What is Mindfulness? – Remembrance, Penetration, Assimilation +1

Dear Integral Meditators,

This mid-week article attempts to give a really practical working definition of mindfulness that will enable you to see how it might be applied to multiple circumstances in your own life.


Yours mindfully,


What is Mindfulness? – Remembrance, Penetration, Assimilation +1 

What is mindfulness?

To be more present is the most common generic answer that you might receive when you ask such a question. What I want to do in this article is to give a clear working definition of mindfulness and its process, and talk a little about its applications. This working definition has four parts.

Part 1: Remembrance
First of all to be mindful of something means to keep it in mind. Therefore if you want to practice mindfulness you need to be able to develop the skill of being able to remember, or keep in mind that which you wish to be mindful of over an extended period of time, without forgetting it. To take the simple example of the breathing, if you wish to practice mindfulness of the breath you need to be able to focus on the breathing without forgetting it!

Part 2: Penetration
So, why bother being mindful of the breathing (to stay with this example). The purpose of being mindful of the breathing is to gain an intimate knowledge of it, to understand it truly, or to put it another way, to penetrate it. If you are mindful of the breathing for a while you start to discover its nuances; how it reflects and describes your emotional state, how it relates to how you feel about your body, how it reacts to the different thoughts as they pass through your mind. Previously the breathing seemed like an uninteresting object. Now as a result of being mindful of it, it begins to reveal its secrets and wisdom to us. The penetration of our object is the second part and goal of mindfulness practice.

Part 3: Assimilation
Stage three of mindfulness practice is to assimilate the knowledge and wisdom that your remembrance and penetration have given to you, and to make them a part of your life. When we discover the wealth of information and knowledge that our breathing is giving us about our emotions, thoughts and body, we can then start to use that knowledge to do things like:

  • Treat our emotions with more compassion and positive control
  • Help us to deal with stress and anxiety more wisely and detect it earlier
  • Help us carry our body in a more relaxed and confident way
  • To open our mind out to our reality even when we may feel like closing it.

This third stage of assimilation is the process of learning to apply your mindful insights in a way that has real, tangible effects on your daily life.

Stage 4: Expression 
The fourth stage of mindfulness practice is to then demonstrate and communicate the essential energy and wisdom that you have gained into your daily life. To demonstrate to others what it means to be mindful of your breathing and the benefits that come. You can do this just by example, or there may be some form of formal way in which you teach it.

So, there you go, Mindfulness = the process of remembrance, penetration, assimilation and expression. The nice thing about this definition is that you can use it to develop mindful penetration of any number of different objects. For example there are 33 different objects that I outline in the “One minute mindfulness” section of my meditation blog. Once you know what mindfulness consists of you can even create your own mindfulness practices to help you accomplish the goals that you have in your own life.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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