for our physical death? Did you desire a wife, children, home, e-business or did these just come to you automatically without ambition/desire? If we are not to desire or have ambition for any thing or any state of being then why are we on this plane? Is there a necessary minimum amount of ambition/desire of a “positive” nature that we do require?


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