About Mindfulness Meditation
Components of Mindfulness Practice
• The ability to concentrate on the breath.
Without the ability to concentrate we may follow the breath for a few seconds and then lose track of it. We may get lost in daydreams, anger, or worry. The traditional word for concentration is Samadhi. Samadhi is so essential that it is sometimes used as a synonym for meditation. In Thai, it is the word for meditation.
• The ability to be present here and now.
Nature is beautiful. Yet, if we are mentally somewhere else, we are not able to enjoy it.
Our partner, our children, and our friends are precious. But to enjoy their company we need to be present.
We spend much energy building the lifestyle we want, and getting the house we want. But if we are not mentally present, we are not there to enjoy them.
when we are in bed and the light is out, we might not be able to sleep unless our mind is also in bed with us. This means that we are not mentally arguing a case before a judge, seeing a client, or teaching a class. We are taking a rest from all that.
• The ability to come to our senses.
Success of failure in mindfulness practice may ultimately depend on this. Are we able to pry our mind loose from its thoughts and bring it to focus on what we are feeling? It may not be possible to stop the mind directly. Instead, we change its focus, and get it to focus on what we are feeling and on the sensations of breathing rather than on what we are thinking. This makes it possible to be aware of the tensions we hold, the stress we have, and let go.
• The ability to remember.
Whether we practice the first three items or not depends on our ability to remember to practice them. First, we have to remember to practice them regularly and out of context just like a musician practices scales. Then, we have to remember to apply the practice to situations in real time and in context, like a musician would do in performance.
• The ability to see the larger picture.
Our default mode of thinking is the survival mode. This puts parent against child, spouse against spouse, and coworkers against each other. ‘You are either for us, or against us,’ as George W. Bush once put it. However, in nature every being takes care of itself, and also fits into an ecological whole. There is harmony as well as strife. We are a leaf, but we are a leaf on the tree of life.
In walking meditation we walk in order to walk. Arriving at a geographical destination is secondary. The destination we are moving towards is “Now”.
Body awareness develops as we coordinate our steps and breaths. As we become more practiced our posture can give us information about our body stress. Where stress has been noted it can be addressed and alleviated. With practice, mindful walking can become a smooth flowing of inter-connected movements. As the harmony between our breathing and steps improves, the harmonious relationship of body and mind will develop. Thich Nhat Hanh once talked of walking meditation as a book with pages stitched together with a thread of mindfulness. Each step is precious. We can look upon our daily life in a similar way, living one step at a time.