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Thread: Mindfulness

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2015


    Dear Friends and Family,

    the term ‘mindfulness’ seems to be used quite a lot in the last years esp. in ‘circles with a Buddhist affinity’.

    It is obviously an English Word.

    I’ve grown up in Germany and in German culture and language there is neither the Idea nor exact word for ‘mind’.

    There are of course expressions for aspects of it like reasoning, common-sense, intellect, consciousness, soul, heart, spirit (for the latter there’s again no 1:1 expression/idea, the German word ‘Geist’ would literally translate into ‘ghost’ and can also mean ‘spirit’ and other ‘(non-)things’).

    So, the word ‘mindfulness’ just didn’t tell me anything. But a friend of mine sort of has a Buddhist affinity and uses this word and is a native English speaker. So, last time I’ve met him I just asked him:

    ‘What does ‘mindfulness’ mean for you?’ And he replied:

    ‘Mindfulness? For me that’s being fully present in the now’.

    Now, this is something that I can understand and relate to.

    Funnily, I’ve said to myself later on:

    ‘But for me ‘being fully present in the now’ neither translates into mind or fullness, it translates into ‘no-mind’ and ‘emptiness’’.

    So, instead of ‘mind/fullness’ I would say ‘no-mind/emptiness’.

    Then today it came up that ‘mindfulness’ has just one ‘l’ and not two as in ‘fullness’ and that as a not native English speaker, I may have even confused ‘-fulness’ with ‘-fullness’.

    So, it may be more a ‘word-play’ or ‘construct’ like ‘playfulness’, just instead of ‘play’ with ‘mind’ and therefore ‘mindfulness’.

    Then again, as sometimes with ‘Buddhist terms’, I’m thinking:

    ‘When they mean ‘being fully present in the now’ why can’t they just say that?’

    What does ‘mindfulness’ mean for you (given it ‘tells ya something’)?

    Thank you very much,
    With Shaolin Salute


  2. #2
    Leo Shaolin's Avatar
    Leo Shaolin is offline Sifu Leonard Lackinger - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam Austria
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Vienna, Austria
    Dear Michael,

    In my opinion, the correct and most fitting German translation for "mindfulness" ist "Achtsamkeit", which is also most commonly used.

    To "achten" also means "taking care of", like taking care of the moment, breathing, details, feelings, others, ....

    Quite funny to explain German words in English...

    ‘Mindfulness? For me that’s being fully present in the now’.
    I think this description is quite fitting. Of course there are other ways of interpretation too.

    ‘When they mean ‘being fully present in the now’ why can’t they just say that?’
    They do so in a very effective Zen manner. Instead of saying "being fully present in the now" they cut it short to "being mindful" or "achtsam sein" in German.

    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,

    Sifu Leonard Lackinger

    Shaolin Wahnam Wien

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Dear Leo (Sisookgung?),
    thank you very much for your reply, much appreciated.
    ‘Googled’ it a bit in the meantime and found some things on English Wikipedia that seems interesting.
    The translation ‘issue’ always exists I believe, whether from Chinese to English and other languages in Kung Fu or whether in case of spiritual/philosophical systems, or else.
    And apart from ‘just a word’ a reader further has to translate it and sort of get a feeling for the original meaning.
    So, found that it seems the word is originally in Pali language (‘sati’) and means ‘to remember’, therefore the german word would be ‘erinnern’ (also it’s a verb and not a noun).
    Now, I’ve found this, what also sums it up a bit as far as I read through the articles on Wikipedia, a quote from Bhikku Bhodi (never heard about him before, born Jeffrey Block, PhD in Philosophy and a Buddhist monk):
    ‘The word derives from a verb, sarati, meaning "to remember," and occasionally in Pali sati is still explained in a way that connects it with the idea of memory. But when it is used in relation to meditation practice, we have no word in English that precisely captures what it refers to. An early translator cleverly drew upon the word mindfulness, which is not even in my dictionary. This has served its role admirably, but it does not preserve the connection with memory, sometimes needed to make sense of a passage.’
    On the English Wikipedia it’s also mentioned that apart from mindfulness there are at least 12 more different terms in use in English as translation or ‘translation-attempt’, funnily nobody tries to translate it as ‘to remember’ even when it seems it’s sort of agreed the Pali word originally means ‘to remember’.
    So, there are then of course more specifics. In terms context, what to remember, traditions, different Buddhist schools and related practices.
    So, my first post sort of then also feels almost like an attempt to shorten it.
    Thank you again,
    Best regards,
    With Shaolin Salute

    Last edited by MichaelS; 8th March 2017 at 09:22 AM. Reason: typo

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