Try free for 7 days.

Mindfulness.com
Meditation
See all Meditation

Browse

Top articles

How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners

10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation

What is Meditation?

Mindful LivingSleep
Community

Already have an account?

Sign in

00:00

00:00

The Root of Judgment, Character, and Will

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hey, welcome back to your Daily Mindfulness. In today's session, I'm going to share a quote about the power of attention. The quote is by the great American philosopher and psychologist, William James. And what he says is, "The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education which should cultivate this faculty would be the education par excellence." The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again.

Why does that sound so familiar? Oh, I know. It's exactly what we're doing in meditation. We give our mind something to focus on, let's say the breath, the attention wanders off, and then we bring it back. It wanders off again, we bring it back. It wanders again, we bring it back, over and over.

But William James is making an interesting argument here, which is that this capacity of bringing back a wandering attention is the root of judgment, character and will. So let's examine that more closely. The root of judgment, our ability to assess, to discern this requires our attention brought, be brought back to the thing that we're trying to understand so that we can see it more clearly to, to bring a full concentration to it, rather than just a loose awareness. The closer we can bring our attention to that thing, the more discerning we can be about it, whether it's a person, a problem or something within ourselves that we're trying to understand that requires a close attention. But then he says, it's the root of character, which we might understand as how we show up in the world - our ethics, morality, and integrity.

Well, that requires noticing when our less skillful tendencies and impulses arise, that causes us to react in ways that might not be in alignment with our character. Noticing when our attention gets pulled to those things and then be able to bring our attention back to how we most want to be in the world. And then lastly, he says, this is the root of will. So if we think of will as our capacity to sustain effort and energy toward a particular pursuit or goal, well, it's very easy for our attention to wander off when we start something like that, even if we have the best of intentions. Maybe you've noticed that.

So being able to notice when the mind wanders off from that goal or pursuit and redirect our attention back to it, this becomes the foundation for will. What I most love is that William James went on to say that an education which should cultivate this faculty would be the education par excellence. Said as if there is no education that exists. William James clearly didn't have a subscription to Mindfulness.com. In all seriousness, we, we now have that education, it's meditation.

In fact, it's been around for thousands of years and the more you practice, the more you're training, this ability to bring back a wandering attention. But even outside of your meditation practice, as you go about your day, notice when your attention wanders from what's most important to you and see if you can practice bringing it back to the point, right here. As William James says, this is the root of judgment, character and will. And I think we can all agree that those are important things. So I'll talk to you about this more in the meditation.

Thank you for your practice and take care.

Cory Muscara

4.8

The Root of Judgment, Character, and Will

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

Hey, welcome back to your Daily Mindfulness. In today's session, I'm going to share a quote about the power of attention. The quote is by the great American philosopher and psychologist, William James. And what he says is, "The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education which should cultivate this faculty would be the education par excellence." The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again.

Why does that sound so familiar? Oh, I know. It's exactly what we're doing in meditation. We give our mind something to focus on, let's say the breath, the attention wanders off, and then we bring it back. It wanders off again, we bring it back. It wanders again, we bring it back, over and over.

But William James is making an interesting argument here, which is that this capacity of bringing back a wandering attention is the root of judgment, character and will. So let's examine that more closely. The root of judgment, our ability to assess, to discern this requires our attention brought, be brought back to the thing that we're trying to understand so that we can see it more clearly to, to bring a full concentration to it, rather than just a loose awareness. The closer we can bring our attention to that thing, the more discerning we can be about it, whether it's a person, a problem or something within ourselves that we're trying to understand that requires a close attention. But then he says, it's the root of character, which we might understand as how we show up in the world - our ethics, morality, and integrity.

Well, that requires noticing when our less skillful tendencies and impulses arise, that causes us to react in ways that might not be in alignment with our character. Noticing when our attention gets pulled to those things and then be able to bring our attention back to how we most want to be in the world. And then lastly, he says, this is the root of will. So if we think of will as our capacity to sustain effort and energy toward a particular pursuit or goal, well, it's very easy for our attention to wander off when we start something like that, even if we have the best of intentions. Maybe you've noticed that.

So being able to notice when the mind wanders off from that goal or pursuit and redirect our attention back to it, this becomes the foundation for will. What I most love is that William James went on to say that an education which should cultivate this faculty would be the education par excellence. Said as if there is no education that exists. William James clearly didn't have a subscription to Mindfulness.com. In all seriousness, we, we now have that education, it's meditation.

In fact, it's been around for thousands of years and the more you practice, the more you're training, this ability to bring back a wandering attention. But even outside of your meditation practice, as you go about your day, notice when your attention wanders from what's most important to you and see if you can practice bringing it back to the point, right here. As William James says, this is the root of judgment, character and will. And I think we can all agree that those are important things. So I'll talk to you about this more in the meditation.

Thank you for your practice and take care.

Cory Muscara

4.8

Duration

Play in-app

Scan the following QR code with your camera app to open it on our mobile app

Recommended for you

Get Unlimited Access

Start your mindfulness journey today.

A Mindfulness Plus+ subscription gives you unlimited access to a world of premium mindfulness content.

  • Over 1,800 meditations, sleep, calm music, naturescapes and more
  • Daily mindfulness video meditations 365 days a year
  • 100s of courses and tools to help manage anxiety, sleep and stress

Join our free newsletter

Discover exclusive events, first access to new features, community stories, and a monthly curation of our best mindfulness insights.

By continuing, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Email Missing

We couldn’t detect your email with the SSO provider you have selected.
or

Mindfulness Guarantee

We are here to make a positive impact on the world. We never want to sell you something that hasn’t helped you live a better life. That’s why if you’re unhappy with any purchase from us, you have 30 days to get a full refund and your money back.

If you subscribed to Mindfulness Plus+ and are unhappy with your purchase, please get in contact with us within the 30-day period and we’ll refund your purchase.


Learn more about our Mindfulness Guarantee.

Mindfulness

Bring balance into your everyday life.

We believe in a world where everybody has access to the life-changing skills of mindfulness.

  • 2,000+ Guided Meditations
  • Daily Coaching
  • Sleep Content
  • Mindful Exercises
  • Mindful Radio
  • 10+ Courses from world-class teachers

Private Browsing

Added to your cart!

Checkout

Thank you for joining us

Congratulations on your subscription! Dive into the full library and enjoy all it has to offer.

Claim your free access

Create a mindfulness account and we’ll unlock this premium session in your account forever.

or continue with
By continuing, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Do you already have an account?

Start a free trial to play this session

7-Days free trial, cancel anytime.

Finish personalizing your account

Complete a few quick questions to make your own personalized mindfulness plan.

Sign up or login to your mindfulness account to proceed.

or continue with
By continuing, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Do you already have an account?

Mindfulness

One membership to gain access to a world of premium mindfulness content created to help you live happier and stress less.

  • 2000+ Guided Meditations
  • Courses from world-class teachers
  • Resources for Stress + Anxiety
  • Breathing exercises, gratitude practices, relaxation techniques
  • Sleep meditations, playlists, stories
  • Mindful talks, podcasts, music, nature sounds