Mindfulness in Vipassana has a different meaning than its usage in general parlance, especially in western cultures. This word did not even exist in American English vocabulary about 30 years back. Today it has come to be used in the Western world to carry meaning of high degree of mental concentration. This mental concentration consists of a focused attention on external objects and on tasks. Concentration can be defined as a faculty of the mind which focuses single mindedly and single-pointedly on one object uninterrupted. In concentration the mind is gathered together and thus it gains power and intensity for the given task. ?Unwholesome one-pointedness concentration is also possible, but it will not lead to liberation. You can be very single-minded in a state of lust or hatred. For example a criminal breaking into a window of a building is focused and intensely concentrated; he is highly attentive and mindful of his slightest gesture or a whisper that can get him into trouble. But he cannot be said to be practicing mindfulness as meant in Vipassana. It must be emphasized that true mindfulness is a wholesome one-pointedness of mind. The word, mindfulness as taught by the Buddha and as intended in Vipassana, is based on moral intention, self-awareness and insight into nature?s laws as embodied in our own mind-body.
Mindfulness, as defined by the Buddha, means being aware of incessant changes, of arising and vanishing, inside of your own body, which is the ultimate reality of your life.
In Vipassana you are taught to gain mental awareness of all the sensations in the entire body. You learn to gradually move your mind through your entire body. Slowly your mind becomes aware of the whole body and all the changes taking place inside the body are known to the mind. This leads to highest level of synchronization of mind and body, in this state there is no longer any separation between mind and body. Through Vipassana you gain the capability of dwelling inside your body; it is awareness of the constantly changing sensations in one?s own embodied life that the Buddha called mindfulness. The goal and meaning of Vipassana is to be completely at peace, and this is achieved in the state of mindfulness. On the way to mindfulness you become aware of vast reservoir of thoughts and feelings, memories and daydreams, wishes and fears, cravings and aversions, all surfacing either in the form of sensations or thoughts, since a thought is also a sensation in the mind.
Mindfulness in Vipassana has another distinct quality aspect. While trying to focus your mind on the sensations of the entire body you confront with the quality of sensations that is you start to evaluate the sensations as good or bad, pleasing or painful. At this point you are asked to shed all your cravings for good or pleasing sensations and aversions for bad or painful sensations. While observing body sensations you are to remain neutral and maintain equanimity for all types of your bodily sensations. You have to stop judging your sensations based on how you experience them, you just have to be aware of the sensations. This way, your neutral observation generates an intuitive reinforcement system for achieving states of self-awareness, harmony and peace. As you progress in Vipassana and achieve the state of mindful awareness, you realize the ever-changing nature of bodily sensations, you realize that your body only seems to be static but it is dynamic and changing in every moment and it has no enduring essence. You start realizing that the entire body that you call yourself is a dynamic rising and passing, vibrating and changing field of atoms and molecules and the entire self is impermanent. This direct experiential sensation-based knowledge of impermanence leads to cultivating fewer negative states, and generating love, compassion, and a desire to serve and spread this helpful liberation.
The true Mindfulness is a state of total non-attachment and utter absence of clinging to anything. Once this state is achieved, no other means or device is needed to keep ourselves free of obstructions, to achieve liberation from human weaknesses. Mindfulness is non-superficial awareness; it tears out the mask of social conditioning. It sees things deeply, down below the level of concepts, opinions and conditionings. This sort of deep observation leads to total certainty, and complete absence of confusion and manifests itself as a constant and unwavering attention which never flags and never turns away.
This pure and unstained awareness not only holds mental hindrances at away, it lays bare their very mechanism and destroys them. Mindfulness neutralizes defilements in the mind. The result is a mind which remains unstained and invulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life.