Understanding Mindfulness Meditation
There is a misconception about mindfulness meditation. It seems to have become a buzzword and served with an unhealthy dollop of fantasy.
As a result, people try meditation, mindfulness or mindfulness meditation, and when it doesn’t do what the fantasy writers say it will do, they give up and dismiss it as nonsense.
So today, I’m going to explain exactly what you can expect from mindfulness/meditation and throw in a few tips along the way.
You will have read this about mindfulness meditation before: mindful meditation has many health benefits and can improve your relationships, wealth and general well-being.
All this is true, but before you reap the benefits, you need to understand what mindfulness meditation is and the various ways of doing it properly. You then have to practice mindfulness and meditation on a daily basis for it to have any real effect.
The good news is you already meditate without even realising it. All you really need to learn are new habits so that you consciously perform mindfulness throughout the day.
Busting the myths of mindfulness meditation
When meditation – or mindfulness – is mentioned to some people, they instantly repeal it as spiritual bullshit. But mindfulness meditation is far from being a pretentious exercise practiced by oddballs who believe in fairies.
Furthermore, you don’t have to sit in a traditional lotus posture to practice meditation. You can meditate whilst sitting upright in a chair, laying down, standing up, walking, on a bus, ironing, washing the pots or anywhere else where you have the chance to bring your mind to rest.
Opinions about mindfulness – and opinions on many other topics people have – are often unfounded. People are quick to demolish meditation and anything remotely different to general views of life even though they have no knowledge or experience about the subject.
Subsequently, there is a misconception of what meditation is because it has been built up as some grandiose experience you can have that is akin to flying through space.
But in reality, the experience you have during meditation is whatever your imagination can conjure.
Meditation is actually just another way of saying ‘concentration.’ Mindfulness is merely directing your attention so that you are consciously in control of your thoughts, emotions and actions.
Now you don’t have to believe in fairies to want to be in control of your emotions, thoughts and actions do you; after all, emotions, thoughts and actions are the triangle of manifestation where all life’s magic – and tragedies – are born.
What is mindfulness?
The key element to mindfulness is being consciously aware of the experience you are having in each moment. It involves giving your full attention to whatever it is you are doing at any given time.
Mindfulness is divine attention – not divided attention.
Living in the moment is another one of those buzzwords that make people scoff. And yes, it is hard to do in every moment of the day. But with practice, you eventually accrue a sense of just being. A human being, not a human doing.
Of course, there are times when you need to pay attention to external influences, such as crossing the road. But there is no reason for you to be thinking about what you need to buy at the supermarket whilst you are in the shower, for example.
There is no need to worry about the future before today is over. There is no reason for you to repeat a conversation in your head and wish you had said something else. There is certainly no reason to let your monkey mind chatter to you when you need to sleep.
But we all do these things. We do these things out of habit. Our brain is trained to talk, worry, stress, and run away with our higher-conscious thoughts. Mindfulness meditation is a means of training your brain to be peaceful.
When your mind is at peace, your inner world is at peace; thus your outer world is at peace.
There are plenty of occasions throughout the day where you can keep your mind still. I mentioned some above. Add to that list, driving, shopping, cooking, exercising, cleaning, making love. When you’re mind is still in these situations, you perform better.
No matter how much you think about what you need from the supermarket when you’re in the shower, you still forget something, right!
Worry, stress, anger, irritation and all the other nuances the mind is prone to are not good for your mental or physical health. On the contrary, a restless mind is a threat to your general well-being, relationships and happiness. Furthermore, it attracts negative things into your life rather than positive things.
How the unconscious mind works
There are varying degrees of consciousness that cloud our understanding of reality so it helps to know how the unconscious mind works in relation to the subconscious and the ego.
Basically, the unconscious mind conjures a thought or feeling that is stored from our experiences since birth – and in the collective unconscious. Edgar Cayce called this the Akashic Records. Plato called this phenomenon, innate ideas.
The unconscious feeds our sub-conscious mind which processes the information based on believes we currently hold and passes them on to the conscious mind – the ego. The ego thus receives information from our higher conscious or our lower conscious.
The ego then makes a decision. You have the choice to listen to your higher conscious or your lower conscious. We generally choose what we know based on emotions – which is often a habit from the lower conscious. Oftentimes these actions no longer serve you.
The higher conscious mind usually gives us new information from the collective unconscious of Akashic records. This is where true wisdom is stored. But it is only when the mind is still that we notice when new information comes from the higher conscious mind.
This is why we need to still the mind and listen to the answers to questions we ask ourselves.
Buddhism teaches that mindfulness is about living in the moment; or more precisely, being fully and consciously aware of the moment. To be mindful is to be in touch with the reality of truth.
The Vietnamese writer and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says: “In mindfulness, one is not only restless and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”
It is possible to cultivate inner peace by being mindful. You can control your attention, therefore you can control mindfulness. You have to be deliberately concentrating on whatever you are doing.
For example, when you are in the shower, be consciously aware of the water. The sensation it leaves against your skin, the temperature. Smell the soap. Trying to smell the water really focuses the mind.
If your mind is thinking about all the things you have to do that day, you are not consciously aware of the moment. You are distracting yourself from living in the now.
When you are not mindful of the present you are out of touch with reality.
However, should you choose to be fully conscious of the moment – feel the water, smell the soap, feel the sensation of the sponge against your bare skin – when you consciously notice all this, you experience the moment without any restrictions or limitations of consciousness…
…this is when you have a whole brain experience, your mind is at rest, you feel inner peace and ready to tackle the day.
Meditation can be used for self-reflection. It is in moments of mindfulness when you observe the Self. When you meditate, you become the observer.
The Upanishads teach us that in an absolute conscious state of being we are not our mind and body, but the observer of our mind and body.
When you become the observer, your body talks to you. When you feel a twinge in a muscle, or a slight pain in a vital organ, maybe an itch somewhere, all these sensations are subtle signs from your body telling you something is wrong. Or maybe right.
If the sensation is felt on the left side of your body, it is typically a sign something is wrong. Same goes for your vital organs. The right side of your body is a good sign. Listen to your body. It’s usually warning you of an imminent illness if you do not resolve emotional issues that are blocking your flow of energy.
This, of course, is a metaphysical view, and if you believe meditation is for fairy believers, there is no way you will believe your body sends signals about blocked emotions you need to address. You will have to take my word for it. It is true. It is the unconscious mind trying to tell your conscious mind to change.
Therefore, to cultivate inner peace, and improve your health, learn to still the mind. Be in control of your mind, do not let mind control you. Observe your state of being. Ask yourself this: How peaceful do you feel when you are just observing something?
How to do mindfulness meditation
When you watch your mind in meditation, you will notice how thoughts drift in and out. You may also notice how thoughts can provoke the mind to wander, to chatter, to analyse; thoughts may even whip your mind into a frenzy.
This is what Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind.’ The subconscious mind that records our past experiences and tricks us into thinking the conscious mind is all powerful. But the subconscious mind usually feeds the conscious mind with old values that no longer serve us.
The ego has very little power over the unconscious if you do not know how the mind works. But essentially, the conscious mind is the decision maker. It can decide to refocus what you think about and what you need to concentrate on.
It also has control over the monkey mind. You can stop the chatter once you learn how to take control of your mind rather than letting the monkey mind control you. Alternatively, teach the monkey new tricks, throw it fresh bananas.
You need to read to gather information and have new experiences to know anything. Otherwise, your monkey mind has little knowledge other than the crap it is already programmed with. Until you have information and learn new experiences, you have no knowledge. All you have is opinion.
Plato said: “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”
The more knowledge you have, the less ignorant you are. So if you have never tried mindfulness meditation, don’t dismiss it as spiritual bullshit. Learn to do mindfulness properly, and you will reap the benefits.
Your higher conscious mind has all the wisdom you ever need. And you can easily connect to your higher-conscious self. You do not have to meditate in a seated lotus position to tap into your reservoir of wisdom.
Another Plato quote: “When the mind is thinking, it is talking to itself…thinking is the talking of the soul with itself.”
This is where the magic trick starts: ask yourself a question with a thought and you will receive a response by way of another thought.
However, to perform this trick properly you have to know whether the replying thought has come from the higher unconscious mind or the subconscious monkey mind.
You know this only through the practice of mindfulness. So learn to stop thinking. Every day, take time to do nothing.
A quick trick to cultivate the art of non-thinking. Stare at something for one minute. When, or if, a thought enters your mind, say ‘Stop’ and empty your mind.
The more you practice non-thinking, the stronger the mind becomes. The longer you keep your mind still, the more you pay attention to one thing. Your intention – your question. That is when you know the answer comes from your higher consciousness, and with experience, you will be able to sense that through feeling.
Mindfulness teaches us to rein in our thoughts, to stop overthinking, to stop worrying, to stop self-doubting etc. As a result, we become more confident, less anxious, calmer and more compassionate etc.
If you do find it difficult to stop the internal chatter, use it to your benefit. Rather than allowing your mind to run away with thoughts, focus on the thoughts you are having in relation to your question.
You may have to unravel memories like peeling an onion, but eventually, you should come to a point of self-realisation. This is another way of meditating – staying focused on your one thought and analysing it.
For example, you may ask a question in meditation and immediately remember an incident from your distant past. Rather than dismissing that thought or allowing your mind to become distracted, ask yourself why are you having that thought. What relation does it bear to your intention? Talk it through with yourself.
And be honest. Think about what you did to affect the outcome of the incident you are thinking of. Or what lesson you learned from the person you are thinking of. The memory is your unconscious trying to tell you something.
Remember this: every experience we have is so you can learn something about yourself.
One of the most beneficial exercises of mindfulness meditation is self-examination. When you find the true essence of yourself, you can heal past traumas and find inner bliss.
Furthermore, by learning to sharpen your mind, you will begin to see through the veil of illusion and into the heart of Truth. Armed with wisdom, others will look to you for answers in any given situation.
So do you want to take control of your life and be a leader; or do you want to follow the blind that leads the blind?
Turn on your inner light and you see the world with more clarity!