“Mindfulness” is a quality psychologists define as the ability to be (1) present in the moment and (2) consciously able to choose the best response out of a number of emotional possibilities. Mindfulness is the opposite of being reactive. For instance, if my kid was getting on my nerves and I was being reactive, I would feel angry and yell at him But if my kid was getting on my nerves and I was being mindful, I would feel angry, be aware of that anger, and be able to decide whether this was a time that was better served by yelling (there are times…) or by doing something else (e.g., redirecting, gently correcting, etc.) Where reactivity is emotion that is automatically and necessarily translated into action, mindfulness is awareness of my emotions that leads to awareness of possible responses and conscious action.
Mindfulness has been associated with better emotional, relational, and spiritual health and an important source of a healthy self-image (because it facilitates self-control and peacefulness).
Some Catholics who are aware of mindfulness have concerns about it because most psychological writing on mindfulness comes out of a Buddhist tradition. Buddhism is attractive to psychologists because it is an a-theistic religion (i.e., the belief in God is optional for Buddhists, who are chiefly concerned with personal enlightenment). Be that as it may, Catholics have been practicing their own form of mindfulness for 2000 years only we call it, “active contemplation.”
Cultivating mindfulness is, for the Catholic, an important skill for spiritual, emotional, and relational well-being.
Question: When are you most able to be mindful and what makes it possible? What do you see as the biggest challenge to your attempts to practice mindful, active contemplation?