What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the foundation of all meditation training.
It is the skill of paying attention without being easily distracted.
Mindfulness is the training in having a stable and calm mind; the deliberate paying attention to either internal or external objects with a non-judgemental awareness.
Mindfulness is being able to notice what’s going on with clear attention but also be non-reactionary. Mindfulness meditation is one of the oldest meditation practises dating back five thousand years.
The mindfulness meditation technique taught below is mindfulness of breath, a powerful and simple meditation with enormous therapeutic benefits.
Also taught is the mindfulness of the present moment during the day.
Three main skills to learn for mindfulness meditation are Attention, Concentration and Introspection.
Attention ~ A clear non-thinking awareness single-pointedly focused on an object or broadly focused on the present situation.
Concentration ~ Ability to stabilize that clear awareness on its object without forgetting it or being distracted.
Introspection ~ Knowing when you are distracted and knowing when you are focused.
Mindfulness can be divided into two types:
1) Single-pointed mindfulness during meditation
2) Broad-focused mindfulness during the day
What is Mindfulness for?
Mindfulness is for developing stable attention that brings a calm, inner peace that is not easily disturbed. The capacity for a stable attention increases awareness, intelligence and harmony.
The mental peace brought about by mindfulness has deeply therapeutic healing properties. Mindfulness Therapy is known as the ‘third wave’ in psychotherapy, following psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy, and is having remarkable success.
Through rigorous studies, mindfulness training has been found to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of mental and emotional disturbances such as anxiety, stress, depression and addiction, as well as boosting the body’s immune system, neurological functioning and self-healing capacities.
Mindfulness allows detachment from the thinking mind which is judgemental and by nature disturbing. Once detached from the restlessness of the thinking mind, mindfulness allows our awareness to settle down to a naturally calm state of stillness and clarity.
While mindfulness training undoubtedly brings a connection with inner peace and has enormous therapeutic and healing capacities, it also serves the function of being a sensitive tool to explore and contemplate our spiritual essence and the fundamental nature of our own mind. Once stabilised, mindfulness is used as a precise tool to penetrate deep into our own awareness, facilitating a deeper understanding of its nature and qualities.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it. “
~ Sylvia Boorstein
“Thoughts and feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky, conscious breathing is my anchor.”
~ Thich Naht Hanh
“Breathing in, I bring the mind home to the present
Breathing out, I let go of thoughts and relax”
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
The key mindfulness instructions from Buddha:
“Breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in
Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out.”
Simplicity is the key. Calmly observing the breath.
Constantly ignoring and dropping thoughts as they arise.
Continuously bring your attention back and re-focusing on the breath.
Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation Instructions:
1) Assume the correct meditation posture and set a stop watch or alarm for 3 minutes, up to 30 minutes.
2) With determination not to be distracted for the duration of the session, take three long, slow, deep breaths and relax the shoulders neck and face and hands.
3) Single-pointedly focus your attention on the natural breath through the nostrils, without changing or correcting it, simply observe and focus either on the sensations at the nostrils, the rise and fall of the belly, or the complete overall experience of the breath inhaling and exhaling.
4) Avoid getting distracted and focus on the breath with clear, bare attention without thinking, judging or internally commenting on the experience.
5) Use a small part of your awareness as introspection to assess whether you have followed thoughts or your attention has wandered away from your breath; instantly come back to the breath without further commentary.
* Constant re-focusing on the breath is the key to this mindfulness practice.
6) Also use introspection to assess if the breath is clear and vivid to your attention and you have not sunk into dullness, or lack clarity.
*If you are falling or sinking into sleep or dullness straighten your posture or try meditating with your eyes open.
7) Without being too tense or too dull, remain for the duration of the meditation in a relaxed/focussed even bare awareness of the breath.
“When mindfulness is mastered, the mind is unwavering, like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.”
Mindfulness using Breath Counting Instructions:
1) Assume the correct meditation posture
and set a stop watch or alarm for 3 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
2) With determination not to be distracted, take three long, slow, deep breaths to calm the mind and relax the body
and then focus your attention fully on counting the breaths.
#The first in-breath is one, the first out-breath is two, the next in-breath is three, etc., up to the out-breath of ten and then starting again at one.
#Let the breath be natural, do not change or modify it, just neutrally observe it whilst mentally counting.
4) Use a small part of your attention to inspect whether you have followed thoughts or been drawn away from counting your breath and instantly and repeatedly return to counting the breath; if you lose count simply start again with an in-breath, counting one without any further commentary.
5) Check to see if the breath is clear and vivid to your attention, and also inspect to see if you have sunk into dullness or lack clarity.
#If you are falling or sinking into sleep or dullness, this is a common obstacle straighten your posture, take a short break and splash some cold water on your face.
Instructions for Mindfulness Training
In daily life Broad Focused Mindfulness training is being completely aware of what you’re doing in the present moment.By avoiding over-thinking about the present situation and remaining in open awareness, without using the present moment as a ‘means to an end’ or considering it as a problem to be solved, but remaining open and aware of even the most boring tasks.An attitude of relaxed openness and curiosity is essential to be able to enjoy what IS happening rather than wishing it was different. By neither attaching to or pushing away anything the ability to remain centered in open awareness without being distracted are the key elements to broad focused mindfulness.Similar to single-pointed mindfulness training, a continual letting go of thoughts and opinions is needed.
Pause and Notice Five things
This is an incredibly simple yet effective way to draw your attention to the here and now:
1) PAUSE during the day and simply NOTICE five things you can see, and observe them without analysing or judging them; just hold them in your clear awareness for a minute or two without being distracted by thoughts or stories.
2) PAUSE and NOTICE five things you can hear, and without judging or analysing them,
simply hold the sounds in your clear awareness for a minute or two.
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful eating is a very pleasant practice. It is a deep practice. Each morsel of food becomes an ambassador from the cosmos. When we pick up a piece of vegetable, we look at it for half a second. We look mindfully to really recognise the piece of food, the piece of carrot or string bean. We practise mindfulness by simply knowing, “This is a piece of carrot. This is a piece of string bean.” It only takes a fraction of a second of recognition. When we are mindful, we recognise what we are picking up, when we put it into our mouth, we know we are putting it into our mouth, and when we chew it, we know that we are chewing. It’s very simple. Some of us while looking at a piece of carrot can see the whole cosmos in it, can see the sunshine in it, can see the earth in it, and the rain. It has come from the whole cosmos for our nourishment. You may like to smile to your food before you put it in your mouth.When you chew it, you are aware that you are chewing it, and don’t put anything else into your mouth, like your projects, your worries, your fear, just put the carrot in, and when you chew, chew only the carrot, not your projects or your ideas.You are capable of living in the present moment in the here and now. It is simple but you need some training to just enjoy the piece of carrot. That is a miracle.
When your attention moves into the Now, there is an alertness.It is as if you were waking up from a dream, the dream of thought, the dream of past and future.
A great time to practice mindfulness is when listening to others. By remaining completely present to what they are saying and avoiding the tendency to be distracted by our anticipated responses or judgements we can notice subtle cues we would normally miss. Paying full attention to the person you’re talking with allows the best quality of communication to happen and also avoids what’s known as ‘communication anxiety’. The practice requires ‘on the go’ introspection to ascertain whether you have become distracted or preoccupied with thoughts and judgements. Similar to formal mindfulness training, simply bring your attention back to mindfully listening as soon as you discover you’ve been distracted, without any further internal dialogue about your distraction.
A s Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
Such clarity, such simplicity. No room for problem-making. Just this moment as it is.