What does it mean to be mindful?

When the notion of Mindfulness is mentioned at a conversation, people often tend to confuse it with being awake. Mindfulness is, however, not identical with being awake, since being awake is only one dimension of Mindfulness. It is the outermost dimension of Alertness, its surface only. Three dimensions of Mindfulness may be identified.

The Dimensions of Mindfulness

The surface, that is, the outermost dimension of Mindfulness is when the focus of attention is open the widest. Being Mindful then means that now, in this very moment, with our eyes closed (or open) you pay attention to the processes of your inner world (bodily sensations, the stream of your thoughts, the shifting of your emotions), and the external world surrounding you (noises, scents etc. from the direct world around you). In such an instant you only focus your attention on what takes place in that very moment.

From the aspect of another, deeper dimension of Mindfulness it is a quality of your consciousness when you cease to evaluate, qualify and control the experience affecting you at that particular moment (disregard the functions of the mind) and, at the same time, you give up all your desires to control events. You have no expectations in connection with the given moment, you accept what is taking place, without making judgments, what is wrong and what is right for you.

The deepest dimension of Mindfulness is a state of Consciousness the most important characteristic feature of which is the presence of the observing Consciousness, the capability of Sight. In this state of the Consciousness we, as an external spectator, view what is happening inside and around us, and we do not allow these events to take us with them, to affect us deeper. There is a virtual space between you as the contemplating Consciousness and the experiences affecting you. This space enables you to avoid identification with your experience and to look at that experience as an external spectator. Mindfulness is, at the same time.

You Live in a Dream World

Allow me to draw your attention to an apparently surprising thing. If I told you that now, when you are reading these lines, you are in fact asleep, you would certainly believe that I have gone mad.


Your are awake, you are concentrating your attention to reading, and you are aware of your environment as well. You can see the furniture of your room, you can hear the call of the birds from the nearby forest. You are also aware of your thoughts and emotions, too. How can anyone claim that you are asleep in this very moment?

Naturally, you, just as everyone else, sleep at night, and yes, sometimes you see dreams while you sleep. But now it is daytime, you are awake, so how could you see dreams?

You Imagine a Whole World Around Yourself

I believe, however, that you do not only sleep at night, but also at daytime. I believe that in your present state of consciousness your greatest illusion is that you think that you are awake. I believe that in your present existence your greatest illusion is when you think that you are alert. What I see is that in your present state of consciousness you are asleep, and at present you are dreaming, and what you see and hear are all parts of your dream.

Your nighttime sleep is only different from your daytime sleep in that in the night your dreams are less active. During the day you imagine a whole world around you, and you play an active role in that dream. Your personal history takes place in that world, and identifying with that world shapes your personal identity.

At present you are dreaming that, as a part of your personal history, you are reading these lines while you identify with the role of the spiritual Seeker, and you are outraged by what you are actually reading.

The question may arise in you why I claim that you are asleep and dreaming now. Well, from the state of consciousness I call Mindfulness I can see that you are asleep, you believe yourself to be a separate Self, you are a captive of the works of your mind.

You Are Not Present

What is the evidence for me that you are now asleep, and as a citizen of a dreamland you dream that you are awake?

First, that you are not present. To be present means that you are fully alert, attentive, and conscious in the present moment. Whatever you do, you do that fully consciously, you focus your entire attention on that particular activity.

Or, do you feel free to declare that you are present in every moment of your life?

The case with you (and with the majority of people) is that you are not awake in the sense described above. You are careless most of the time, as a large segment of your attention is bound by dealing with events of your thoughts, events of past and plans for future and your own self.Psychological time therefore displaces the moment of the present, or subordinates it to past or future.

You therefore perform the overwhelming majority of your daily activities mechanically. Your attention only becomes more intensive when you meet someone or deal with something who or that you find interesting, or useful in some way. Or the opposite: the person or thing may do harm to you in some way.

The Reasons of Your Sleep

The reason of you sleeping is that you are not Mindful, only awake. Only one dimension of Mindfulness is present in you. Although you are able to focus your attention on your internal emotions and your environment, in your present state of consciousness you are still powerfully identified with your mind and its functions.

You are therefore drifting on the stormy ocean of your thoughts and emotions day by day, and the space necessary for the emergence of a contemplating Witness is missing from you. You still identify with your thoughts and emotions. These generate the dreams of the Mind, in which you live as a separate self, and try to find the ways of safely navigating your life on the stormy sea.

About the Author

Frank M. Wanderer Ph.D is a professor of psychology, a consciousness researcher and writer, and publisher of several books on consciousness. With a lifelong interest in the mystery of human existence and the work of the human mind, Frank’s work is to help others wake up from identification with our personal history and the illusory world of the forms and shapes, and to find our identity in what he calls “the Miracle”, the mystery of the Consciousness. Connect with Frank at http://www.frankmwanderer.com/