It is clear that there is a growing trend of mindfulness extending beyond spiritual communities and into mainstream culture. How do we understand mindfulness from within the Islamic tradition? Is there a place for it in Islam? Is there an Islamic version of mindfulness?
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At first when you hear this term "mindful" you think 'full of mind'. The last thing we need is to be more in our minds. We're already so locked into this thinking consciousness where we define ourselves by our thoughts. You could think "well, I don't want to be 'full of mind' I'm already stuck in my thoughts." But really mindfulness is about being conscious. It's about slowing down. It's a contemplative way of being. It's not really about being more connected to thoughts in the sense of identifying with the mind. It's not necessarily about thinking, but meta-thinking: thinking about thinking. It's slowing down and being conscious of what you think and what you do. The core of mindfulness is about being present. And this concept of being present is absolutely an Islamic principle. It's something that we find in the Islamic tradition and is a key factor in everything from ibadah (worship) to akhlaq (manners). Presence is indeed a very islamic principle.
However, this term mindfulness can tend to shift our awareness from the reality of the self, which is a much more holistic picture than what we have come to conceive of as ourselves in contemporary times. To a certain extent the entire modern world has been influenced by the Cartesian assertion, "I think therefore I am". It's taken root in society where people over identify with their thoughts. So that people's entire notion of self is about what and how they think and everything related to the self is based in the mind. And this in particular is really not an Islamic concept.