Being Awake

18 August 2018

Beyond mindfulness

Jenny Sowry’s 22-month-old daughter proudly displays the sign she made at the Women’s March in Charlotte, North Carolina on 21 Januany 2017.
(Photo source: Jenny Sowry)

Deep down people know some aspects of the way they are living are wrong. As we go about our business we have moments where an acute awareness of the distateful nature of the activity or behavior takes hold. Moments that in their most benign form amount to a psychic wince, a mental flinch over whatever malevolent impulse we have succumb to. The way people use the word mindfulness seems intended to contradict the willful blindness to these moments of acute awareness. That one might avoid malevolent impulses altogether by describing and practicing focused concentration, contemplation, and introspection.

Literal and semantic meaning of mindfulness work both for and against this noble interpretation of the admittedly imperfect term. Positively, we have connotations of fullness of mind, psychic wholeness, mental completion, the state of having traversed the inner void. Negatively, we have the state of being full of mind, suggesting a cacophony of the kind of nagging inner voices meditation and attention to spirit quiet and quell.

Maybe “being awake” is a more apt way to verbalize the positive side of mindfulness. People already use “woke” to signify an awakened sense of compassion for all, an alert recognition of our obligation to defend and support our fellow beings.