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Does mindfulness include being "mindful" (noticing, etc.) of your world, or only sensations like the breath, walking. etc.?

So e.g. - being mindful of the other things that I do or do not have to do, rather than the task which is stressing me out and I haven't started yet.

I have "pronounced negative symptoms" of schizophrenia, and I badly need a way to be cognisant of tasks (like coursework) without approaching them directly and getting flustered. This may be one way.

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Mindfulness is a translation of a Buddhist term that generally means "recollection" or "remembrance". It can be used in any number of ways, for example "recollection of the Buddha", "recollection of past lives", etc. In insight meditation, it refers to one's ability to recollect or remember the present moment, as taught in the discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness.

The four foundations are

  1. body - recognizing and reminding oneself of bodily sensations as being simply bodily sensations
  2. feelings - recognizing and reminding oneself of feelings (pain, pleasure, neutral) as being simply feelings
  3. mind recognizing and reminding oneself of one's state of mind (scattered, focussed, etc.) as being simply a state of mind
  4. dhammas - recognizing and reminding oneself of various aspects of ones experience on the path to enlightenment as being simply what they are.

So, to answer your question, mindfulness is simply a tool used to focus one's attention on a specific object; what you are suggesting sounds like a conceptual object, e.g. something unrelated to the task at hand to take your mind off of the present moment. This could be called "mindfulness", in the sense that you are actively working to recollect a specific object. It would be considered a form of samatha (tranquility) meditation, since it is no longer based on ultimate (i.e. present moment) reality.

The problem with what you suggest is that it seems to likely involve aversion to the present moment, and so it is not likely to lead to true freedom from the suffering associated with aversion. For this, you will need to practice mindfulness as described above regarding the four foundations. There, it should be used to focus on the present moment and remind you that the stress you feel is merely stress - not me, not mine, not good, not bad, etc.

A Buddhist perscription for your condition would be to focus your attention on the state of being flustered, as such states are conditioned by habit and can be countered with new conditioning (i.e. objectivity) through simply recognizing them as they are. As the Buddha said, for example:

idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sarāgaṃ vā cittaṃ ‘sarāgaṃ cittan’ti pajānāti

Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu clearly knows a mind with passion thus: "a mind with passion".

-- MN 10

In my tradition, this is accomplished by noting the flustered mind, for example, as "flustered, flustered..." somewhat akin to a mantra.

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Does mindfulness include being "mindful" (noticing, etc.) of your world, or only sensations like the breath, walking. etc.?

This in of the 4 foundation of mindfulness at the experiential level. It is not the concept or head talk of waking, breathing, etc. If you want to look at you posture look at the outline of your body through what you sense. When walking see the change in posture through the change of the outline of the body through what you sense. You should be constantly aware of it's impermanence and changing nature of what you experience. E.g. any pain you get has a start and and end. Also at some point when you further analyse you will see it as smaller vibrations which make the large pain and they are arising and passing away.

So e.g. - being mindful of the other things that I do or do not have to do, rather than the task which is stressing me out and I haven't started yet.

The wrong type of Mindfulness is supporting to stress people out. (If you do a course at: http://dhamma.org/ this is covered in the instructions given.)

In short right mindfulness is awareness of what is going on in the framework of you body and mind (through the 4 foundations of awareness) while being constantly aware of the impermanent and changing nature (at a deeper level arising and passing) of phenomena.

All metal and physical phenomena has sensations attached. Hence being with sensations will definitely help.

I have "pronounced negative symptoms" of schizophrenia, and I badly need a way to be cognisant of tasks (like coursework) without approaching them directly and getting flustered. This may be one way.

When you are with the 4 foundations of mindfulness you are with the present moment. This way there is no room to misinterpret reality.

Also it is best that you seek a good meditation instructor who can guide you in this case. Some on you can approach and reach out when there is a issue.

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