Mindfulness, as with yoga and other Eastern concepts, gets diluted for consumption by the West becoming McMindfulness. I learnt Buddhism circa 1980 in Japan, introduced by a friend from New Zealand. He translated for me because all services and teachings were given in Japanese. I won’t get into how the mind-body-spirit connection of yoga has devolved into an exercise regimen in the West.
Most Westerners have attention spans of gnats, so many Eastern concepts need to be homogenised for the Western consumer and then dosed homoeopathically. Only then can the typical Westerner performatively claim to understand these Eastern notions. To be fair, some of the loss occurs because of the lack of depth of cultural understanding—the same loss happens from West to East as well—and some is language—the concept doesn’t have a direct translation, so we end up with close enough.
A simple but hopefully instructive anecdote might help. Westerners, especially English-speakers, are typically well-aware of the native Japanese speaker’s inability to articulate the L sound, and so ‘fried rice‘ is rendered something like ‘flied lice‘. Only, this not what’s being said. What we are hearing only approximates an L to our ears, but the L sound is not what’s being uttered. The Japanese language doesn’t have L or R phonemes, respectively /l/ and /r/. So the absence of the R-sound in Japanese and the lack of this alveolar sound in English brings us close to the L sound we presume to perceive. What they are saying is /ɹ/, which is in between these two sounds. They don’t have /l/ or /r/, and we don’t have /ɹ/, so the misinterpretation goes both ways. Only a person trained in this aspect of linguistics can map the relationship, but this mapping is imperfect but satisfactorily explanatory.
Mindfulness is a member of the eightfold path of Buddhist doctrine. Mindfulness is about being conscious of ‘the world’ of one’s environment and yet not be focused or ‘attached’ to any particular aspect of it. it’s simply being aware. In Buddhism, the scope of mindfulness is particular to the dharma, of which the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are constituents, so technically speaking, one would need to have these aspects available in inventory.
* This post is a reaction to Landzek’s post, Mindfulness Mythology.