Tuesday, October 5, 2010

BACK TO BASICS

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

As to the etymological meaning of the word, well, it’s a Latin-derived word ... meditatus, past participle of meditari, frequentative of medēri, which is related to “middle” (cf the Buddha's Middle Way ... the middle avoids and transcends the extremes at both ends, and thus all opposites), “mediation”, “medical” and “measure”.
The word also denotes “reflecting” and “pondering” ... not in any analytical or cognitive sense but in the sense of directly perceiving "what is".
Meditation is thus not “mind control” in the sense of subjugation, sublimation or suppression. Go gently. Take it easy. Practise the effort of no-effort. Resist not.
Robert Ellwood, in his wonderful little book Finding the Quiet Mind (TPH, 1983), defines, or rather describes, meditation as “medicine for the mind which does its work by measuring out time, when it can reach a median, a point of equilibrium[emphasis added]. [I have only one qualm about the foregoing ... I dislike the words "does its work". The only "work" the mind does, in meditation, is unconditioning itself.]
With etymological origins like that, it should not come as a surprise that meditation has been proven to be true medicine for both body and mind.
Meditation is a “thing-in-itself”, a way of life, a path of well-being, an enriched, expanded experience of life (both personally and professionally), and, finally, a means of tapping into “resources” of power and joy otherwise contained in the human mind.


WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
"Mindfulness is attention," writes Jack Kornfield. "It is a nonjudgmental, receptive awareness, a respectful awareness."
My fulsome and (forgive me) rather convoluted answer is this ... the presence of a STABLE ... STEADY ... CALM ... QUIET ... ALERT ... OBSERVANT ... CLEAR ... DELIBERATE ... PURPOSEFUL ... ACTIVE ... FOCUSEDCURIOUS ... INQUISITIVE ... OPEN ... RECEPTIVE ...RESPECTFUL ... GENTLE ... SENSITIVE ... ENGAGED and yet BARE, DETACHED, DEFUSED attention to, and CHOICELESS awareness of, the action of the present moment including one’s:
·         BODY FUNCTIONS and SENSATIONS
·         CONTENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS (thoughts, feelings, images, etc)
·         CONSCIOUSNESS itself
·         EXTERNAL SURROUNDINGS.

Thus, we are taking about an awareness of both the world and the whole movement of oneself.

“We live in a society that … forgets the present,” wrote Albert Einstein. How true! Even when we delude ourselves into thinking we are living in the present, we are still living either in the past or in the future. That can only cease to be the case when the mind is free from the idea of self (the "I" and "me"). When we have the idea of self we are living in the past or in the future.

Mindfulness (sati) literally means "memory" ... remembering what is present, remembering to stay present in the present moment, and remembering in the present moment what was already happened. In short, we remember to be here ... now! As a result, we are able to look at ourselves "thought-less-ly" ... without the eyes of the past ... for all thought arises from the storehouse of memory, that is, the past.
Mindfulness is a lifelong inquiry into what it means to be fully present in the present moment.
Mindfulness is a way of being ... a way of living. It is entirely experiential, and it is empirically-based.
Mindfulness also means "attention", and involves presence of mind ... that is, focused attention on the present, with ..
·         energy ... but remember you are not running a marathon!
·         enough “effort” to remember to focus attention
·         momentary but detached concentration … each moment … on whatever arises.
 
You see, being totally attentive unconditions the mind. Just look and see ... and the mind will empty itself of all its content.
We all talk about the importance of "living in the present", but how does one do that? Never ask "how"! When you ask "how" you are seeking a "method". One lives in the present only when the mind is entirely free from all notions of "self" (that is, all notions of "I" and "me" ... all of which have the appearance of both "solidity" and continuity, but only by reason of habit and memory).

When we stay present in the action of the present moment, noting what we are thinking, feeling and experiencing in the now, we gain understanding and insight into ourselves and our behaviour. Further, we learn to accept whatever is ... with emotional equanimity.

Mindfulness is the presence of awareness of present experience with choiceless acceptance. It is the ultimate antidote to stress as well as anxiety and various depressive states where it has been shown to be a useful therapeutic modality as well as an adjunct to other forms of therapy and treatment.
In all cases, mindfulness is a useful "tool" for self-care and self-development.

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS MEDITATION?
Mindfulness Meditation is a bit of a misnomer, for it is  often misunderstood, for example:
* meditation is some form of escape from life
* meditation can only be done in some special posture (eg in the “lotus position”)
* meditation requires you to go to some special place (eg on top of amountain
* meditation is a ritual, ceremony or "something religious"
* meditation puts you into a trance-like state (in other words, just self-hypnosis).
Mindfulness Meditation is meditation for daily life. It encompasses mindfulness of one’s body, feelings, mental states and mental contents … in ALL situations of everyday life.
Mindfulness Meditation is not:
·         fixed or exclusive concentration of thought (as opposed to momentary concentration that is, paying attention to whatever arises)

·         contemplation (in the sense of fixed concentration of thought or contemplation on some object, be it mental or physical, on one point).

We are talking about the presence of 
focused attention, not fixed concentration, True “control of mind” involves the giving of constant but bare attention to whatever arises and happens in the "action" of the present moment. It means being choicelessly aware of all that is.
Mindfulness Meditation involves the "giving", in the form of the presence, of unwavering attention to all things in life, not merely particular things or one’s own thoughts. We finally see things exactly as they really are ... we see exactly what is, without any choice, judgment, distortion, analysis ... or thought! For perhaps the first time in our life, we can look at a flower without entertaining thoughts about the flower. We just see the flower!


I have spoken of living in the action (physical, mental or whatever) of the present moment, as opposed to living or being in the present moment itself. We must be careful when we talk about the so-called "present moment", for the moment we say the "present moment" we are not living in the present moment. We are in the past. We are involved in memory.
Finally, and most importantly, Mindfulness is not a religion or cult or even inherently religious. It does not require you to be religious at all. You don’t need to find a guru, go to the Himalayas or an ashram or live in a cave, or wear coloured robes, in order to meditate and practise Mindfulness. However, most people find they, at the outset, they benefit from some tuition and training from someone who has themselves received some formal training in the practice.
“Let your quiet mind listen and absorb,” wrote Pythagoras. He understood what Mindfulness is all about.

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