"There is one thing monks, that cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to a deep sense of urgency... the supreme peace... to mindfulness and clear comprehension... to the attainment of right vision and knowledge... to happiness here and now,..... to realizing deliverance by wisdom and the fruition of holiness: it is mindfulness of the body." ~ The Buddha
The practice of mindfulness helps to strengthen the mind so that we experience increasing presence in our lives. Instead of abandoning ourselves when we encounter difficulty, we are fully awake. Mindfulness also strengthens and re-programs the nervous system so that we experience a lesser degree of struggle during physical, mental, or emotional challenge. We train the mind to reduce resistance and contraction when events don't go according to plan.
Mindfulness is the practice of directing your mind by cultivating the power of your attention. In other words, we are working and strengthening the muscle of awareness through sustaining a focus. Through this training of mindfulness we actually condition the mind to be more mindful.
The practice of mindfulness begins with concentration. We collect, direct, and maintain our attention so that it becomes unified. We do this by noticing our present state.
Begin by finding a comfortable sitting position. You can sit on a cushion, cross legged, or on a bench or chair. Most importantly find a place where it will be possible to relax and maintain the focus of your attention.
Notice the breath in the whole body. The rise and fall of your chest and belly. The expansion and contraction of every exhale and inhale.
Once you have established a stable place of arrival, use the following acronym that is often taught to direct your attentive awareness.
R - Recognize
As we open to bare attention we notice what arises perhaps there are sounds, feelings, sensations in the body, or thoughts in the mind.
As these various phenomenon pass through our consciousness we take the opportunity to pause, soften and ask ourselves what is happening right now? Keep your undivided attention on your moment - to - moment experience. Be aware.
Whatever arises in the light of your awareness give it space. Sometimes experiences that have pleasant feeling tones will arise; at other times unpleasant or neutral feelings tones will be more predominant. Instead of immediately moving from the pure experience to our reaction or judgement, we simply allow what is happening.
There is a space between the experience itself and the reaction to the experience.
The tendency is to move away from experiences we judge as negative, to grasp experiences we judge as positive, and to 'zone out' during experiences that are neutral. All of these responses lead to suffering because we lose the opportunity to experience the richness and truth of the present moment. Simply noticing these tendencies weakens them.
"Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed."
~ The Buddha
I - Investigate
As you recognize what is happening and give it space you start to notice how you are relating to your experience. Where are you caught?
This is not a cognitive exercise. Aim to keep your attention on your lived, present - moment experience. Notice the rising and falling of phenomenon without getting attached to story or identification with any one thought, sensation or feeling.
As we develop mindful attention we are learning to look around and see where we're holding on and where we're pushing away. We face what it is in us that wants to separate, defend or aggress. We begin to see the inherent suffering in always wanting things to be a little different than they are.
Perhaps we begin to notice the way the mind replays thoughts, or the way we label some experiences as "bad" or "good". Or maybe we start to notice that nothing ever remains the same. Even physical sensations that at first feel solid and fixed, when investigated, are ever changing and transient in nature.
N - Non-Identification
"Moment by moment things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through" ~ Virginia Woolf
The process of non-identification is a gradual process. Letting go and resting in allowance of what is without an agenda for change is not always easy. But, as we use mindfulness and see how our gripping and resisting causes suffering we naturally let go.
Meditation is about cultivating the open kind space that honors the truth of the moment, however painful or blissful, without making the moment "me and mine".
As we start to see every moment as a collection of experiences whether they are pleasant, unpleasant, sensation, feeling or thought we loosen our grip on life and allow it to flow without so much identification to a personal "self".
Who and what remains when we release our identification with the self that has preference and is identified with pain and pleasure?
The natural mind is radiant, pure and un-conflicted. The practice of mindfulness helps us to experience this for ourselves. I encourage you to use your own practice to experiment and see what you find.
Learn more about mindfulness practice in my Mindful Yin Yoga Online Training