Mindfulness is often equated with greater awareness of both our outer and inner worlds.
Still, not every detail of the outer world needs attention, and certainly not equal attention. For example, if we enter an auditorium to attend a seminar, we don’t need to know the exact number of chairs or fans in it; we just need to find a chair at a well-ventilated place so that we can focus on the talk. After all, our capacity for attention is finite. When attention goes to one thing, it goes away from other things. During the talk, if we stay mindful of things such as chairs and fans, we will waste our attention; we will be mindlessly mindful.
Similarly, not every detail of our inner world needs attention, and certainly not equal attention. If we become mindful of every thought, emotion or desire that arises inside us, we will get so caught in our inner world as to become dysfunctional.
Paradoxically, as we become more mindful, we may become more prone to mindless mindfulness about our inner world. Why? Because knowing which things matter is far more difficult in our inner world than in our outer world. At least in our outer world, survival needs and social obligations frequently limit our mindlessness — inattentive driving can be fatal; distracted discussions come to embarrassing stops.
How can we use mindfulness constructively? By engaging our intelligence, which helps us place things appropriately in our framework of values. Intelligence, when grounded in goodness, reminds us which things are to be done and which to be avoided (Bhagavad-gita 18.30) — and by extension, which things are worth being mindful of and which aren’t.
Be not mindlessly mindful or we will end up mindful of unimportant things and leave our mind too full for important things.
Think it over:
- How may we become mindlessly mindful?
- Why are we more prone to being mindlessly mindful about our inner world?
- How can we use mindfulness constructively?
18.30: That understanding by which one knows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, what is binding and what is liberating, is in the mode of goodness.