Mindfulness goes beyond the meditation cushion—it’s a way of life

Practicing mindfulness doesn't just add to our personal wellness projects. It puts us on a path to help others—even if we didn't intend to at the outset.

artqu/Dollar Photo Club

Since it was published at the end of last year, one of the consistently best-selling books in the UK has been The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness. Part of a series of comic spoofs, the Ladybird version of mindfulness plays on the commonly-held perception that meditation practice is ostentatious and self-indulgent. Some of it is actually very funny—my favourite page is the one below—and virtually every mindfulness teacher I know was bought a copy for Christmas: one colleague received it five times.

As mindfulness continues to increase in popularity and visibility, so the critiques have emerged. This is a good thing, because cogent critique enables those of us who teach and trust in mindfulness to notice our blind spots, understand people’s objections, and refine our approach so we can respond skilfully. And perhaps the most pressing critique of mindfulness that needs addressing is that which has fuelled the Ladybird satire: what looks from the outside like self-regarding inactivity must surely entail a passive, socially-disengaged relationship with the world.

I wrote last year about how I’ve changed my core definition of mindfulness to: “the awareness and approach to life that arises from paying attention—on purpose, fully present, with curiosity…