Mindfulness is a buzzword these days, thanks to some great Buddhists like Jon Kabat-Zinn, to name one, who have popularised it in the secular world. I’ve been in Buddhist circle for more than a decade and I could see the surge in people’s interest in mindfulness meditation.
One common way people describe mindfulness is it’s bare awareness. It means, one watches whatever comes up without any judgement. I don’t disagree with that, but I feel it doesn’t give it enough credit as what it really is.
Buddhist mindfulness practice actually stems from Noble Eighfold Path – and mindfulness is just one of ouf the eight. The Noble Eightfold Path is essentially “condensed summary” of what Buddhist practice is. They are: (1) Right View (2) Right Thought (3) Right Action (4) Right Speech (5) Right Livelihood (6) Right Effort (7) Right Mindfulness (8) Right Concentration. The first two fall into “wisdom”, the next theee “morality” and the last three “mental cultivation”. So in essence, Buddhists practise all three aspects (wisdom, morality and mental cultivation) together. One aspect supports one another.
So to gain the utmost benefits from mindfulness practice, one will need to cultivate morality and wisdom as well. They can’t be practised in isolation.
Though I would like to focus on the mental cultivation aspect in this musing (otherwise it will be an essay!). I hear a lot teachers or friends advised others to “just watch” anything that arises in the mind. “Just watch”.
This isn’t wrong but I feel it should be put in context. What it means is, one accepts (without wanting nor pushing it away) whatever arises. For those who have been practising for quite some time, this is understandable and doable. But for beginners, I find this may be difficult and perhaps confusing.
So I rather suggest another way: watch how you “just watch”. The main focus shifts from the object to the way one observes. I find this technique not only helps beginners but also seasoned meditators. I personally find this a powerful technique which can help us understand the working of our mind. This isn’t my technique, I learnt this from Ajahn Brahm, and perhaps he’s learnt it from his teachers or his experience. His advice is to watch it with kindness and gentleness. Also to make peace with whatever arising.
Meditation practice has to be coupled with wisdom practice too. In order to be free from suffering, one needs to know what the cause is. This quality of knowing or understanding is wisdom. To be able to know, one will need to investigate. So even when one “just watch”, one needs to watch with wisdom. So when one watches, one also needs to learn from the experience. Although this practice should be done outside of formal sitting practice. When one sits, one should focus on strengthening concentration, because it is supercharge to mindfulness and also it clears the mind so it can see things clearly.
So when you meditate, don’t “just watch” the objects – but rather “watch” how you observe and learn from it. Get to know the working of your mind, just like scientists doing research. Though, a small note, don’t trust everything your mind says. Take it with a grain of salt – be a skeptical scientist. So you won’t take it as truth until it’s proven many many times.
That’s my musing for today. I hope it helps, but if doesn’t feel free to dismiss it. Everyone is welcome to drop some comments as I’d like to know your thoughts too.