The practice of bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment. This is particularly useful to treat anxiety where your mind is fixated on the future.

Mindfulness is non-secular, an independently useful practice that can be extracted from spiritual or religious practice. Mixing the two is problematic because religion calls for little evidence whereas the practice of mindfulness as psychological treatment does.

See also:

  • Sam Harris' essay on Killing the Buddha where he argues that mindfulness should be separated from Buddhism if we want to further the science and the practice.
  • Illusory Self

    In mindfulness, the practice of meditation aims to deconstruct the ego by observing thoughts and trying to notice where they originate. In so doing, the concept of self disappears as just another thought appearing in consciousness because everything arises in consciousness.

  • Struggle Switch

    A metaphor for how we respond to negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness. When the struggle switch is on, one emotion leads to another in a cycle. For example, feeling anxious then worrying that your anxiety is going to get worse is essentially being anxious about anxiety. When the struggle switch is off, we observe the negative feeling using mindfulness and taking action on what we can control. This helps disengage from the negative emotions and avoid the struggle.

  • Mindfulness Helps You Feel Less Self-Conscious

    Mindfulness helps decrease the feeling of being self-conscious. This makes sense because the practice reveals the illusory self and how everything arises in consciousness. Feeling self-conscious is like any other feeling, an appearance in consciousness which we are already free of.

  • Everything Arises in Consciousness

    All thoughts, senses, and perception arises in the same place, one’s consciousness. In that way, the visual field is no different than thoughts and so things one thinks of as outside of the body and inside the body are actually the same. This is a foundational concept for mindfulness as taught by Sam Harris.

  • Self-Compassion

    People tend to be more judgmental and harsher on themselves than on others. Applying compassion that you would have for a close friend, but to yourself is a powerful coping and support mechanism.

  • The Further from the Self, the Less Real it Feels

    The realest thing to anyone is themselves. The further from the self the less real things feel. For example, we know about the stars and distant galaxies but the fly buzzing our ear is more important and “real” as to steal our attention. While we have the power to imagine great things and empathize, direct experience is more important because it involves the “I”. Our wants, needs, and desires exceed the realness of all else.

  • Living an Examined Life

    The practice of being mindful about consciousness so that one can be more present and not have their mental states dictated by things out of their control. It takes deliberate effort to build the skill of recognizing the thoughts that appear and controlling our attention at will.

  • Sam Harris

    The non-secular Buddha, who teaches the practice of meditation and mindfulness through a more academic lens.

  • The Quality of Your Mind Determines the Quality of Your Life

    We tend to put off happiness—only once this problem is solved or this goal is achieved will I be happy. There will always be more problems to solve and achieving a goal is yields temporary contentment before we find something new to want. Because we spend most of our time in the journey, the quality of our mind is essential to being happy now and in the majority of moments in life.

  • Spiritual Materialism

    New-practitioners adopting the practice of meditation and mindfulness has a tendency to coincide with a change of identity. Outward signs like wearing buddhist bracelets or behaving differently or even discussing the positive experiences they have had with others is an attempt to raise one’s status (i.e. I’m superior to you because I’ve found spirituality). It’s counter to the practice because it contributes to reinforcing the self and can be harmful to making progress. This was the impetus from removing ‘streaks’ from the Waking Up app (see signaling as a service).

  • Default Optimism Is Rational

    Optimism is the most rational viewpoint to have by default. Unlike pessimism or negativity, optimism is helpful even when faked because we find evidence for whichever mindset we have. As Earl Nightingale said, “we become what we think about.”

  • We Find What We Seek, What We Projected

    Jiddu Krishnamurti recounts a story about a man who has in solitude and meditated for 25 years only to recognize that it was a waste. Krishnamurti’s advice to this man was merely “don’t seek” because what you find when you search is what you projected.

  • Sushi Train

    Visualize your thoughts as a sushi train that constantly revolves around you with different dishes that represent the flavor of thought. Some are pleasant thoughts you take off the belt for awhile and then place back on it. Some are unpleasant thoughts that we hold on to and it’s difficult to put back.

  • Metta

    Love and kindness meditation where you concentrate on visualizing someone you know being purely happy and reciting phrases to with them well. This practice uses the concentration on others to practice mindfulness (similar to focusing on the breath).

  • Looking at the Screen Versus Watching the Movie

    A metaphor for mindfulness, we can get caught up in the moment and swept up in our emotions and impulses (watching the movie), but if you can step back and recognize that it’s all light and shadow on a screen you can be reminded that everything arises in consciousness (looking at the screen).

  • A Strange Loop and the Illusory Self

    One of the key points of I Am a Strange Loop is how the “I” develops into consciousness. The constant reinforcement (and self-enforcing) of the “I” gives rise to perception, symbols, meaning, and reality. On the other hand, the key point of mindfulness (at least to me) is recognizing the illusory self.

  • Awareness Is Key to Being Present

    In mindfulness, calling attention to anything that enters consciousness has the effect of bringing you back to the present moment rather than lost in thought or dwelling on something. Since everything arises in consciousness, this can be practiced any time, not just during focused meditation sessions.

  • Depression Is Living in the past, Anxiety Is Living in the Future

    One can think of depression and anxiety as two ends of a spectrum. Depression often involves ruminating on things that have happened in the past. Anxiety often involves worrying about the future where something might happen.

  • Emotional Thermometer

    A framework to improve mindfulness of anxiety and emotional distress. You can use this mapping to plan what to do when you find yourself at various points in the scale.

  • § What I Learned 2020


  • Puppy Mind

    When your mind keeps wandering out of control and fixating on things is like a puppy trying to walk on leash for the first time. This is a useful framing for starting to learn about mindfulness.

  • A Sense We Should Be Doing Something Else

    Our attention is highly fractured and leads to a constant feeling of restlessness. To quote author Rebecca Solnit, “a sense that we should be doing something else, no matter what we are doing.”