What is mindfulness meditation? There are lots of different kinds of meditation; some with a mantra, a visualization, or sound. Some meditations help us relax, some are for exploring altered states of consciousness. Mindfulness meditation can include everything, for it’s is about moment-to-moment awareness of what is. It’s not meant to make us different or better than we already are – the point is to awaken our boundless innate natural wisdom.
We do this by observing ourselves, by being alert and curious, by bringing attention to this very moment of embodied existence. And we do this in the spirit of loving awareness, wanting to understand rather than to criticize, compare or judge, Attentive to the felt sense of breathing, to the sounds of life around us, to the sensations in the body, and the flow of thoughts and feelings, we sit quietly in the here and now. Each time we notice that the mind has meandered away into the past or future, this very noticing is a moment of mindfulness! Mind-wandering isn’t a sign of being a bad meditator. Each time we realize we’ve been lost in thought is is a moment to rejoice, for we’re strengthening mindfulness. This is the training. We’re finding our way, seeing what’s true, right as it’s unfolding.
In meditation, we set aside all other activities to be still and rest in simply being as we are. When we get up from meditation and go about our daily life, we practice being mindful internally (of our own mind states) and externally (sensitive to others and our environment). The difference between meditating and mindfulness in daily life is like the difference between your formal yoga practice on the mat and all the rest of your life. They inspire and infuse each other, they inter-are.
Why is mindfulness so popular? Because it works. The only drawback is that in order for it to work, we have to actually practice! Mindfulness shows us how to find refuge and renewal within ourselves so we can help out in this increasingly interdependent, fragile world. When we’re a little bit mindful about ourselves, we can show up, take each others’ hands, and care for this life we love.
I love mindfulness because it can go anywhere. No suffering is too crazy, too weird, too scary, too sad, too upsetting, too tragic, too overwhelming or too huge for mindfulness to know and embrace. Mindfulness gives me the courage to meet whatever life brings with clarity and compassion. Mindfulness shows me how to respond to pain without closing my heart.
A moment of mindfulness is a moment of freedom! We don’t have to get rid of our thoughts in order to be free, we learn not to always believe or be preoccupied by them. When we allow all our thoughts to simply arise and dissolve, inside and outside merge into a poignant, vivid, wordless oneness. Please come see for yourself!
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Trudy Goodman Kornfield, PhD., is is a Vipassana teacher in the Theravada lineage. She is the Founding Teacher of InsightLA, the first center dedicated to training in both contemporary mindfulness teachings and Buddhist meditation. Integrating real-life experience with the ancient teachings, Trudy teaches residential retreats and mindfulness internationally, from Asia to Africa.
Trudy has trained in both meditation and psychotherapy. She is co-founder and Guiding Teacher of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and a contributing author of Clinical Handbook of Mindfulness (Springer, 2008); Compassion and Wisdom in Psychotherapy, (Guilford Press, 2011); and Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, (Guilford Press, 2013).