What leads to the almost sudden appearance of a word or phrase in our language? How does it happen and who decides that we should begin to use it in our everyday conversation?
In a recent National Public Radio (NPR) segment, a dictionary “author” talked about this subject and provided criteria for including a word in Webster’s – the recognized print dictionary that has lost some stature to Wikipedia. Frequent appearance of the word in multiple publications over time were cited as reasons to adopt the word into our common vernacular.
In light of this discussion I thought of the word or term: Mindfulness. It now seems to be everywhere. What once fell in the domain of folks who talked about things like yoga and meditation (two more examples of practices with a rapid rise to prominence), mindfulness is now showing up in books and publications that include significant evidence-based research to support the practice.
And yes, it’s in the Merriam Webster dictionary, defined as follows:
The quality or state of being mindful
The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also: such a state of awareness
There are now entire professional disciplines that focus on mindfulness practices, such as HeartMath, which is grounded in neuroscience research. And there are leading learning centers, such as UC Berkeley, where one can study at the Greater Good Science Center that describes itself as having a “commitment to science and practice related to the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being."
While there is a plethora of ready reading on the subject and many, many opportunities to attend workshops/seminars/retreats to practice mindfulness, how does one begin to explore this art and skill of maintaining awareness of our thoughts and feelings and the world around us while doing what we think we need to do?
We suggest you consider a quote by 13th century poet and scholar, Jalaluddin Rumi, who offered a thought that is almost counterintuitive to believing that mindfulness is about using your mind in the typical way:
“Let go of your mind and then be mindful. Close your ears and listen!”
The next time someone asks you what’s on your mind, don’t be afraid to say nothing.