12 Ways to Describe Mindfulness for Beginners
Dissatisfaction with ‘What You have’ and ‘Who You are’
How and what we think color our feelings and experiences, loading them with ideas and concepts. When based on faulty views, it often lands us into the whirlpool of anxieties, apprehensions, imaginations and fantasies. In today’s world where people are submerged in materialism and consumerism, family culture is giving way to aloof individualism, religious identity is only reflected by a set of distinct dogmas and where education means textbook knowledge dictated by needs of the job market it is difficult to find people with properly cultivated mind and right attitude towards who they are and life.
The problem is further compounded by the nature of today’s lifestyle. People are pushed into a high technology and fast-paced life whether they like it or not. It demands constant adjustments and gives a feeling of being driven. This instills a sense of insecurity and restless, generating stress and tension.
While it is difficult to change the society suddenly, it is possible to bring necessary changes at the individual level to enjoy some peace and satisfaction. The practice of mindfulness or Vipassana meditation which is based on mindfulness, makes it possible to maintain sanity in the highly insane world by properly cultivating the mind.
Disciplined and Cultivated Mind
A cultivated mind is a disciplined mind. It doesn’t react to what is happening around it but responds at the right time and in the right manner. It is sharp enough to recognize various feelings and emotions oozing from within and notices the flow of thinking dictated by them but does not react impulsively on it. It is a mind which is aware of the consequences of its actions and would refrain from all acts that create ill-will and harm him or others. It is a mind that knows itself fairly well and tries to operate within its capacity. In nutshell, a cultivated mind is a discerning mind that operates from insight of practical reality.
I know from personal experience of over last 20 years that the regular practice of mindfulness can transform people if they practice sincerely.
What is Mindfulness
The art of mindfulness is the gift of Buddha to the humanity 2500 years ago. The word ‘mindfulness’ attempts to capture the essence of the ancient word ‘Sati’, from the Pali language spoken by the Buddha. Other words (and phrases) pointing to the sense of “Sati” are attentiveness, awareness, alertness, conscious awareness, presence of mind, mental presence, present centeredness, etc. English dictionaries typically define mindfulness as
"a mental state achieved by focusing one‘s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations." - Online Oxford Dictionary
However, the best way to grasp the concept correctly is to learn mindfulness (or 'insight') meditation under an experienced Teacher. That is, someone who practices and knows the subtleties of the practice - it is quite different from book knowledge.
Rather than dwelling in the past or the future, mindfulness offers the art of 'living' in the present moment in a non-reactive and non-judgmental manner. Only in the ‘present moment’, you have the power to make changes to the situations affecting you. Nothing can be done in the future or past, as we don’t and can't live there! If you can grasp this, you have grasped the art of living. But you have to practice and train to live mindfully. It is an applied mental technology that needs reprogramming the mind. It's a great tool for habit correction.
Mindfulness improves Concentration
People normally fancy having good concentration - a one-pointed mind. The attempt involved is usually choosing an object (mantra, image, holy word, etc) and then trying to 'force' the mind to stay on the object by pushing aside everything that crosses the mind.
Mindfulness, on the contrary, operates through accepting, observing and letting go whatever comes in the mental sky. It involves no force or struggle. The only effort is to keep the mind in the 'present moment'. Whenever attention goes astray you become mindful and it comes back in the 'present'. Therefore, mindfulness means having the mind and the body together in the present moment. When mindfulness blossoms the mind is a perfectly detached knower and equanimous. Such a mind is ideal for practice of vipassana meditation leading to development of ‘insight.’
Developing the faculty of mindfulness helps in the development of concentration also. If the awareness is well developed it quickly notices the distractions and you pull-back to the object of attention. It means better concentration (less time is spent in mental distractions). This in turn assists the development of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is NOT...
Mindfulness is NOT…
- Forming opinion
- Escaping from reality
From the beginners’ perspective mindfulness involves two things: (1) to maintain the presence of mind in the present moment and (2) be neutral and non-judgmental towards thoughts, feelings and perceptions [everything that arises in the mind].
Now let us see the practical descriptions of mindfulness in different ways so that its meaning becomes clearer and clearer.
1. Mindfulness involves seeing things as they really are, not as one would like them to be. You just perceive without adding or subtracting anything. You try keeping it “mere observation” and “bare observation”. You train to see all thoughts or feelings without judgment or evaluation.
2. It is an impartial watchfulness without prejudice or bias. You merely perceive and take note. You don’t cling to good mental states and don’t try to push away the bad ones. You train not to form opinions or ideas. You don’t play favorites. You merely register like a camera!
3. Mindfulness is developing present-centeredness. It is the observation of what is happening right here and right now. It is riding the ever-flowing wave of time and staying in the present moment and watching everything from there. It is staying clear of the memories of the past or ideations of the future – no ruminating, no dreaming and no imagination.
4. Mindfulness is being ever ready to observe whatever comes up in the present moment in whatever form. It also involves letting go of the present moment as it turns past. Thus, it is observing and letting go simultaneously without break (continuously). It is a wakeful experience of life, an alert but detached participation in the ongoing process of living.
5. Mindfulness is a relaxed attention in which “nothing can offend”. You are surprised by nothing and shocked by nothing. You remain neutral to everything. It is a mental ability to observe without criticism or evaluation. With this ability, you see things without preference or prejudice. You suppress nothing, promote nothing. You don’t decide or take sides. You affect nothing; and nothing affects you.
When we let go of wanting something else to happen in the moment, we take a step towards embracing the ‘here and now.’
How Disciplined are You?
Can you sit quietly for 1 full minute without any thought crossing the mind?
6. Mindfulness is knowing, but not thinking - you can ‘know’ that you are thinking and even watch the birth of a thought, it duration of stay and its disappearance. Of course, it needs training. During practice you will be required to catch the mind thinking. It is merely watching or observing without getting carried away by thoughts, memories, or concepts. It forms the foundation of Vipassana (or insight) style of meditations.
7. Mindfulness means registering experiences, but not comparing them. It does not evaluate, label, or categorize them. It is not reflection or analysis. Instead, it is a direct experience of reality as it unfolds, keeping away the thinking or evaluating processes.
8. In mindfulness meditation you watch the universe within, paying no attention to the world outside. In meditation, you are your own laboratory. The internal universe is constantly giving you a wealth of information on the dynamics of how you relate to anything and everything. Now you have the opportunity to witness it. Thus, it is an impartial examination of the constantly changing inner world. It results in correction of your attitudes and gives you a new way of being in a detached manner – which implies enhanced degree of freedom. Your disengagement with yourself is liberation. Simple! You don't have to be a Saint or recluse to experience LIBERATION - it is right here and right now!!
9. As a meditator, you are both the observer and your own object of observation simultaneously. You start out as a doer who does everything habitually – whether thinking, deciding, or reacting. Mindfulness promotes you as a “watchman” who observes or as a “witness” who merely witnesses. With practice, the role of “witness” takes precedence and the “doer” becomes subordinate. You begin to react less and respond more. It is sign of a real strong personality!
10. Mindfulness weakens the egoistic attitude of “I am doing” or “I am deciding” and frees you from identification and provides space to shape a neutral behavior. It is seeing everything without reference to the concepts of 'me', 'my' or 'mine'. For instance, if there is headache, an ordinary mind would say, "I have a headache." But if trained in mindfulness, you would simply note it as some kind of sensation in the head, rather than labeling them as headache or pain. You are no longer carrying the burden of 'I'. This is a very important shift in the attitude. You learn to see sensations and feelings for what they are - impermanent. Has any headache ever lasted forever?
11. Mindfulness is like sitting beside a river and watching the water flow. You watch the flow of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and tendencies as they appear in the mind and go. It is a dynamic process of examining the flow of life, firmly established in the “here and now”. Mindfulness is all about ‘knowing’ from a safe distance. As opposed to the driving seat of a ‘doer’ you settle down in the backseat as a mere ‘watcher’ or ‘knower.’ You mentally step aside to watch the traffic of desires, cravings and aversions and say, "Oh, this is how things are and this is how I really am." you realize that unless you hook on to them (with likes or dislikes) they merely appear to go away. There is no 'me' in a state of pure mindfulness.
12. Mindfulness is observing the passing flow of experience moment by moment. It is observing all mental-physical phenomena taking place inside right now. It is seeing the true nature of all phenomena – arising, staying for some time, and passing away – impermanence. It is only through actual training in mindfulness you can ‘realize’ impermanence; else it remains an illusory and obscure concept – given by the Buddha and debated by intellectuals. Yes, there is a big difference between ‘knowing’ with the mind and ‘realizing’ with experience. This is exactly the same difference as you find between a preacher who only ‘preaches the words’ and a saint who actually ‘lives the preaching’!
How Mindfulness Benefits You
In mindfulness meditation, your inner universe is your laboratory. You start out as a doer who does everything – thinks, feels, decides and reacts. Mindfulness promotes you as a “witness” who merely observes. With practice, the role of “witness” takes precedence and the “doer” becomes subordinate. You begin to react less and respond more. It gives you freedom and wisdom to shape your behavior.
It leads to improvements in your cognitive functioning; you don’t over generalize (things are actually not that bad), you are aware but don’t react because you can tolerate unpleasant thoughts and feelings. It allows you space and freedom to choose your response as opposed to habitual reactions. The practice of mindfulness relaxes the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) which is believed to be responsible for ‘nerve’ related health problems such as blood pressure, heart disease, digestive tract, chronic pain etc. It also promotes alpha brainwaves and increases heart/brain synchronization.
Mindfulness broadly relates to these four attributes: Impartial watchfulness, choice-less observation, and seeing the reality as it is - in the present moment. It provides you the real perspective and understanding of yourself. The state of mindfulness enables you to see yourself exactly as you are, you see your own selfish behavior, and you clearly see how your likes and dislikes dictate your actions. You begin to realize how you hurt yourself and others.
Mindfulness pierces through the layer of lies that you normally cover yourself with. You clearly see your vulnerable self behind the persona designed to deceive others. As a result, you begin to live more closer to who you really are shedding the burden of artificial living.
- The Mindfulness in Education Network
For efforts to introduce mindfulness in the educational settings
- Why Meditate? | The Chopra Center
Connect daily with your center of stillness for some time. This will make you feel centered and balanced.
- Mindfulness therapy can treat anxiety, depression
Medical science is discovering what the meditators throughout the world already knew for ages. But it is good that the technique is providing relief from human suffering in the West too.