Have you ever thought of well-being through mindfulness? Do you want to learn self-psychoanalysis by just increasing awareness through sharp focus? If you are curious about it then mindfulness has a solution for you.
According to modern psychology, no one in the world can attain cent percent mental well-being. Every person has some mental traits which are not at all normal. In normal circumstances, we are unaware of it. The fact of being unaware of our mental states might have compounding effects on our mental well-being through the course of time. The art and science of mindfulness are necessary to monitor our mental states all the time only to lead a life that is mentally fit to face the slings and arrows of life.
Lack of focused attention can best be explained with an example. Suppose we are reading a book. After having finished a few pages, if we are clueless about the previous pages we have just read then this is the lack of focused attention. The meaning of mindfulness is focused attention on what is happening at the present moment. If we are not able to keep track of what is happening at the present moment, identify the nature of temporary attachment, our mind deviates and wanders hither and thither. The nature of such a mind is called Monkey Mind or wandering mind.
Mindfulness is actually moment to moment non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. It is a quality of the mind to be aware of the reality of the present moment without showing any reaction to that reality. The reaction may create an undue attachment to the subject of attention. Here we may ask this question – what is the purpose of mindfulness? The purpose of it is not mental attachment to the subject of attention. Mindfulness is just being aware of the reality of the present moment. Basically, it is the fostering of awareness. Being aware of a subject of concentration comes at a later stage.
So, if you ask what are the three qualities of mindfulness, we should say that mindfulness is (i) the awareness of the present moment; (ii) Mindfulness is non-judgmental, that is to say, we cannot be judgmental as to what is right or wrong, good or bad, pleasing or non-pleasing, etc. Mindfulness is just non-judgmental awareness. (iii) Mindfulness is awareness about awareness itself.
The great Void and Mindfulness Meditation
Awareness itself is such a vast topic in itself that it is beyond the scope of discussion in this short article. But the least possible thing that we can say about awareness is that it is the awareness that makes us feel different from the outer world as well as from other beings. Sometimes, we feel higher as human beings which may make us megalomaniac at times. The purpose of mindfulness is to experience a high level of human consciousness but at the same time, it’s not about feeling megalomania. The purpose of mindfulness is to strike a balance between human consciousness and non-human consciousness, to realize that all living beings are one, and all living beings suffer. Being aware of the present moment non-judgmentally by mindfulness exercises, we can sharpen our awareness to an amazing level. We can feel compassion for all living beings. We will realize that all the living, as well as non-living beings, are connected in some way or the other. We feel a great void in our minds as well as in the universe to allow space for all.
The great void we have just talked about has great importance in mindfulness meditation. You ask yourself this question – When do we feel the sense of separation with the outer word? We can identify this sense of separation from the external world as we grow up. This is the result of our acculturation. To realize this truth, we should observe a child as she grows up little by little. You will notice that a little child identifies with everything that her hands can reach. As she grows up, she learns the names of most of the things that she encounters or likely to encounter in the future. She gradually learns language. She also learns how to use language in different situations.
Different use of different words in different situations imbibe a sense of separation in our minds from the outside world. From a practical standpoint, this situation unavoidable because language is the most effective medium of communication. In fact, civilization would not have been possible without the evolution of language in the most complex and subtle form. But at the same time, we should also be aware of the fact that language has its own limitations as far as its expressive power is concerned.
One can talk about white flowers but cannot define what is ‘white’ in the first place. One can describe a completely outlandish tree but cannot exactly give a descriptive idea about it. One can write an extremely good poem but the exact latent feelings of the poem fall short of words to describe the exact feelings of the author. There are many types of subtle human consciousness that can neither be accurately talked about nor be described on a piece of paper. If words were sufficient in expressing the human mind then music, painting, sign language, different forms of communication not dependent on words would not have come into existence.
Application of our common sense is enough to ascertain that all written, spoken, verbal or non-verbal communication is fairly not enough to express the constantly arising thoughts and feelings; let alone expressing the subtle states of the mind.
In the above stanzas, we discussed the quality of language in so far as expressing our minds. Mindfulness is not limited to expression. Mindfulness is all about being self-aware. To study about one’s own self, self-study is essential. To study yourself is to forget yourself. To forget yourself is to be one with all beings – that is what the famous Zen master Dogen remarked. Master Dogen also observed that when we study ourselves, we will realize that the rivers, the sun, the moon, and all the natural phenomena are the reflections of our own minds.
All things in nature arise and pass away just as feelings and mental phenomena arise and pass away. We realize the law of impermanent. We realize this truth at the core level of emotional intelligence. This realization is rather an issue of depth, not an issue of fact. Such a realization will occur when we realize the great void in the universe, and when we realize that there is no separate entity of anything. Master Dogen also accounts that when we realize this truth, we feel compassion for all beings.
Thus, we have come to realize that our account of the mediums of self-expression has led us to study self-knowledge. Self-knowledge does not necessarily entail self-expression. Just awareness of the self is enough. A self-aware person may find her best possible way of communication. Please note when we become self-aware, we become more mindful in using proper language, behave mindfully, and become more attentive to whatever we do. This can go a long way to reduce tension among the people. This can lead to harmonious interpersonal relationships. These are some of the mindfulness benefits we can take into account.
To understand self, we need mindfulness activity. Mindfulness meditation is one of the most important mindfulness examples. We have already given an account of mindfulness in the above paragraphs. To simply repeat that, mindfulness is the moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. This awareness can be fostered by mindfulness exercises. These exercises include some mindfulness techniques.
Techniques and Exercises of Mindfulness Meditation
Basically, the techniques of mindfulness meditation involve breathing awareness and being aware of all the phenomena that are occurring in the body and mind as well. The second one is also called body scan meditation.
In the breathing technique of mindfulness meditation, we concentrate on every incoming and outgoing breath. While doing so, we just observe the flow of our breath, its touching points just below the nostril and the upper part of the upper lip. We feel every sensation and vibration of that area without reacting to any pleasant or unpleasant sensation. This helps in bringing about an increased level of consciousness. By breathing, we accept nature as it is without reaction. Reacting to any pleasant or unpleasant sensation is the cause of suffering. Mindfulness helps us pinpoint the cause of suffering.
Breathing is the medium through which we connect with mother nature. Concentration on breathing is effortless action. One can achieve a greater level of enhanced focus and calmness by the technique of mindfulness meditation.
The other form of mindfulness meditation is called Body Scan meditation. In this form, we observe every sensation, vibration, and irritation in our bodies. Like breathing meditation, we do not show any reaction to any pleasant or unpleasant sensations or feelings or whatever phenomenon that occurs in our body and mind. This mindfulness meditation technique is an amazing one to understand the mind-body relationship. We can clearly understand that we can intensify any sensation or feel a new sensation by concentrating on our body parts. If we show a reaction to any natural bodily activity, our suffering increases.
Mindfulness exercises benefit us in two ways. First, it increases our level of consciousness and finds out the root cause of suffering. Secondly, through the technique of effortless action with a non-reactive approach, we can reduce suffering. It means we can do so by changing our attitudes to the root causes of suffering, that is undue reaction.
Other Mindfulness Exercises
Other mindfulness exercises are the applied aspect of the basic mindfulness techniques. It’s all about observing things in their natural form in a non-reactive way. Thus, we can learn the true nature of things. The basic mindfulness techniques are carried over into the hassle of the practical world! Mindfulness becomes extremely creative when it’s applied in the practical world. Zen mindfulness throws much light in so far as the practical aspect of mindfulness is concerned. Mindfulness meditation was practiced in monasteries by monks in ancient times. But today, the world itself has become a monastery and the common people have become monks as more and people are practicing mindfulness meditation, and are adopting the mindful way of life in their ordinary and professional walks of life. Remarkably, mindfulness has become a proven scientific technique to boost creativity in today’s world.
Mindfulness exercises extend beyond mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness exercises are present in walking, sleeping, working, eating, sitting, resting, etc.
Mindfulness meditation was practised in monasteries by monks in ancient times. But today, the world itself has become a monastery and the common people have become monks as more and people are practising mindfulness meditation, and are adopting the mindful way of life in their ordinary and professional walks of life. Remarkably, mindfulness has become a proven scientific technique to boost creativity in today’s world.
How can I learn mindfulness meditation?
You can learn mindfulness meditation in Vipassana meditation centres as well as in Zen meditation centres as well.
Is Mindfulness meditation a religious practice?
Absolutely not. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced in a completely secular environment. There is no ritual involved.
Are mindfulness meditation and Yoga are the same?
No. Mindfulness meditation and Yoga are two different things. Mindfulness meditation is all about deep concentration. Unlike Yoga, the concept of the merger of the supreme self is absent in mindfulness meditation. The approach of mindfulness is knowing the self, and then realization of the interconnection of all things.