Mindfulness is our home, our dignity and our freedom
What is Mindfulness?
How much of our life, we spend in the past or the future — worrying, fantasizing or dwelling in our own mental stories? As studies show that this only leads to unhappiness and depression. Instead of stuck in the past, or constantly postponing our life to the future, mindfulness is way of waking up to the present moment, opening up to life just as it is. Instead of habitually reacting to anger, aggression, irritation, fear, boredom, depression, craving, addiction, etc., mindfulness gives us a space and freedom to choose and respond skillfully.
How to establish mindfulness? Whatever we do (sitting, walking, eating, speaking, cleaning, working...), we act with diligent, mindful and clearly knowing. This is simple, but not easy. It takes regular continuous practice. When mindfulness becomes stable and deep in our experience, it leads to clarity and wisdom, where deep learning is possible. Mindfulness is our real power, because only this is in our real control.
Mindfulness is a compassionate way of "being" — from where we can witness everything compassionately without bombarded by them, from where we can navigate our life with dignity and freedom. Mindfulness is healing, peaceful and joyful. It gives us true freedom — it is our home, our birthright!
"If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present." — Lao Tzu
Mindfulness & Clearly-Knowing
Mindfulness is bare objective awareness and clearly-knowing is a wisdom or intelligent factor. Mindfulness is the light in the darkness and clearly-knowing is the wisdom of seeing. Hence mindfulness and clearly-knowing very closely work together.
Though there is a tremendous growth in our conveniences and comforts, yet everyone feels enormous pressure and stress at every level. By only focusing on external factors, we lost touch with the most precious thing of all — a healthy, quality mind! Today we are growing up ever more stressed and depressed.
As studies show that mindfulness practices affect our body from the cellular level to brain structural level in a positive way. We become more self-aware, grounded, emotionally intelligent and effective. Mindfulness is a foundation for our well-being, resilience and happiness.
Since our experience of both happiness and suffering depends upon the mind, wouldn't it make sense to get to know intimately how the mind works?
The logic behind Mindfulness
This overview is meant to provide a basic reasoning behind mindfulness to cut through all kinds of gibberish and spiritual materialism.
Every second the brain is bombarded with enormous amount of data from the senses and from within the brain such as thoughts. Most of these data are handled automatically by an auto-pilot mode based on the past learning. The auto-pilot mode is fast and efficient, and it handles different events simultaneously [parallel processing]. But it is ignorant and inflexible. They are our habitual reactions and they become our comfort zone.
When we give attention and focus on anything in particular, those relevant data pass through the conscious mode, where the data is kept in the working-memory for a moment for analysis. The analysis uses the existing vast amount of knowledge-storehouse for better understanding of the data and the situation. Such analysis leads to two functions: learning something new, or correcting and updating existing one; and giving an intelligent response. This mode is slow and inefficient, and it can handle only one event at a time [serial processing]. But it is intelligent and flexible.
Instead of sleep-living in the auto-pilot mode, with mindfulness we move more and more towards the conscious mode, so we see things clearly, learn properly and correct our old unskillful patterns and behaviors. A deep and continued mindfulness practice is needed as our old unskillful patterns and behaviors are totally ingrained in our ego and we are totally "I"-dentified with it.
- Fast, efficient, but inflexible
- Slow, inefficient, but flexible
- The implicit memory such contexts, assumptions, beliefs and also the procedural memory
- And the explicit memory such as the episodic memory (events, stories, etc.) and the semantic memory (general knowledge).
Meditation is not meant to run away from our problems and pain, but to get closer to them to get to know them intimately. Meditation that uses verbalization, imagination, visualization, etc. may offer artificial relaxation, but it will not lead to any development mindfulness, nor clarity or purification of the mind. Mindfulness meditation leads to a deeper relaxation, concentration and clarity of the mind. This concentration and clarity further leads to purification of the mind - towards natural harmonious peacefulness and happiness.
Mindfulness meditation is a training ground to cultivate mindfulness, so it naturally expands to everyday life. It can help us to rejuvenate our body and mind from everyday stress where we can learn to unload our heavy load and relax for few moments. So we can continue our work effectively without burning out.
"Don't agonize over the past, because the past is gone. Don't worry about the future, because the future is not yet here. There is only one moment for you to be alive, and that is the present moment. Come back to the present moment and live this moment deeply and you'll be free" — The Buddha.
Mindfulness Meditation: Basic instructions
- Setting up a timer for the duration of meditation, say 10 minutes.
- Sitting comfortably cross-legged on a cushion; or on a chair with both feet placed on the ground. (any other arrangement or posture is OK, but aim for the following embodiment)
- Letting the overall posture be Grounded (stable and steady), Strong back (natural straight back), Open tender heart (Open and soft front) and Uplifted (bringing a sense of dignity and uplifted to the posture).
- Gently resting both hands on thighs.
- Letting the gaze be placed at 4 to 6 feet in the front, with a soft gaze, not looking at anything in particular. (Or if you prefer, closing the eyes)
- Scanning the body slowly from toe to head step by step and directly sensing and feeling each part. If any part of the body is tensed, trying to relax it a bit — perhaps breathing into that area.
- Relaxing shoulders and jaws.
- Now gathering the attention and placed it on the sensation of
natural breathing— natural breathing in... natural breathing out. This may be anywhere that you find it easier to observe the natural breathing - perhaps raising and falling of abdomen or air coming and going out at nostrils.
- Whenever you catch yourself that the mind is distracted in thoughts, worries, fantasies, mental stories, etc., gently bringing the attention back to the breathing
without any judgments. Remembering that the goal is not to suppress thoughts, at the same time, not indulging in it and feeding it further. Mindfulness is the middle way between suppression and indulgence.
- The mind naturally tends to wander. The practice is to simply recognize it and gently bring it back to the breathing
again and again and againwithout any judgments.
- Regular practice is the key.
"We are stuck in the patterns of grasping and fixating which cause the same thoughts and reactions to occur again and again and again. Once we started to notice it… even for a second... then we’ll naturally discover the knack of recovering this process of making things solid, the knack of stopping claustrophobic world as we know it, putting down our centuries of baggage and stepping into new territory." — Pema Chodron
"You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." — Zen Proverb