Should we use the term mindfulness when we are speaking of meditation?

I have always felt a bit put-off by the term mindfulness. I find the word mindfulness to be incredibly misleading and prefer not to use it when speaking or teaching about meditation.

As a life-long meditator and seeker on the path of Yoga, I have been taught that the mind is unified and that we do not possess it. Imagining the mind is in my brain or that I own it in any way does not make a bit of sense to me. I prefer the idea that the mind is collective and that we can download and upload to it—like a computer. In this description the brain is more like a hard-drive. In addition for me the state of meditation empties thoughts and dissolves the idea of ownership of the mind.

Often the English language falls short for me in some of the branding and descriptions that only can be truly described in Sanskrit. In this ancient language the word Citta चित्त citta, can loosely be used to label what western psychology calls the mind however is is better understood to be one’s mindset or state of mind. Citta is commonly used to refer to mental process.

Smritypashana स्मृत्युपस्थान SmR^ityupasthAna, is earnest thought. In the Buddhist practice of meditation, it is the constant observation of the sensory experiences that effect future experience.

Skandas स्कन्धस् skandas, are branchings of thought. They are the pile up we experience in our connection with the mind.

Vritti वृत्ति vRitti, are the mind waves. The meaning of this word for me describing the action of thought, can be translated as whirlpool. This is how how the mind rolls around, churning and producing thought that comes into our awareness. For more on vritti please read this article.

We can see Yoga as a philosophy that teaches us to meditate. This practice gives us greater clarity about the mind connection.

There are eight limbs of Yoga. We can imagine that we are climbing a tree and that we must come in contact with each limb on our way to the state of meditation.

The eight limbs of Yoga are:

1. Yama यमyama, self-restraint of external disciplines and social ethics.

2. Niyama नियमniyama, observances of personal practices.

3. Asana आसनAsana, translates to seat which has become the term for the postures of the physical practice of Yoga. It is true the postures of the yoga practice loosen us up so we can better find a comfortable seated position for seated meditation.

4. Pranayama प्राणायामprANAyAma, suspending the breath. This term is used to describe all of the breathing practices of Yoga.

5. Pratyahara प्रत्याहार pratyAhAra, withdrawal—particularly of the senses.

6. Dharana धारणा dhAraNA, concentration.

7. Dhyana ध्यान dhyAna, Meditation.

8. Samadhi समाधि samAdhi, Fixing the mind. This is the deep state of meditation.

Truly the actions of meditation first help us to become aware of thought and the actions of thought. In the beginning of the practice of meditation I feel it is important to understand and become aware of all of the senses associated with the gross body.

Next, we withdraw from the reactions of the physical body associated with the senses through concentration which is Dharana धारणा dhAraNA. As we progress this takes us to the next level which is Dhyana ध्यान dhyAna where we are moved into the state of being the witness and not the doer. This is where we might experience the bliss of meditation occurring, giving us a sense of liberation. Touching into this state of being even briefly can be interpreted as light. I believe this is why so many say they are awake, woke, or enlightened, yet my teachers who I see as very knowledgeable regarding this laugh when they are asked if they are enlightened.

The practice of meditation brings us into awareness of our true being. This is a removal of the, “little I,” which is the ego-mind. Usually in conversation when we use the idea of, “I,” we are referring to this, “little I,” which is the aspect of our mind-connection that likes to think in terms of ownership. Yes, I am aware I have done so time and again so far in describing all of this to you!

In order to be awakened—according to Advaita Vedanta—one gains and assimilates infinite and divine knowledge of what they really as a result of a great many lifetimes.

One who reaches this state is referred to as Jivanmukti जीवन्मुक्ति jIvanmukti, which can be translated to emancipation while still alive. This is a being with complete self-knowledge and self-realization.

Perhaps it is better for us to think of getting out of the mind or at lease disentangled by thought. This is what meditation does for me and if I had to use the word mind to describe it I would call it, “mindlessness,” “disconnected from the mind,” or, “release from the mind.” These phrases however are not as attractive as the sound of mindfulness and therefore, I believe this is why the practice it is associated with has branded it in this way.