Was the concept of "mindfulness"/"being present at the moment" only known to the Indians/Easterns and the Greeks did not learn about it? Did the ancient Greek have a concept for mindfulness? Did they meditate (in any form)?

That would be just as the opposite case to the Indians who did not learn about Greek geometry until somewhat later.

  • The Ancient Greek aphorism "Know thyself" was already considered an old saying by 6th century BC Greeks. It was one of the Delphic maxims, and noted for being a favorite saying of Plato, Socrates, Thales, Pythagoras, and others.
    – David H
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 0:03

2 Answers 2


Although the practices in current ideas of mindfulness, such as breathing exercises and the particularly Eastern metaphysical ideas about the self (like in, for example, Reiki) wouldn't specifically have been invoked by anyone in ancient Greece, there are strong parallels with the theorising of the Stoics (SEP Article), and in their conception of Philosophy itself. Consider, for instance, the following cool quote from Cicero:

But there is one method of healing both distress and all other diseases of the soul, namely to show that all are matters of belief and consent of the will and are submitted to simply because such submission is thought to be right. This deception, as being the root of all evil, philosophy promises to drag out utterly.

The Stoics argued that the correct approach to Passions, being emotional states of being where the mind is specifically moved to act in a way contrary to reason, nature or virtue, is to recognise them through a life of practiced philosophical self-awareness and to thereby be equipped to resist their influence. This seems very much in line with eastern ideas of mindfulness.


The earliest directly related quote from Western, presumably independent source that I am aware of is by Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662):

We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so.

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