Mindfulness has evolved to mean the skill of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, to emotions, thoughts and sensations, and non-judgmentally acknowledging and accepting them. Mindfulness exercises have proven helpful in alleviating stress, depression, and anxiety. Because of worldwide diversity in meditative practices, there is no universal definition of the concept or practice of mindfulness.
In Western adaptations of mindfulness, practitioners focus on the here-and-now. In mindfulness meditation, one focuses attention on a ‘target’ of observation (e.g., breathing, walking, dancing, or running) and, despite distraction, remains aware of the target in each moment. One’s mind may drift into thoughts, memories, or fantasies. When distracting emotions, sensations, or thoughts arise, they are observed nonjudgmentally. Their nature or content is briefly acknowledged, and attention is returned to the present moment. One does not ‘work hard’ at excluding distractions. In other words, one notices thoughts and feelings, but does not assess, evaluate, or dwell on them. Through this practice, one becomes aware of the temporary nature of sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
In Buddhism, there is a direct connection between the practice of mindfulness and the cultivation of morality. The Eightfold Path encourages ethically correct views, right resolutions, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, proper mindfulness, and regular practice of concentration. These values are thought to enhance clarity of thought, desirelessness, universal friendliness, and compassion.