Thich Nhat Hanh
What is mindfulness?
The practice of Buddhist meditation is to generate three kinds of energy. The first kind of energy is Smrti; it means mindfulness. The second is Samadhi, concentration. And the third is Prajna, insight.
Mindfulness is to be aware of what is going on, and everyone is capable of being mindful. When you breathe in, and if you know that you are breathing in, that is called mindfulness of breathing.
When you drink your tea, and if you are aware that you are drinking your tea, that is called mindfulness of drinking. And when you make a step, and if you are aware that you are making a step, that is mindfulness of walking. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something.
When you are angry, and if you know that you are angry, that's mindfulness of anger. Mindfulness of anger puts you in a safer position. If you are angry, and if you are not mindful that you are angry, the situation is more dangerous. So, mindfulness of sadness, mindfulness of joy, mindfulness of anger, mindfulness of drinking, mindfulness of walking, mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of cooking; mindfulness can be practiced at every moment of your daily life. And by that, you cultivate the energy of mindfulness.
And the energy of mindfulness is the energy that can bring about the energy of concentration. When you are mindful of something, like this flower, breathing in, I know that the flower is there; I'm mindful of the presence of the flower. And if I keep my mindfulness alive, then I would be concentrated on the object of mindfulness. I can be fully concentrated on the object of mindfulness, and I can concentrate as long as I like. So, cultivating mindfulness, you begin to concentrate your concentration, and when your mindfulness and concentration are powerful enough, you touch things deeply, and you'll discover their nature, the insight. And when you have an insight, your insight is a liberating factor; it will liberate you from your anger, your fear, your despair.
Without mindfulness, there is no concentration, and there is no insight. And in Buddhism, people speak about salvation by insight, and not by grace. Grace can be interpreted as a kind of insight, awakening; awakening is already insight.