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 as the result of paying attention to something in this moment, on purpose and without judgement. Adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn Audio-Mindfulness for Beginners.
I’m sitting here preparing material so I can make as clear an explanation about what mindfulness meditation is that I can — and I feel a bit stuck. I find myself wanting to just safely define mindfulness rather than taking the risk of exposing myself by sharing my personal experience.
Mindfulness meditation is best understood through practice. However, if you are not established in your practice, I hope that sharing some of my experience will help you get a sense of what mindful meditation is. First and foremost, I want to tell you that my practice continues to help me with the myriad of daily difficulties in living. More and more over time, mindfulness helps me live and 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, not literally but emotionally. Maybe literally as well. I finished meditating a few minutes before I started this blog and found myself censoring and not wanting to write about the internal sense of beauty and connection I felt. My thought says, “Don’t tell them that. They will think…” The question becomes, do I choose to be limited by my fear or honestly share what I value.
The experience of beauty and connection was a reminder to notice all that I have or more accurately all that is here in this life to be valued and cherished if I will 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. It might seem like I’m saying that being in the moment makes all of my troubles go away, I’m not. I’m saying that I am working to change my relationship with this moment so that I see what is actually here, beauty and pain and learn to work with both as best I can. This might be a good time for some definitions of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is: “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 judgement.” A Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Stahl, B., Glodstein, E.
How does paying attention in the moment help? By the nature of how our minds work and the frantic pace of living in general, we end up spending a great deal of our time in our minds thinking, for example, worrying, planning, rehearsing. That means that our awareness is on the thinking and not necessarily on experiencing. Thinking is a virtual reality that higher form mammals posses and have used to great advantage. Mindlessly thinking on autopilot, however, can take our attention away from a pleasant event that is right before us.
For instance, when you take a shower and you are thinking about what you are going to do today, or remembering something from the past, or planning for the future, you are constructing a virtual reality in your mind. This is both a good and a bad thing
Nothing is wrong with this per se unless this kind of inattention happens most of your day, each day in the week each week in the month, on and on. You may be missing the deep pleasure to be had while experiencing the luxury of a warm shower. It would be ok if it were just the shower. I know we are all so busy but what if we are missing our lives and our children’s lives due to our habit of over thinking verses experiencing? There really is a significant difference between thinking about other things while in the shower and having the experience of a shower.
Perhaps you can actually do the meditation now to get an experiential sense of what mindfulness meditation is and see for yourself. One small caution before you start. Even seasoned practitioners of meditation are often dragged into the thought stream and they bring themselves back to the anchor, being pleased that they noticed they were in thought.
It will be the same for you. Learn to be kind with yourself as you come back to the focus of your breath in this meditation. Just follow the instructions and stay with the sensation of your breath as best you can. Click on the play arrow below.