What is meditation?
The Pali word for meditation is “Bhavana,” which means “to make grow” or “to develop.” What is mindfulness? Mindfulness meditation is what comes from paying attention to something in this moment, on purpose, and without judgment. (Adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Audio “Mindfulness for Beginners“)
Personal Insights on Mindfulness Meditation
While I sit here, preparing material to share as clear an explanation of mindfulness meditation as I can, I feel a bit stuck. I find myself wanting to define mindfulness in a way that feels ‘safe’, rather than taking the risk of exposing myself by sharing my personal experience. You may come to best understand mindfulness meditation through practice—however, if you have not yet established your practice, my hope is that by sharing some of my experiences will help you get a sense of what mindful meditation is.
First and foremost, my practice continues to help me with the myriad of difficulties inherent in living my everyday life. Increasingly as time goes on, mindfulness helps me live, experience, and value my life rather than just follow the unrelenting, intricate, seductive, and painful stories of my mind over and over again with no change.
If I’m honest, my mindfulness meditation practice has probably saved my life, emotionally if not literally. I finished meditating a few minutes before I started this blog and found myself self-censoring, not wanting to write about the internal sense of beauty and connection I felt. My train of thought said: “Don’t tell them that. They will think…” The question becomes: “Do I choose to be limited by my fear or do I honestly share what I value?”
The experience of beauty and connection was a reminder to notice all that I have. More accurately, to notice all that exists in my life that can be valued and cherished if I allow myself to become aware of it. I did not have to do a thing to deserve it; committing to this moment helps me see that. While it might sound like I’m saying that being in the moment makes all of my troubles go away, but I’m not. What I’m saying is that I am working to change my relationship with this moment, so that I see what is actually here—beauty and pain both—and learn to work with that as best I can.
Definitions of Mindfulness
Now, let’s consider some definitions of mindfulness:
“Paying attention on purpose in the present moment as if your life depended on it non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness for Beginners, Audio Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Mindfulness is about being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment, without filters or the lenses of judgment.”
A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Stahl, B., Glodstein, E.
Why Should You Meditate?
How does paying attention in the moment help? Because of how our minds work and the frantic pace of our lives, we spend a great deal of time in our own heads (e.g. worrying, planning, and rehearsing). This means that our awareness is focused on thinking and not necessarily experiencing. Thinking is a virtual reality that higher-form mammals possess and have used to great advantage; however, thinking on autopilot can distract us from a pleasant moments or experience that is right in front us.
When you are taking a shower and thinking about what you are going to do that day, for instance, or remembering something from the past, or planning for the future, you are constructing a virtual reality in your mind. Nothing is wrong with this kind of thinking, per se—but when this kind of inattention happens all date, every day, for every week, in every month, etc., you might begin to miss the experiences right in front of you. To begin with, you may be missing the luxurious pleasure of a warm shower, but the stakes can be higher than just a shower. We are all so busy, with so much to think about, but what if this constant thinking causes us to miss out on profound moments in our lives and our children’s lives?
Practice Mindfulness Meditation Now
Perhaps you can do a meditation now to get sense for yourself as to what the experience of mindfulness meditation is like, using the recording below. One small caution before you start: even seasoned practitioners of meditation are often dragged into the stream of thought. It will be the same for you, especially as you begin the practice. Learn to be kind with yourself as you return to to the focus of your breath in this meditation. When you notice yourself in thought, bring yourselves back to the anchor. Just follow the instructions and stay with the sensation of your breath as best you can. Click on the play arrow below.
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Thank you for beginning or furthering your mindfulness meditation with me today.