Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Mindfulness meditation is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
Mindfulness is an intimate witnessing. We are having an experience at the same time as we are aware of the experience we are having.
Try this short practice of watching thought.
Thoughts are words and images that arise in the area of your brain behind your forehead. Bring your attention to the back of your head as though you are watching thoughts as they arise in your mind. Listen to words and watch the colors and shapes of images.
When you first begin to observe, there will be a few seconds or more of no thought, then something will arise. We notice that some come and go quietly without much response. A thought arises then it dissipates and we again are watching no thought.
Some thoughts come with a train of associations. We remember we are invited to a friend’s house Saturday in honor of a dear friend who is in town for a visit. We may see an image of their face and remember the joy of hugging them. As we are engaged in this train of thoughts, we have a response in our body. We feel a warmth in our heart area and excitement in our stomach. Our thoughts might morph into sadness or feelings of loneliness. We miss them! That has a different energetic feel in our body.
At some point, we remember we are doing a mindfulness practice of observing thought. Oops! We bring our attention to the back of our head and watch as the train of thought dissipates. We focus again on the sensation of air flowing in our nostrils. We relax our shoulders. Thoughts settle and we observe what is coming and going in our mind.
There are two main responses to our thoughts. One is the associated memories that takes us into a train of thoughts. The other is the sensation and feelings that arise in our body.
Mindfulness is a process of observing in the present moment with a goal of staying in the present moment. As soon as we notice we are off into the past, future or we are caught up in an emotion or response, we bring our attention back to observing thought or the breath. We become familiar with our bodymind and its tendencies through this intimate witnessing of our inner experience.
Mindfulness Inquiry is a process of engaging with what is arising with the intention to know more. The Sanskrit term for this is Swadhyaya – study that leads to knowing our true Self. We can study other people’s thoughts and writings or we can go directly to the source.
We store memories in our body as sensations or feelings velcroed to thoughts (words and images). In Mindfulness Inquiry, we notice the energy in our body and welcome it. We attend to the sensations. We invite it to reveal thoughts and memories associated with it.
It is a wonderful surprise to know that the feelings in our body are not here to hurt us. We associate intensity or powerful sensations with danger. It is related but the danger is not FROM the energy. Our feelings are here to warn us of possible danger and to protect us from “going there” where we could be hurt again. This is how the unconscious mind and primitive brain work. Better to be safe than sorry!
In mindfulness inquiry, we are curious. This is embodied practice of revealing ideas and beliefs we have formed through experience. Many of the troubling beliefs are from childhood. I’m not worthy. There is something fundamentally wrong with me.
We look from awareness and see what arises. We become familiar with the transitory nature of our stored material and beliefs. We intimately witness the integrated mindbody experience of thoughts and energy. We know what is flowing through in the space of awareness and we begin to know the space itself.
Scott Kiloby: “Mindfulness is all about living in the present moment and not being entangled in thoughts of past and future.” Scott has developed a unique and effective mindfulness-based program called Natural Rest for Addiction.
Greater Good Berkeley: “Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”