Is mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness

Contemporary Buddhism 12 (1):41--54 (2011)

Georges Dreyfus
Williams College
This essay critiques the standard characterization of mindfulness as present-centred non-judgmental awareness, arguing that this account misses some of the central features of mindfulness as described by classical Buddhist accounts, which present mindfulness as being relevant to the past as well as to the present. I show that for these sources the central feature of mindfulness is not its present focus but its capacity to hold its object and thus allow for sustained attention, regardless of whether the object is present or not. I further show that for these sources mindfulness can be explicitly evaluative, thus demonstrating the degree to which classical Buddhist accounts differ from the modern description of mindfulness as non-judgmental. I conclude that although this modern description may be useful as an operational definition intended for practical instruction, it does not provide an adequate basis for a theoretical analysis of mindfulness, for it fails to emphasize its retentive nature to privilege its alleged nonconceptuality.
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DOI 10.1080/14639947.2011.564815
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Toward an Understanding of Non-Dual Mindfulness.John Dunne - 2011 - Contemporary Buddhism 12 (1):71--88.

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