Towards Right Mindfulness And Proper Meditation Practice
Came across an article about how "too much mindfulness" can spike anxiety. When we popularize anything, it bounds to create many misunderstandings and people may end up practicing it incorrectly. Though modern approaches removed a lot of unnecessary old baggage, they also diluted many deeper essences.
What is "too much mindfulness"? It is such an oxymoron, as if one needs to bring mindfulness to mindfulness. As Buddha taught, there are many factors of awakening (The seven factors of enlightenment), but mindfulness is the balancing and correcting factor. Other factors may be "too little" or "too much", but mindfulness is always useful. Nevertheless mindfulness can be practiced wrongly, that is why he taught "right mindfulness" (The Eight-fold path). Even animals pay total attention to their prey, but that is not mindfulness.
If our practice leads to increasing anxiety or any other problems, it is better to bring mindfulness, so we can slow down to understand first and correct the issues in our approach. Mindfulness is not about paying ruthless attention, but bringing gentle and compassionate awareness – clearly knowing when, where and how to pay attention. What is the point of cultivating mindfulness if we are not paying proper attention to our own practice? Ultimately, mindfulness is about bringing awareness and understanding about our life as a whole, that includes our practices – towards our well-being.
When one of the students was striving too hard, Buddha invoked an analogy of fine tuning a music instrument: If the strings of the instrument are loose, they cannot produce proper sound; at the same, if they are too tight, they break. Hence Buddha recommended "the middle way", which is not just a compromise, but a right way to practice.
When there is too much pain, suffering and chaos in our mind, bringing sudden awareness of them can be overwhelming. Without developing proper wisdom and capacity to look at them appropriately, just paying attention will only create more disturbances and anxiety. In such cases, it is better to slow down and practice some movements and cleansing methods first. Meditation should be practiced step by step along with proper development of wisdom and other supporting practices. A good teacher is highly helpful, especially in the beginning to guide through it properly.
Our ego tends to strive hard. But meditation cannot be achieved; it comes to us when we are open to it. Meditation practice takes some effort, but it is subtle and different sort of effort. So, it should better be approached with gentleness and patience. If there is no gentleness, it is not meditation. When something does not seem right in the practice, it is wise to slow down and seek proper guidance. When meditation is practiced properly and mindfulness is cultivated rightly, it can be healing, enriching and transformative!
Everything has its causes and conditions. As Buddha puts it: "This is because that is". Often we try to fix the symptoms without understanding the root causes. Though it is important and beneficial to soothe our symptoms first, our focus should be on understanding the problem deeply and addressing the root causes and conditions. If our intention of meditation is just to stop and suppress the discursive "monkey mind", then we may end up using many unskillful techniques and approaches: Heavily relying on some external elements; distracting or drugging the mind with external or internal means. If our intention is to connect with our mind and get to know it intimately, then we skillfully approach it with patience, gentleness, love and non-judgmental attitude. Then our meditation naturally leads to peace, clarity and strength – without trying to stop, suppress or control it.
All the best!