Mindfulness meditation, also known as insight meditation is a practice which allows us to relate to ourselves and our lives with wisdom and equanimity. The practice starts with noticing the breath and the sensations associated with breathing. It soon becomes obvious that maintaining a steady awareness on the breath for any length of time is difficult to do! What we come to recognize is that our attention wanders away from noticing the sensations and experience of breathing, moving onto other distractions. These can be sounds, thoughts, stories, memories, worries, emotions or body sensations. So a big part of mindfulness practice is to cultivate patience and generosity towards this tendency of the mind.
With practice, the mind becomes less distracted and develops an awareness which notices the transitory nature of experience. We come to see we can be curious about whatever is being encountered regardless of whether it is body sensations, thoughts or emotions, with a sense of friendly and kind interest. This increases calmness through steady concentration, and insight, through reflection. We become less driven by our reactions to the contents of the various modes of mind, less caught up. By developing this ability for self-observation we improve our chances of responding to experience less impulsively and more effectively.
It’s not easy to notice what is going on in the mind because it brings us into direct contact with our anxieties, our judgments, and our vulnerabilities. We come to see the often automatic nature of thinking which can take us into worrying about the future or reliving the past. But as we adopt this hospitable and compassionate present moment directed noticing we come to see what approaches are helpful and which can cause problems. This does not imply passive resignation, but on the contrary the skill to act wisely and effectively when required.
Grounded more and more in mindfulness the mind is free to respond skillfully to any given situation. When we can rest calmly with our vast array of feelings and thoughts, we are able to live fully and openly, caring for ourselves, for others and the world in which we live.
For an informative and general overview of Mindfulness, please visit www.Mindfulnet.org