What Is the Connection Between Buddhism and Secular Mindfulness?

What is the connection between Buddhism and secular mindfulness? Some people say mindfulness is just Buddhism in another form. Is that true?

Lion’s Roar
11 December 2017
Illustration by Nolan Pelletier

The word mindfulness is used in two main ways. First, it refers to the basic human ability to be aware of one’s mind and surroundings and attend to the present moment. This is a natural quality of mind and is not the discovery or property of any tradition, spiritual or otherwise. Second, mindfulness refers to specific techniques to strengthen this capability. These are practiced in one form or another in all the world’s spiritual traditions. The most common practice is meditation, using an object such as the breath as an anchor for attention.

While it’s fair to say that Buddhism has made the most robust use of techniques to enhance mindfulness, “secular mindfulness” uses meditation to cultivate mindfulness without relying on doctrines from Buddhism or any other spiritual tradition. This makes the power of mindfulness available to a broader, more secular audience, including practitioners of different religions or none at all.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

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