The Technique of Mindfulness: Your Best Friend

Goodpal By Goodpal, 8th Jan 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3qd9pbm1/
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Mindfulness is a simple yet highly effective technique for self exploration and self correction. It is also increasingly used in therapy. This non directive form of meditation is fast becoming popular throughout the world.

Why People take to Meditation?

Modern lifestyle is based on living amidst technological facilities. Fast paced life, pressures of performance and competition and the driving force of personal ambitions have significantly weakened family ties. In fact, families ceased to be a source of support as they used to be decades ago. Educational institutions are now reduced to teaching subjects designed to prepared students just for the demands of the job market. So, schools and teachers also are not reliable sources of personal support and guidance. No wonder as soon as kids enter adulthood, they suddenly find a society they can’t deal with satisfactorily. Those with inherent values automatically get drawn towards positive activities such as meditation both as a personal development tool and as a support system.

Lately mindfulness meditation (Vipassana meditation) has acquired great appeal particularly among youth because it simple, dogma-free and universal that is acceptable to all, regardless of their social, religious, or racial background. This non-directive meditation technique helps people achieve inner peace, mental clarity and a profound sense of conscious presence rather easily. And for those who are diligent and persistent, regular meditation becomes part of their daily routine.

If you are thinking that learning mindfulness meditation will change everything around you, you are wrong. It will change you in a way that you will be in control of everything in and around you. Does it sound like some exaggerated or theoretical statement? Just relax, mindfulness is not an academic idea; it is a practical skill like swimming that can be learned without much trouble.

What is Mindfulness?

Let us first make the essential meaning of mindfulness crystal clear. At the out-set it helps to remove popular misconceptions about mindfulness meditation: 8 Common Misconceptions about Vipassana Meditation.

Online Oxford Dictionary defines mindfulness as

“A mental state achieved by focusing one‘s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

Therapeutic definition of Mindfulness

“To be aware of the full range of experiences that exists in the present moment, without judgment. This includes sensory impressions in all sensory modalities as well as emotions and thoughts including visual imagery.”

Sogyal Rinpoche (1992 p.61) The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Sydney: Random House

“The practice of mindfulness defuses our negativity, aggression, and turbulent emotions…..Rather than suppressing emotions or indulging in them, here it is important to view them, and your thoughts, and whatever arises with an acceptance and generosity that are as open and spacious as possible.”

Speaking from practical angle, it can be described in the following way:

It is an impartial watchfulness of your thoughts, feelings and experience – without prejudice or bias. You are consciously aware of the thoughts you are thinking but don’t chase or analyze them. You are also aware of the present feelings – you just acknowledge them; don’t like or dislike them. You mentally note every experience but refrain from thinking, labeling or evaluating them. You are just a detached witness of yourself.

Mindfulness is also being ever ready to acknowledge and experience anything that comes up in the present moment. It also involves letting go, as the present moment turns past. It is observing and letting go continuously. It is a wakeful experience of life, an alert but detached participation in the ongoing process of living.

So, essentially the practice of mindfulness involves three types of mental efforts, namely

  • Being attentive to the present moment
  • Developing the attitude of a witness – an unconcerned observer
  • Willingness to let go every experience – no clinging to pleasant or running away from unpleasant

How Mindfulness Training Helps

In the so called normal living we habitually react to everything in and around us. We are ever busy thinking, analyzing, desiring, achieving, planning and scheming, and so on. In fact, we are so preoccupied that we have no time to live! All our efforts involve doing rather than being.

The moment mindfulness is introduced everything changes. Conscious awareness is such a powerful tool that all habitual tendencies have to cease. Mindfulness is like a source of light and habitual activities are shadowy figures. They can’t coexist – as long as you stay with the light of mindfulness the habitual reactions must stop.

Without mindfulness you are a doer who does everything habitually – thinks, feels, decides and reacts – you are driven by thoughts, feelings and tendencies. Mindfulness promotes you as a “witness” who merely observes without being involved. With practice, the role of “witness” takes precedence and the “doer” becomes subordinate. You begin to react less and respond more. This is a very healthy transformation. This sets up a healing process inside you. Your immune system gets better making you stronger and healthier, which further boosts rate of healing. The more you practice, the better you become. That’s why monks, who mediate extensively, have levels of wellbeing way above normal expectations.

Mindfulness allows you to deal with everything as they appear in the present moment. There is no room for avoidance or suppression. Instead of trying to avoid or argue with the unpleasant thoughts, with mindfulness you stay exposed to it for its natural duration without feeding or avoiding it. When you don’t get involved in the mental chatter, its strength goes down. And as a consequence, you get stronger.

Through the process of non-judgmental awareness, mindfulness also helps avoid the pitfalls of language. Language or words can not accurately describe all types of experiences, so any act of labeling can only be partially correct – it can only serve as a pointer. But the labels definitely feed the thinking process. The act of “mere observation” avoids all such traps of language.

Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t). – James Baraz

Through mindful awareness, you discover how to live in an enjoyable and peaceful way in the present moment rather than worrying about the things from the past or about the future.

How does mindfulness training help you respond, rather than react, to situations?

Mindfulness Leads to "Distancing"

Mindfulness makes the practitioner less identified with the contents of consciousness. In metaphorical terms it is as if you are watching the stream of consciousness rather than swimming in it and being buffeted by its eddies and currents.

Distancing also allows you flexibility because now you are no longer a “puppet” reacting to the strings of thoughts or feelings. Practice of mindfulness cuts off the strings that trigger habitual reactions and now you can offer more suitable response to situations with full conscious awareness. As the attitude of being a witness strengthens your involvement with thoughts and feelings decreases. This frees you from the tendencies of habitual reactions. In this way mindfulness is a great tool to break habits. Some therapists label the process of distancing as “decentering”.

Now you are no longer a part of the crime! But you are now more like an video recorder which merely records without subjectivity. Now you are really a free person – free to respond, if you wish to, in a manner of your own conscious choice. This is true freedom and true liberty!!

Distancing also helps you stay with unpleasant experiences much longer without reaction. As you keep practicing, even the intensity of unpleasantness decreases, because now you have stopped labeling anything as good or bad. Both these benefits allow you enough freedom to come up with a better response to any situation.

How to Master the Art of Mindfulness

The traditional approach is to go for mindfulness meditation that is also called Vipassana meditation (or insight meditation). The technique is taught free of charge in ten-day residential camps where is taught systematically. Another good place to learn spirituality and meditation is the Chopra Center. They also offer several other things ideal for any spiritual seeker.

Warning: Mindfulness is a simple concept; in fact, too simple! But don’t be misled by its simplicity. It is a little secret that can unleash the process of self transformation, provided you give it an honest try.

Research on Mindfulness

Several studies indicate better relaxation and stress management by meditation techniques where you refrain from trying to control the content of the mind.

These methods are often described as nondirective, because practitioners do not actively pursue a particular experience or state of mind. They cultivate the ability to tolerate the spontaneous wandering of the mind without getting too much involved. Instead of concentrating on getting away from stressful thought and emotions, you simple let them pass in an effortless way.

Non-directive meditation yields more marked changes in electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful, relaxed attention, than just resting without any specific mental technique.

Read the full report

Reading Further

10 Quotes for a Mindful Day
10 Quotes for a Meditative Mind
Holistic Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

Tags

Buddhist Meditation, Chopra Center, Mindfulness, Mindfulness Meditation, Self Awareness, Vipassana Meditation

Meet the author

author avatar Goodpal
I am a keen practitioner of mindfulness meditation for past several years. I firmly believe in "goodness" of people, society and world. I regularly write on personal growth and social topics.

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Comments

author avatar Delicia Powers
9th Jan 2012 (#)

Outstanding!!!

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author avatar Denise O
13th Jan 2012 (#)

A well written page, on how to achieve mindfullness. Thank you for sharing.:)

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