... Meditation and Mindfulness ...
... Meditation and Mindfulness ...
“If we train our breathing, we can control our emotions: that is, we can cope with the happiness and pain in our lives. We should practice until we feel this; our practice is not complete until we can see this clearly. ”
— Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
When reading this quote, it would be easy to become stuck on the word "control", a word that for many has negative connotations. However, in the context of Anapanasati, or mindfulness / insight meditation, "control", in this case, does not mean suppression, nor denial, of our emotions but the observation of them, the familiarisation with them, and the ability to watch them from a place of non-attachment and non-identification. In this way we become observers of both our mind and our emotions during the practice. We are not swept away on great waves to faraway places, we are neither living in the past or the future, we are learning to be present with the present.
That happiness and pain are inherent experiences of life is an undeniable fact. I have yet to meet a human being who has not experienced his or her fair share of both. We all have and will continue to experience times of joy and times of sorrow.
It is important during these times that we remain balanced, balance being the great scales on which all things are weighed.
Through Meditation and Mindfulness practice we bring ourselves to balance, neither running from pain nor running towards happiness. We learn how to cope, to deal with these powerful states of being that life bestows upon us. We learn to walk what has been termed "the middle way", whilst cultivating the knowledge of the one who abides inside, the one whose natural state is pure bliss.
In my interpretation of this, I do not understand the middle way to be a safety zone, a place of comfort where we may hide or take refuge from the storms. I believe that the middle way is a courageous path that seeks to expand the comfort zone ever outwards until all of life's experiences can be viewed, engaged with, processed, and resolved with equanimity. By no means is this a passive practice, it is one that requires a high level of awareness, alertness, and a willingness to be actively engaged with whatever life brings. It is a ultimately a path of radical responsibility where we begin to take full and complete ownership of our thoughts, our words, and our deeds, ultimately bringing these into proper relation and into the consciousness of Unity.
The practice of meditation and mindfulness enables us to "walk the walk", and encourages the mind to stop "talking the talk".
Meditation does not take us from the world, but teaches us how to be more engaged with the world.
Mindfulness is simply a word that is designed to inspire us to be here, now. To be present, to be aware and alert to what is happening both inside us and around us. The practice of being present is a core teaching of all 'spiritual' traditions, and is a means to ensuring that we do not miss out on the opportunity of exploring the reality of life as it presents itself to us, rather than disappearing into endless realms of fantasy that the untrained mind can be prone to taking vacations in. Meditation and Mindfulness are embodied practices, practices that bring us into our body and into more harmonious relation with our senses, our immediate environment, and the world at large.
We need no special clothes to learn this practice, no bells, no whistles, no expensive cushions or chairs, no airs, no graces.
We simply need to be able to sit and breathe. If sitting cross-legged is not possible, then any comfortable seated position will do. You may even kneel if you so wish.
All are welcome to sit, to breathe, to listen, and to learn these simple, but life-changing practices.
Meditation and Mindfulness is for everyone; it is one of our most natural states of being, one that I believe we are losing as a species due to constant distractions from technological devices, shortened attention span, and the disassociation from nature that are but a few of the results of our modern lifestyle.
The impact of our modern way of living cannot be emphasised enough. The past 20 years has seen a vast change in how we exist in the world, how we do things, and how we communicate. For those old enough to remember 20 years ago, we remember a time before personal computers, online shopping, surfing the net, mobile phones, text messages, being always-on-call to anyone with our number, a time before Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, 30"-60" TV screens, streaming, information, information, information. The world has changed and we are also changing as a result. One of the results of the change is in the quality of the time we spend with ourselves, and with our loved ones; a quality of time that we spend actually being present in our own physical existence.
For this, Meditation and Mindfulness can provide some much needed respite and re-education.
Meditation and Mindfulness are non-competitive practices. There can be no one who is 'better' at meditating than another. One simply practices, or not. One simply has a desire to use a well-trained mind, or not.
Contrary to popular belief, mediation is not simply 'sitting' and thinking, it is bringing the mind back, again and again, when it wanders, giving it something to do rather than its habitual day-dreaming and meandering. Most modern minds do have a need for discipline, and from my experience, they also deeply desire it.
When the mind engages with the Meditation and Mindfulness practice it usually finds that it enjoys being taught (after it surrenders to being a student and has let go of the notion that there is nothing that it needs to be taught), and progress can be made quickly. But, as with every practice, it requires practice and patience, and a sense of humour helps greatly.
The benefits of a well-trained mind are many. Improved health and vitality, improved choice / decision making, improved presence (being where your body is), improved attention span, improved attention to detail, improved happiness, improved use of your time, improved sense of priorities, improved relations with your loved ones (and not-so loved ones), improved sense of purpose, improved sleep and rest, improved ability to handle stressful situations and people, improved ability to feel alive, improved self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love... and the list goes on and on...
If you are interested to learn more, or would be interested in improving one or more areas of your life, or are interested in attending / hosting workshops, including Meditation and Mindfulness: Graceful Life, Grateful Heart, please feel free to be in touch.
Inspired? Respire :)