Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Mindfulness Meditation: Why Be Mindful?

By Berniegourley @berniegourley

IMG_0430“Why be mindful?” That was the question asked to the group assembled at the Thubten Lekshey Ling Tibetan Buddhist meditation center on Sunday.

We had just completed a couple of rounds of mindfulness meditation. We’d been told that there are four themes of mindfulness meditation, but there can be variations on each. First, there is mindfulness of the body. This was the first type of meditation that we practiced. It isn’t about recognizing the body as an object so much as a field of perceptions.

Second, there is mindfulness of one’s feelings or sensations, in other words, mindfulness of the outside world as perceived by our sense organs. We did a meditation in which we were mindful of sound in particular. The key, we were told, was to hear everything–even the sound of silence. “Listening to the sound of silence” may sound like an oxymoron, but it makes sense as one experiences it. When one thinks in terms of hearing sounds, one begins to actively try to “catch” a sound. One may even try to anticipate sounds, particularly sounds in series–like a roofer using a nail-gun on a nearby roof. This active listening, rather than hearing, is not what one wants.

We also did a mindful eating/tasting exercise. We ate a tiny bit of snack mix. The whole processing taking many times what it normally does to shovel a bit of snack into one’s mouth and wolf it down. The food was raised to one’s face, experienced, placed in one’s mouth, experienced, chewed, experienced, and swallowed.

Third, there is meditation on the mind. That is, one watches one’s thoughts. We didn’t do one of these meditations. However, I’ve tried it in the past, and I find this particularly difficult . Watching thoughts go by as if they were rising bubbles or logs floating on a river suggests a division between the observing mind and the thought-producing mind. Recognition of the thought intrudes upon it, and this becomes a whole new line of thought.

Finally, there is meditation on emotion. We did not do one of these in this session either.

Our final meditation was another type of meditation on the body, but it was a moving meditation. We walked and experienced the motion of the body as it moved through the room. I particularly enjoyed this.

However, before the last meditation, we discussed this question of “why be mindful?” I had my own ideas, which I shared. Others had their own ideas, some closer and others farther from my own thinking, but all thought-provoking and valid.

My own thoughts were two-fold. First, mindfulness allows one to be more stable and grounded. Fear is about the future and anger and sadness are about the past. In the present one is neither afraid nor fearful. Second, by being mindful, we can come to see problems before they tumble out of control. We can catch our angry thoughts and dissect them before they do us harm. We can recognize the subtle problems with our bodies before they come full-blown ailments.

Of course, as a martial artist, I had always thought in other terms about mindfulness. There’s no time at the speed of combat to consciously recognize and consciously respond to attacks, one must be mindful to have any hope of surviving a surprise attack.

By in Buddhism, mind, Religion, wisdom on October 8, 2013.

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