Considered individually, each of the five spiritual faculties performs its unique task. Together, they establish inner balance and harmony. Above the complementary pairs of faith and wisdom and energy and concentration, is the faculty of mindfulness, the third faculty, protecting the mind from falling into extremes.
T.S. Eliot said, “Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts.” Being thus absorbed is concentration. Knowing that one is absorbed is mindfulness. Mindful, we are aware now—of activity, physical sensations, thoughts and emotions arising, and external events. The root meaning of the Pali word for mindfulness, sati, signifies ‘to remember’ non-wobbling presence of mind and attentiveness to the present, yielding absence of confusion and of forgetfulness.
We often think spiritual development is a sound and light show, that when the big realization comes some time in the future, it will grandly announce itself, a very magnificent happening that will transform everything once and for all. More often than not, we think great beings may be capable of it, but not “me.” It’s not like that at all—it’s simple—right here and now, so close we don’t notice it. It is always there presently, but our inner eye has been closed. The thrust of the Buddhadharma is opening the inner eye through the faculty of mindfulness, sustaining the recognition of wisdom in the midst of diurnal activities. Being present, mindful, we are content, in harmony, balanced—nothing to gain, attain or lose—marvelous! We are the music while the music lasts.