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Mindfulness definition as embodied experience: Mindfulness is bodyfulness

Mindfulness does not refer to 'mind' observing 'body'. There is no such thing as a disembodied 'mind'. We are a 'whole person' process, whether we are aware of that or not. Mindfulness refers to our embodied experience of this 'whole person' process.

The words 'body', 'mind' and 'spirit' come to us from a long tradition of seeing a fundamential discontinuity: According to it, thoughts, feelings and spirit are intangible, whereas the body is tangible. But the 'body' is not just a bunch of bones, muscles, organs. There is an enormous difference between a living body and a corpse. The living body is in constant process. Think about the visual of a hospital room with monitors showing all kinds of curves constantly flowing. When there's a flat line, the person is dead.

The living body is constantly interacting with its environment, through processes that range from the most basic (the ones we share with the most basic life forms) to the most sophisiticated (our ability to assess situations, to learn from experience, etc..).

So, the living body is not just 'soma', as something separate from the 'psyche', the mind. It is a 'mindful body'. Think of it as the 'somatic' component of a 'psycho-somatic' whole.

Conversely, what we call mind would better be described as a process rather than a thing. Daniel Siegel, MD, author of The Developing Mind and The Mindful Brain, says:

"We do think of the mind as a noun, rather than a verb, and that use of linguistic categorization—like the mind is a noun, an entity, rather than a process—gets us into a lot of trouble; because this is a fluid, dynamic, moving process, and when you really see it that way, all sorts of windows open up as opportunities to help people transform the process that is the mind. And rather than being fixed in the notion that the mind is like an object, when you see it as a verb, as a process, you can actually work with it in a more effective manner."

Source: January 2008 conversation with Daniel Siegel

Dan Siegel also says:

"The mind is an embodied and relational regulatory process."

Source: June 2010 conversation with Daniel Siegel

In other words: 'body' and 'mind' are not different entities, but aspects of the 'whole person' process. Even phrases such as 'mindful body' or 'embodied mind' are a legacy from the old dichotomy between 'mind' and 'body'.

We see mindfulness and spirit as part of normal human experience – – the opposite of being ‘out there’, out of our reach. So we want to break free from obscure mystical or philosophical language that results in confusion and disempowerment. Making things clear, concrete and experiential is reassuring and inviting.

For us, ‘mindfulness’ essentially means being ‘mindful’ as opposed to ‘mindless’. In other words, we see ‘mindfulness’ as the quality of our engagement with the world. It involves our whole being, body awareness and emotions as well as intellect. See our definition of mindfulness.

In regard to ‘spirit’: We are not comfortable with defining ‘spirit’ as what ‘animates’ matter. Nor are we comfortable with the many developments of this idea into religious dogma. We take ’spirit’ in a broader sense: It refers to the human experience of sensing ourselves as part of a larger, alive and flowing whole. We see this as a valuable part of our genetic heritage, an important component of what it’s like to be human.

In a more mundane way, ‘spirit’ also conveys a sense we have of our inner life force, of what drives us to do what we do, a felt sense of meaning and purpose. So this journey is a quest for wisdom, the wisdom that accrues as we are open to learning from experience.

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