By: Jack Kornfield

In the development of wisdom, one quality of mind above all others is the key to practice. This most direct way to understand our life situation, who we are and how our mind and body operate, is to observe with a mind that simply notices all events equally. This attitude of non-judgmental, direct observations allows all events to occur in a natural way. By keeping the attention in the present moment, we can see more and more clearly the true characteristics of our mind and body process.

Buddhism starts from the known. What is the world? The world is objects of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch; objects of mind; and the knowing (or consciousness) of these objects. It is through the quality of choice less awareness that we can best penetrate and understand the nature of our world. For example, when one is mindful of seeing the attention is not on evaluating the object of sight, forming concepts of good or bad, pretty, or ugly, familiar or unfamiliar in regard to it. Rather the attention becomes an awareness of the process of seeing, the fact of seeing, rather than on the reflection of it in concepts. Awareness is directed at the present moment, to process itself, the only place where the understanding of reality’s true nature can be gained. This awareness brings an understanding which will result in wisdom, freedom, and an end to suffering. Not only does developing mindfulness allow us to penetrate the nature of our world and understand the cause of suffering; when developed, mindfulness has other power.

Mindfulness brings us to a moment-to-moment purity of mind. Each moment we are mindful, the mind is pure, free of clinging, hating, and delusion. For that moment, the mind is cool because it is filled with attention for what is without the coloration of judgment. Developing mindfulness also balances the other factors of mind such as energy and concentration that are needed for our spiritual development. In fact, coming to a perfect balance of mind is the whole development. In fact, coming to a perfect balance of mind is the whole development of the spiritual path. When well-established, mindfulness can allay all fears, for when the mind is free of clinging, condemning, and identifying, all objects in samsara, the chain of becoming, are equal. Nothing to be gained, nothing to be feared. ‘ No praise, no blame’ . Ultimately, we see there is no one there to gain anything. Simply the natural flow of the process, empty of self.

One of the last instructions of the Buddha before his final nirvana was ‘strive on with mindfulness. To strive does not mean to make the effort to change things, but simply to make the effort to be clearly aware at all moments. Right here. Now. Mindfully.