Sunday, October 30, 2011


Mindfulness meditation is also known as ‘insight meditation.’ That implies that the regular practice of mindfulness affords insight into the person you are and what is going ‘on’ inside your mind and body. But how does insight meditation work?

Immediately, I stop myself. Never ask ‘how,’ it is said? Well, if scientists never asked ‘how,’ we would know next to nothing, which does seem to be the case with many of our politicians and public figures. It is inherent in the nature of things ... and us ... to ask ‘how.’ Of course, the ‘how’ question is sometimes best answered by saying, ‘Just do it.’ That’s how. Well, insight meditation works in the doing.

Mindfulness teaches us to be aware ... and to be aware that we are aware. That is even more important. It’s the awareness of awareness. Mindfulness teaches us to observe. Just observe ... without judgment, condemnation, criticism or analysis ... but with curiosity. A choiceless awareness and acceptance of whatever is the subject of one’s awareness ... even awareness itself.

For example, if we are sad or angry, we just observe the sadness as sadness, or the anger as anger. We feel no compulsion or even need to do anything about it. Yes, really! We just let it be. (I know it’s trite, and it’s been said many times before, but we must let things be before we can let them go. Never forget that.) And if we feel pain in some part of our body, we just observe the pain as pain, again without feeling compelled to do anything about it.

There is no need to deny the existence of any negativity, whether in the form of negative thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations or otherwise. There is also no need, for example, to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. Just let them be ... and 'resist not.' Understand that, in and of themselves, these 'things' (negative thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations) have no power to hurt you.

Now, a wonderful thing begins to happen with the regular practice of mindfulness or insight meditation. We start to observe, and as we continue to observe, non-judgmentally and choicelessly, the cause of our sadness, anger, pain or whatever become clear. How? (Ugh.) Because we become aware – yes, aware – that we are reacting with some sort of observable, discernible ‘negativity’. The negativity may take the form of, say, aversion. It may take the form of some sort of clinging to, or craving for, something or someone which, we (wrongly) think, will be the answer to our sadness, anger or pain.

Anyway, we gain insight into the cause of our problem. Of course, insight alone is not enough, but without insight there is no possibility of there being any change for the better.

Back to my theme. Mindfulness teaches us to keep observing whatever sensation arises or is most dominant. Observe. Observe. Observe. As we keep observing the sensation, a most remarkable thing happens. The sensation loses its strength! Yes, it loses its strength and its grip on us and its power over us. Eventually, the sensation, having lost its strength, will pass away. Gone!

What’s even more wonderful is that, not only does the sensation pass away, so does all the negativity referred to above.

This is not too good to be true. It’s not a miracle. But it is amazing!



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