So then we might say that mindfulness is the observing power of the mind - so we're really observing what's happening, as it's happening. With a black lab there isn't much observation - no stepping back & knowing what's happening. The lab seems pretty identified with what's going on. There doesn't seem to be a lot of self-reflection. The observing power of the mind has to do with stepping back & knowing that we're knowing, rather than simply knowing.
But even that's not enough for mindfulness, because we can be observing something through a filter of various mental factors, for example the filter of desire or the filter of anger, and we're not aware of that. So we're observing what's happening, but we're not being mindful. So mindfulness is yet something else again. It's not just being in the present, it's not just observing in the present, it's observing in a particular way. It's being aware of what's arising, but without greed or attachment, without aversion or condemning, and without delusion or being identified with it.
So that's a very particular kind of awareness. And right there it leads the understanding of mindfulness into an ethical dimension. Mindfulness is always a wholesome state of mind, because it's free of greed, and free of aversion. Mindfulness is very rich, it's not a superficial quality of mind.
People come to retreats and have a daily practice so that mindfulness can operate throughout our daily lives. And it's a tremendous blessing - the more mindful we are, the less we suffer." Joseph Goldstein
This & other "Buddha at the Gas Pump" interviews: http://batgap.com