Mindfulness means being present right here, right now. To enact positive changes and direction in our life we need to start where we are. We need to be present. A mind that is “playing” the part of being undisciplined will think of the past, fantasize about the future and perpetuate emotional patterns. This is a kind of game that if we allow it to continue, will continue indefinitely. By realizing a mind that is disciplined and directing that mind to being mindful we give ourselves the opportunity to re-program our entire blueprint.
The simplest way to become mindful of the here and now is to begin to observe the sensations and feelings of the body. This is also an effective method to integrating a basic level of mindfulness meditation in everyday life. We can observe our posture, the weight of our body, the feeling of our muscles and facial expression, lungs breathing, the sensation of the air and so on. As we develop this skill we will notice how different experiences trigger different sensations in our body. We notice the cause and effect of external reality and our inner reality. The thing is because we are observing there is a part of our consciousness already that has ceased with the knee jerk reaction that it is accustomed to. Instead of reacting instantaneously there is a part that is simply observing and listening. A certain degree of peace is created simply from this action of this objective observation alone and there is also the opportunity to bring this essence to a deeper level and realize a deep sense of healing and release.
There are two basic methods for mindfulness practice. The seated meditation approach is used in Vipassana develops this principle to a very deep level and in most schools focuses on very little else. Mindfulness is also used in many esoteric schools from Hermetic, Gnosticism and Taoism to modern day methods such as NLP and Transpersonal Counseling. The difference between a deep level of mindfulness and a more gross or obvious level of mindfulness is the degree to which our mind actually experiences the dissolution of our perceptions and illusions. Deep mindfulness allows the practitioner to penetrate their mind into itself and their bodies and observe the very matter that makes us who we think we are. We experience the gap between pain and suffering and pleasure and craving. We observe all the seemingly solidness of our bodies dissolve into a free flow of atoms. The more solid or gross level of mindfulness allows us to observe what we are doing, how we are feeling and thinking, but it has not developed the degree of penetration to show us why and how on an atomic and energetic level we are creating our inner experiences.
To practice deep mindfulness generally requires that we sit in a position that we will be able to stay in for anything from 5 minutes or more. People on Vipassana retreats usually practice for at least 13 hours a day. The practice itself is simple, doing it can be quite a challenge.
This is the structure of basic mindfulness meditation:
Minimize all distractions.
Closed or half closed eyes.
Try not to move during the duration of the meditation.
Beginning at the top of the head or the tips of the toes systematically observe any sensations whatever they may be and slowly make your way through the body. Repeat and repeat again – and again.
If there are any areas where we feel and perceive nothing or seemingly “blank” areas, we simply keep our mind there for a minute or so then continue. There is feeling there it is just that our minds have not realized the necessary degree of sensitivity yet. With practice we give the mind the opportunity to see through this illusion too.
In due time the body or should I say the mind will begin to complain and manifest a perception of suffering in the form of pain, frustration and so on. Thoughts such as “this is ridiculous” and “what am I doing?” are quite common. Keep in mind though that the deeper and louder complaints usually come up the longer you sit. The manifestation of these complaints or aversions gives the practitioner the opportunity to make peace with them. By continually observing these sensations neutrally we begin to stop perpetuating our reaction to them. In time we stop reacting totally. At this stage we experience the sensation for what it is – free from reaction. Many people report that this is the first time that they have ever experienced pain as a separate entity from suffering. It is a powerful experience to realize that we can experience a sensation that we usually associate with aversion and suffering and yet at no level of mind or body do we experience suffering. This is a totally different experience from simply tolerating pain. There is no pretense here.
The separation of reaction from our sensations is not being separate from our experience. We are actually far closer to our experience. We are right next to it because we are without the filter of our perception. The effect on our emotional patterns is also profound. Where we once tolerated or controlled certain emotions we begin to find that we no longer have an aversion or craving for those emotional sensations. We may feel them, yet we do not react to them. Again this is experienced at a level where we do not simply tolerate or control unwanted emotions. There is no pretense. Continuing to observe we begin to experience a subtler level of our sensations. We realize that even the most solid and sustaining pain has a flow within it. We realize that even the most seemingly eternal of emotions is being created, dying and recreated. Going deeper we observe that the matter that we are is all a mass of atoms. We actually observe these atoms buzzing. In the process we have realized a mind that is capable of penetrating to this depth. The truth is that this mind has always existed but we had simply believed that it did not so we never used it or experienced it.
At this most basic level of energy we have the opportunity and the ability to literally let go of patterns at the root level. Working with issues at the intellectual level works to an extent but because the cells of our body still holds the belief or blueprint the issue simply grows anew. Penetrating to the deepest level we let go of the issue and transform at the root level. It is full resolution.
*Part 2 will discuss the second method of mindfulness.