by Debra Dadd Redalia
Mindfulness is a Buddhist term for a practice found
in many spiritual traditions. It is the process of
observing that which is around you, eventually
coming to be aware that one's essential spiritual
nature is that which is doing the observing.
How often do you go through life not being aware of
much that is happening? As I sit here at my computer
writing, I am focused on the words appearing on the
screen as I type them, but at the same time, if I
expand my awareness, I am also aware of the quiet
sound of the ceiling fan overhead, the sensation of
the breeze on my bare arm, the ticking of the clock,
the fragrance of the rose on my desk, the feel of
the floor beneath my feet, the taste of water as I
take a sip, the darkness outside my window at this
early morning hour. All these things were happening,
but until I chose to become "mindful" of them, I
wasn't aware of them, or experiencing them.
I first experienced this when I was six years old. I
was instructed to observe my body. It was fairly
easy for me to see that "I" was observing my body,
which was something separate from the "me" that was
observing it. Then I was instructed to observe a
thought. Oh, well, yes, I could observe thoughts in
my mind. I could think some words or look at a
picture in my mind, and the words and pictures
weren't "me" either. And then I was asked, "What is
doing the observing?" Of course, "I" was doing the
observing, but "I" was neither body nor my
mind..."I" was a spiritual being.
It's a whole different
experience to actually do what you are doing while you
are doing it, and nothing else. To be completely present
in a moment, not thinking of the past or wondering about
the future, but just being there, doing something, with
all your attention...it's an amazing thing.
We live in a world where the common viewpoint is
that we humans are bodies, and we "look within" to
find our minds and our spirits.
As an aware spiritual being, I experience myself at
the center of my universe. There is "me," a spirit,
and everything in the physical world is "my
environment." I look "out" to my mind and body and
the surrounding environment.
Mindfulness is easy to practice. You don't need any
special place or equipment or skill. You can do it
sitting or standing or lying down or even walking or
swimming or running. Because it is simply you--the
spiritual being that is you--being aware of what you
are thinking, feeling, doing and what is going on
around you. And the more you are intentionally
aware, the more aware you become.
When I lived in California, I lived near an organic
farm run by a group of Zen Buddhists. They also had
a Sunday morning lecture, after which they served a
simple vegetarian meal, including food from their
farm. Anyone could go there and volunteer to work in
the fields or the kitchen. The whole idea of being
there was to be mindful of everything you were
doing, to keep your attention on the task at hand
and to not let your mind wander off...for you, the
spiritual being, to guide your mind and hands as you
One of the things I love about my husband is that he can
be fully present with me when he is with me. His
attention is on me, listening, observing, touching, and
being with me. He's not somewhere else while his body is
with me, he is with me. And I am with him. It's a very
different experience than being with someone while they
have their attention on something--or someone--else.
Being mindful can have many benefits. It certainly would
be safer to drive a car, for example, if you were
mindful of all the traffic, street lights, and weather
conditions around you. It would be easier to choose
healthy foods if you were mindful of how your body
felt--both good and bad--when you ate specific foods.
Relationships improve when you become mindful of the
wants and needs and thoughts and feelings of people
around you. Mindfulness is a very practical thing.
It's easy to start being more mindful. As you are
sitting reading, right now, just observe the moment.
What are you thinking? What are you feeling? How does
your body feel in general? How do specific parts of your
body feel--fingers, toes, nose, eyes, stomach? How is
your body's breathing? How is your body's heartbeat?
What is the temperature of the room? What is the degree
of light? What do you see around you? What do you smell?
What do you hear? What are you touching right now? How
does it feel? Is there movement in the air, or is it
Ultimately, what we know of ourselves and others and of
the world all comes from our ability as spiritual beings
to observe and be aware. Mindfulness is this ability in
© Copyright Debra Lynn Dadd.
All Rights Reserved.
Debra Dadd Redalia
various religions and spiritual traditions for nearly fifty
years. She is co-editor of the anthology Signs
of Spirit: 100 Amazing True Stories About Being a Spirit,
and the Signs of Spirit blog, where new stories are posted
been a leading consumer advocate in the field of health and
the environment since the early 1980s. She was the first to
comprehensively write about toxic chemicals in common
household products in language meant for consumers, which
created a demand for the many nontoxic products we find on
the market today.
Beginning with her first
self-published book in 1980, Debra's various books have been
continuously in print for twenty-five years. Her book Home
Safe Home is the definitive guide to toxic exposures in the
home and safe solutions. She also publishes Debra's List--a
free online directory of 100s of links to 1000s of products
with health and environmental benefits--and three free
online newsletters: Health, Home, and Habitat, a weekly
recipe using natural sweeteners, and Words of Wisdom--a
daily quotation on nature or spirit. She has been a regular
contributor to Natural Home & Garden magazine since it's
Hailed "The Queen of
Green" by the New York Times, Debra has appeared on
many radio and television shows including Geraldo and the
Today show. She was featured on the cover of East West
Journal (now Natural Health magazine) and Yoga Journal.
Receive Debra's free email newsletters
Signs of Spirit, amazing true
stories about being a spirit.
Visit Debra's Blog,
to read or
contribute your own spiritual experiences, which may
end up in the next anthology.