“…sitting meditation helps us to cultivate new mental habits of concentration, new methods for relating to our thoughts, new opportunities for attending to the rush of our emotions.”
By cultivating mindfulness we:
- strengthen a tendency toward friendliness and curiosity, for ourselves and others
- gain greater clarity about our beliefs, emotions, and behaviors
- make more conscious and compassionate choices
Mindfulness also has a naturally calming effect on our nervous system, which provides:
- a stronger immune system
- clearer decision making
- greater flexibility
- wider window of tolerance for managing strong emotions
Mindfulness is a natural human ability to pay attention. Mindfulness is becoming aware, or more specifically, becoming aware that we are aware. We already have this natural state of wakefulness as well as natural mental qualities such as clarity, strength, stability, and flexibility; we’re not trying to get them from somewhere else.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Remembering that these qualities are already part of our experience, we can begin exploring our situations. We start to recognize where and when we most easily show these qualities and we naturally get curious about how else these might show up in our lives. This process begins to cultivate a certain degree of trust and confidence in the practice and in ourselves as well.
Some possible obstacles
- Looking for bliss
Mindfulness meditation is sometimes misunderstood as a way to get rid of uncomfortable situations and emotions or run away from reality by creating bliss-like states or trances. To the contrary, this type of mindfulness practice actually brings us, very directly, into contact with our life.
We are getting curious about how we are, in our life, in this moment. Through this curiosity we are actually creating greater patience with our present circumstances, which include our outer life situations and our internal emotional states.
- Striving toward a goal
The purpose of meditation practice can seem somewhat confusing. Some understanding of an activity’s benefits or the goal one is trying to achieve is often necessary to inspire motivation or effort for any activity. However, holding to a goal in mindfulness practice naturally takes us away from what is happening right now. We become oriented toward the future when we will attain our goal and often miss the experiences and successes that are happening right now.
- Applying a lot of effort
If we start pushing ourselves really hard or judging ourselves for not doing enough, effort can become an obstacle to our mindfulness practice. Similarly to the challenges of having inspiration to practice while not holding too tightly to a goal, one must exert effort in his or her practice, while maintaining a gentle, friendly approach.
“The attitude or spirit with which we do our meditation helps us perhaps more than any other aspect. What is called for is a sense of perseverance and dedication combined with a basic friendliness. We need a willingness to directly relate again and again to what is actually here, with a lightness of heart and sense of humor.”
Jack Kornfield A Path with Heart
Because of the subtleties of the instruction, it is often helpful to have the support and guidance of a mindfulness instructor. Please reference my Resources page for further information.