CREDOS: Open heart — I

Sharon Salzberg

By paying attention to the present moment, we can begin to appreciate what we already have —- and grasp the key to life. To understand mindfulness, imagine yourself doing something very simple, something that doesn’t arouse a compelling interest — like, say, eating an apple. You probably eat your apple not paying attention to how it smells, how it tastes, or how it feels in your hand. Because of the ways we’re conditioned, we don’t usually notice the quality of our attention. Done this way, eating the apple is not a fulfilling experience.

So you blame the apple. You might think, if only I had a banana, I’d be happy. So you get a banana, but eat it the same way, and still there’s no fulfilment. And then you think, if only I had a mango — and go to great difficulty getting a mango. But it’s the same thing again. We don’t pay attention to what we have or what we’re doing. As a result, we seek more intensity of stimulation to try to rectify what seems unfulfilling. Mindfulness is the quality of fullness of attention, immediacy, non-distraction. In that sense, it is the key to life.

Robert Frost wrote that life is an interminable chain of longing. Buddha said that those who are heedless or mindless are as if dead already. Mindfulness is the quality of fullness of attention, immediacy, and non-distraction. In that sense, it is the key to life. Another component of mindfulness is what we call “spaciousness,” the quality that allows us to observe without reacting.