What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is different from other styles of meditation.
Mindfulness meditations can be short.
- As short as one minute.
Mindfulness meditations can be simple.
- One intention e.g. ‘may I let go’.
Mindfulness meditations can have a specific purpose.
- Resort energy, ‘may I be happy’.
When most people hear the word meditation, they think of transcendental meditation or similar practices used to evoke the relaxation response. In concentration meditation these approaches you focus attention on one thing, usually the sensation of breath leaving and entering your body or a mantra (a special sound or phrase you repeat silently to yourself). Anything else that comes into your mind during meditation is seen as a distraction to be disregarded. These practices can give rise to very deep states of calmness and stability of attention. They are known as the concentration, or “one-pointed,” type of meditation — what Buddhists call shamatha or samadhi practices.
Mindfulness is the other major classification of meditation practices, know as insight meditation. In the practice of mindfulness meditation, you begin by concentrating the attention to cultivate calmness. Then by recognizing and acknowledging what thoughts and emotions are present. When thoughts or feelings come up in your mind:
- You do not ignore or suppress them.
- You do not analyze or judge their content.
Rather, you simply note any thoughts as they occur as best you can. Observe them intentionally but non-judgmentally, moment by moment, as the events forming in the field of your awareness.
Paradoxically, this inclusive noting of thoughts that come and go in your mind can lead you to feel less caught up in them. Recognizing and acknowledging your emotions gives a deeper perspective on your reaction to everyday stress and pressures.
By observing your thoughts and emotions as if you had taken a step back from them, you can see much more clearly what is actually on your mind. You can see your thoughts arise and recede one after another. You can note the content of your thoughts, the feelings associated with them, and your reactions to them.
You might become aware of agendas, attachments, likes and dislikes, and inaccuracies in your ideas. You can gain insight into what drives you, how you see the world, who you think you are — insight into your fears and aspirations.
The key to mindfulness is not so much what you choose to focus on but the quality of the awareness (clear & spacious) that you bring to each moment. It is very important that it be nonjudgmental — more of a silent witnessing, a dispassionate observing of your inner experience.
Observing without judging, moment by moment, helps you see what is on your mind without intellectualizing it (over-thinking).
Interest is the hallmark of mindfulness meditation and differentiates it most from other forms of meditation. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to be more aware of what is happening in your body and mind at the time it is happening. This is ‘present moment awareness’.
If you are experiencing a distressing thought or feeling or actual physical pain in any moment. You resist the impulse to react to it by trying to escape the unpleasantness. Instead, you chose to respond and see it clearly as it is. Then accept it because it is already present in this moment.
The Complete Experience
The complete experience is to first recognize the emotion. Then acknowledging the emotion because it is here inside of me in this present moment. Example – ‘This is my anger’. The more often that I recognize and accept my anger, the sooner I will understand. The more I understand my anger the less problematic it is in my life.
Acceptance, does not mean passivity or resignation. On the contrary, by fully accepting what each moment offers, you open yourself to experiencing life much more completely. It is more likely that you will be able to respond effectively to any situation that presents itself.
Acceptance offers a way to navigate life’s ups and downs with courage, humor, and in time some understanding of the big picture (wisdom).
One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of the mind as the surface of the ocean. There are always waves, sometimes big, sometimes small. The goal of meditation is not to stop the waves so that the water will be flat, peaceful, and tranquil.
The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to develop the skills to:
- Ride out our emotional waves
- Learn what is causing our emotions
I have found the best way to do this is to:
- Ground – safely ground in the present moment
- Open – open my mind to all my emotions
- Rest – rest in the complete experience
Source- Jon Kabat-Zinn, Director, Stress Management Clinic
University of Massachusetts Medical Center
Adapted by G Ross Clark