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Mindfulness in Tradition

Mindfulness is the cultivation of nonjudgmental attention, and studies of attention in Western science go back at least as far as William James. Mindfulness is heavily emphasized in Buddhism as one element of the Eightfold Path. Focused attention is also an important element in Hindu practice. But attention is an element in Western religion as well, although the emphasis is on attention to prayer. Judaism and Islam require daily prayers, and these can easily become rote and habitual. Therefore, supplicants are encouraged to pray with focused attention. In Judaism, this is called kavanah. This concept also exists in Islam. There is a contemplative tradition of hesychasm in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In Roman Catholic tradition, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola include contemplative practices.