Kevin - first of all you are a very patient person with folks such as me (and Retro
) and I enjoy our discussions. You absolutely get points for khanti parami.
I'm not sure what you mean by "practicing mindfulness". Mindfulness, as it is understood in Abhidhamma terms, it the cetasika of sati. It arises based on conditions, way too fast for us to bring it into being.
Well, sati also means memory. For me it's remembering, or "keeping something in mind." Such as when the Buddha exhorts us to be mindful of the body:
"Therefore, monks, this is how you must train yourselves: 'We shall practice mindfulness as to body, develop it, make it our vehicle, our dwelling-place, our resort, we will build it up and undertake it thoroughly.' This, monks, is how you must train yourselves."
- Chappana Sutta
"Practice mindfulness of the body and continually develop dispassion (towards it). Avoid the sign of the beautiful connected with passion; by meditating on the foul 3 cultivate a mind that is concentrated and collected."
- Rahula Sutta
The cankers cease for those mindful and clearly comprehending ones who always earnestly practice mindfulness of the body, who do not resort to what should not be done, and steadfastly pursue what should be done.
- Dhp XXI
or the breath:
"There is the case where a monk, having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building, sits down folding his legs crosswise, holding his body erect, and setting mindfulness to the fore."
- Anapanasati Sutta
The bolded statement clearly imples that we can do something with mindfulness - it can be aroused, developed, and practiced.
There are conditions for it's arising, however. For example, if dhamma is heard and attention is payed to it wisely (two factors for the development of wisdom) then that may condition panna to arise which always arises with the cetasika sati. Thus, those are some conditions for sati to arise.
Likewise, if one meditates on a subject of samatha, there may be more conditions for sati to arise during and after the meditation. Nevertheless, it is an anatta dhamma that arises and falls away and should be understood as such.
In a day, sati arises naturally sometimes. It arises and we don't have to bring it into being. Even if we don't know it, sati can arise. In this regard it is like any other paramattha dhamma which arises based on conditions. Visible object, for example, is another paramattha dhamma that just arises without us willing it to. Can one choose which visible object will arise next, or stop the next visible object from arising? One cannot. These dhammas arise based on conditions only. There is no self in them. None of these dhammas are me or mine. They are anatta. When this is understood, it is Right View and the development of wisdom. It can lead to wisdom on the experiential level that penetrates the characteristic of dhammas during satipatthana.
Kind of amused that, out of your reverence for anatta, you tend to phrase things in passive voice, ie. "dhamma is heard and attention is payed to it wisely." Because you're trying to avoid saying "If we listen to dhamma and pay it wise attention." I get the sentiment, but to me there is still an element of intention present. We still have to listen, and we still have to pay wise attention. Until we are at least stream entrants, and even up until Arahantship, it is impossible to do anything - whether it's listen to dhamma or practice meditation, without some element of self view present.