Problems in the Definition of Mindfulness

What does mindfulness mean, how is the term used and how closely does it relate to the practice?


Title: Is mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness

Author: Georges Dreyfus

Year: 2011

Summary: Among the issues that are publicly manifesting in the research of ‘mindfulness’ are fundamental problems achieving reliable and consistent understandings of the term itself. Definitions of mindfulness are becoming an increasingly thorny issue both as a cognitive process as well as a soteriological path. Some accounts of mindfulness express the concept as ‘present-centered non-judgmental awareness’, a view that that is challenged in this critique by Georges Dreyfus. Dreyfus argues that the essence of mindfulness is connected to the phenomenon of ‘sustained attention’ and can, to some extent engage evaluative processes. Whilst acknowledging merit in the modern definitions of mindfulness, this essay highlights significant discrepancies with traditional Buddhist accounts and more general uncertainty regarding the wider theoretical understanding.

Perspective: Cognitive psychology, contemporary Buddhism, religious studies