Mindfulness is just not neutral noticing. There are a clear set of attitudes which underpin the practice, and compassion may be the most important. Mindfulness just isn’t mindfulness without kindfulness. From the very first time we’re invited to come back to attention, we’re reminded to do this gently. Without this emphasis on friendliness, we set ourselves up for an internal battle, making struggle and stress as we try to force focus. Many people do get frustrated when they notice attention wandering, and it’s a key learning when they realize this noticing itself is mindfulness, and that it brings a chance to express care, understanding, patience, and love.
I am sure that practitioners would believe this about mindfulness. I want to believe this. But the critically–thinking part of me, the scholar, wants to put this to the test of empirical research. If true, however, the implications would be revolutionary. For one thing, what about using mindfulness in the military to reduce stress and enhance performance? Would it really “enhance performance” if people are too compassionate to pull the trigger? Would that it were so. If that were remotely possible, should we really be trumpeting our nefarious plot to disarm the armies of the world by depriving them of heartless soldiers?
I realize I am being snarky, but I do find intriguing that mindfulness is self–regulating, as Ed Halliwell argues in this blog post, “that mindfulness—taught and practised properly—is its own self-protection from misuse.”