There are many different types of meditation, but they all seek the same ends. Those being peace, tranquility, understanding, higher brain function, less stress, and ultimately, self-realization, or enlightenment. While many forms exist, one really stands out and will be the topic of this article.
Mindfulness is one of the doctrines of Buddhism, namely the eight-fold path. It’s referred to as Right-Mindfulness and has become all the rage lately. It’s everywhere from schools to the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and rightfully so.
How to Meditate Mindfully
I know you’re time is short, so here’s how to do it:
- Set a timer for five minutes. (You have one on your smart-phone, or in the kitchen)
- Sit with your spine erect (straight). Posture is important.
- Notice and then concentrate on your breath as best as you can.
- Your mind will go crazy. It doesn’t like this. (that’s your ego)
- Notice your mind going crazy, then return to your breath.
- Your mind will go crazy again.
- Again, return to your breath.
- It’s all about returning to your breath.
- Do this until the timer goes off.
The trick is to do this consistently every day. Eventually, your mind will quiet down. It’s a myth that your mind stops. It never does. Don’t try to stop your mind. You’ll just get frustrated and angry, or down on yourself, which you shouldn’t ever have to feel.
Instead, just allow your mind to run, but gently return your attention to your breathing. That’s the real trick. Mindfulness is not something to achieve, it’s something that exists perpetually, but you just have to notice it. It’s like jacking into the Matrix, if you remember that movie.
This is Jon Kabat Zin explaining Mindfulness, and it’s pretty darn good:
The Space Between Your Thoughts
There is a space between your thoughts. Every thought takes up a spot in time. The thought comes on, reaches it’s peak, then drifts away and leads to other thoughts. Our minds do this all day long.
The space in between thought is the “emptiness” you might have read about. It’s there, always. The emptiness never leaves you.
As you practice for a while, you’ll begin to notice the space between thoughts. You’ll see the emptiness as you practice mindfulness meditation. It’s there.
Don’t go looking for it. That will just drive you crazy. It sucks getting frustrated over that, believe me. I did it for years. It’s not something I recommend, unless you like that sort of thing, you devil you 😛
Where Does Mindfulness Meditation Come From?
I got the following quote off Wikipedia and it pretty much sums up mindfulness in one sentence:
The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.
Bare attention is the operative phrase here. Bare attention with no attachment or aversion. It’s these attachments and aversions that give rise to so many of our problems and issues.
As part of the noble eight-fold path of Buddhism, this tenet serves a great purpose, but is meant to be used with the other seven tenets. Those being Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, and Right Concentration. All of those together form the core practice.
But, many of us are not Buddhist, and that’s cool. Mindfulness can be used alone as a tool toward your end goal, from simple stress relief to enlightenment and self-realization. It allows us to experience life as it is, and reality as it is, without our own biases.
The meditation part of mindfulness meditation is using meditation to practice mindfulness. It’s a mix of two practices, but the two are intertwined, which often causes a whole lot of confusion. You don’t have to meditate to practice mindfulness, as you can easily find out by getting this free book.
No, the two are separate, but highly complimentary. When you meditate, you are sitting still, and can readily observe your breathing in a quiet and controlled space. In many ways, it’s easier that practicing mindfulness while, say, driving a car through crazy traffic.
How Can I Learn Mindfulness Meditation?
In all honesty, you learn it best by just doing it, and sticking to it for a small amount of time every day. That’s the best way I’ve found. It works, but it takes patience, especially with yourself.
We are a society that expects results immediately. Especially in the age of instant gratification, where if we don’t know something we can just whip out our phones and look up the answer. If we want Thai food for lunch and Canadian food for dinner, we can do that any night of the week. If we want something exotic, we can go on Amazon and get same-day delivery.
Mindfulness is not for that mindset. While you can find enlightenment immediately, it often takes struggle and years of vigilance and practice. This is because our lives are filled with things that have screwed up our minds and given us huge biases. Watch the “news” and you’ll see it everywhere.
In a world that is moving faster and faster, giving us more to do and see at every moment, mindfulness meditation is about going the opposite direction. It’s about slowing down and just observing. It’s also about letting go of things.
We want more and more. Always grasping for new bright shiny objects, just look at the people salivating over Apple’s new lineup… Mindfulness is about no grasping, but simply observing and letting things slip away again.
We are born, we live, and we die. We come from the Earth, borrow this form for a while, then dissolve back into the Earth when our time is up. It’s the way of things.
That’s the way we look at our experience when we use mindfulness and meditation. It’s an exercise in self-control without seeking to control ourselves at all. If you think that’s paradoxical, you will understand when you practice.
This is a huge change from the way our culture is going, and one reason mindfulness meditation doesn’t work for so many who try it. It’s not like buying a new iPhone. There is rarely instant gratification. You seldom get what you expect, and the mere thought of having expectations will kill your mindfulness practice faster that you can say “selfie.”
That said, there are plenty of courses, and I go over many of them in my newsletter. There are always new ones coming out, but the core always stays the same. It comes down to how you learn, from whom, and how much you resonate with the material and instructor.
Are You In Control of Your Life?
Here’s another wonderful thing about modern culture. The belief that we are in control and responsible for everything in our lives. What a quaint belief.
It works for managers in corporations, who will offer mindfulness meditation classes to their employees to boost “morale,” Then, when employee engagement results come back and still suck, the management can tell employees that it’s their fault for not being “mindful” of their feelings and negative attitudes, even though most corporate “jobs” are indentured servitude, but I digress.
Maybe conditions in many corporations just flat out suck? I don’t know. It’s different everywhere and in each unique case, but I will say that using mindfulness for increasing productivity and padding the bottom line for shareholder value is suspect. Some companies do use to to benevolently enhance the well-being of their people, and that is wonderful.
But does practicing mindfulness meditation put us in control of our lives? Hardly. It does give us tremendous insight into how, in seeking to control our lives, we are actually in far less control than we realize. Our lust for things that attract us and our incessant avoidance of anything that pushes us out of our comfort zones or just makes us squirm keeps control locked away. We in essence imprison ourselves.
Mindfulness and meditation are keys that unlock the many cell doors that keep us confined. By learning to let things pass, we give ourselves incredible freedom in life. We realize that we are not fully in control of some things, and that’s cool.
What We Are Really In Control Of?
If we are not in total control of everything in life, then what are we in control of? Anything?
We are in control of our reaction to the world. We are in control of how we behave. We are in control over how much control attachments and aversions have in our lives. We can learn to lessen our dependence and addictions, and therefore, set ourselves free.
We can learn to meditate. We can learn to practice mindfulness. We can change the world by changing ourselves.