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Mindfulness Blog

meditation imageWhat the Heck is Mindfulness Anyway, and Why Does it Matter?

This article arose in response to my friend Sarah Hawkin’s request to participate in a blog tour that was organized to introduce and highlight a variety of mindfulness applications as interpreted and utilized in a variety of ways . Sarah is  an amazing woman who leads True North Business Management . The blog tour features 13 woman, over 14 days , describing 14 ways that mindfulness can be integrated into either business or life. Check out the full line up of women and their articles here.

Mindfulness is the word that has been used to describe what the Buddha outlined over 2600 as part of his noble eightfold path that leads to the end of stress and dissatisfaction in life. It  is as close as scholars and translators have been able to achieve of the term sati, or samma sati (right mindfulness). Right mindfulness is one of three mental disciplines  (right effort, concentration and mindfulness /attentiveness).activities of the body, sensation/feelings, activities of the mind and its habitual patterns of ideas, thoughts and conceptions. mindfulness is the applied capacity to that is cultivated to be open and friendly towards that which is arising in these aspects of the human experience that arise out of confusion and are clung together in an attempt to seek pleasure and happiness out of something that is incapable of producing such, thus we suffer as these feelings fade, and we need to generate then over and over, obstructing us from the natural clarity, vividness and luminosity that is present in an awakened mind free of attachment and and aversion.

Central to Buddhist practice is training the capacity to let go of clinging. Sooner or later, the first aspect of Buddhist meditation, knowing the mind, will reveal how and where clinging is present. Some of the more painful forms of grasping are clinging to such things as pleasure, desire, self-image and judgments, opinions and ideals, people, and possessions. All clinging limits the mind’s freedom and peace.

The good news of Buddhism is that we can release clinging. We can free the mind. Or, if you prefer, you can call it “freeing the heart.” We can intentionally develop and strengthen an open, friendly and kind attitude towards all that is arising in each moment which allows for a complete attunement with reality. It involves an alert movement of the heart. It is not a sentimental heart quality, but rather a dispassionate openness, not clinging to or chasing after one state or another. It is the capacity to touch and be touched, to reach out and let in, let be. It involves an alertness that goes out to meet that which is arising, and works to remove barriers to these movements of the heart/mind. The ultimate aim of Buddhist practice is to liberate the heart so there are no barriers, shackles, or constrictions to our heart’s freedom. Usually freeing the heart begins in small steps, each bringing a corresponding peace. Freed completely, the heart is completely at peace. Complete freedom is not easily attained. It requires knowledge and training.

Knowing, training, and freeing the mind develop together. The more we know ourselves, and how our mind is, whether it is engaged in craving and lusting or not, engaged in hate and aversion or not, is it confused,  seeing things as solid and the self as solid and fixed or not, distracted or concentrated, etc. observing how these states arise and disappear within oneself, the easier it is both to train ourselves and to know what needs to be released. The more our minds are trained, the easier it is to know ourselves and the more strength and wisdom we have to let go. And the more we let go, the fewer the obstructions to understanding ourselves and the easier it will be to train the mind.

Few people care for their own minds as they do their own bodies, their clothes, or their possessions. Care of the body is a daily task. The mind too needs regular care, exercise, and training. With freedom from suffering as the goal, knowing, training, and freeing are the three Buddhist ways of caring for the mind.  

In order to penetrate these processes and gain insight, it is important to understand the nature of dissatisfaction, that which creates stress and suffering, and those practices and understandings that result on the cessation of suffering ,peace, true happiness and freedom. Reflection, effort, gentleness, commitment to ethical conduct, concentration and mindfulness are the spiritual technology that lead to human maturity and hence collective harmony and benefit. 

Here are some helpful habits to establish

  1. begin with a reflection on the fleeting and unpredictable nature of life, 
  2. ask yourself what really matters most, what truly results in well-being, and diminishes the binding, limiting , often painful  nature of self-centeredness. 
  3. sincerely engage in well wishing towards yourself, taking a soft, open , non-intellectual curiosity about one’s experiences, and sensations. Place ones awareness on the fluid and changing nature of the breath. 
  4. sit upright in a quiet place and relax the body while maintaining uprightness. stay alert and focus of the sensation of breathing for 2-3 minutes
  5. spend brief moments throughout the day to return to the physical sensation of the breath, seeing if you can feel the movement of the breath in various parts of the body, i.e. the legs, soles of the feet, the belly, the chest in all directions.
  6. use naturally occurring cues in the environment to return to your own bodily sensations and feelings and notice their nature (arising and passing) , such as thresholds, phone/computer alert sounds, washing hands, brushing teeth, etc.
  7. Develop habits where your intentionally exert effort to developing concentration and sensitivity, ie, folding laundry, sweeping a room, walking the hallways at work.
  8. Remember to be kind and gentle, accepting of what is arising and what support is available at anytime. Recognize joy and what leads to spaciousness and ease, and that which leads to tightness closing down, perhaps even labeling such, “not self”. 
  9. Find a community that is similarly committed to mindful living with an ethical foundation. 

If you’d like to continue the conversation on mindfulness please join me and the other Tour Guides in the private Facebook community.

Learn more about the tour , and meet with the other 12Mindful Habits Tour Guides here