Brief notes on Mindfulness

Mindfulness gives you the ability to stay with what you decide you are going to do and not get caught up in other things, this is one of the most useful skills that regular mindfulness practice develops.

Why practice mindfulness?

The latest research on mindfulness meditation using colour MRI brain scans is rather surprising. If a researcher has a 100 brain scans they can tell to 95 percent accuracy who meditates. Considering that in meditation you do not use much thinking the results are surprising. The main conclusion of the research is that in meditation more of the brain is refreshed with oxygen and more of it is available for use and then it is used more efficiently.

Having a clear sense of direction.

Mindfulness practice is particularly effective for giving yourself new directions and following that direction. It develops the ability to be wholehearted and fully behind what you are doing and to be clear that is what you want to be doing.

The quality of awareness

An important direction is pointing yourself in the direction of the kind of awareness which is experiential rather than dominated by just thought and commentary about what is happening.

Having a whole, connected and directed sense of yourself.

This kind of awareness includes all aspects of your body and mind in relationship to each other.

Primary intentions in relationship to being aware.

  • To explore what is here.
  • Come into the experience of it.
  • Stay with a sense of continuity of the experience so it can grow and develop or be let go of.
  • To be in the point of interaction and connection between the body and mind. For the body this includes  all it’s senses and for the mind it includes the richness of the mind- All forms of thinking, General moods and emotion the imagination and intuition.

Awareness always makes a difference

The basic meditation.

We will use this format of meditation all through the course to draw out and explore the main topics.

First Intentions; Take a few moments to bring to mind your general direction and intentions in the meditation.

  • To explore what is here
  • Come into the experience
  • Stay with with a sense of continuity of the experience.
  • Explore the particular topic of the course, eg: openess.

Exploring the whole sense of yourself sitting here

  • The basic question is How do I feel?
  • Being open to the whole range of body and mind experiences
  • Asking, What else is here. Going beyond the obvious.

Paying attention to the body

  • You can start by exploring the sensations in the whole lower part of the body from the feet up to the waist
  • Then having a sense of the upper body from the waist-up
  • . Then coming into an awareness of your face and nostrils.
  • Then with an in-breath follow the breath into the lungs and the experience of the breath from the inside.

The Breath

  • Firstly noticing all the sensations, feelings and qualities in the torso area which are the result of  the  natural breathing process.
  • The whole sense of the breath as a continuous experience as it comes in and goes out.
  • Paying attention to the particular obvious sensations which are caused by the breathing process.
  • The nostrils, the particular sensations as the breath comes in and out.

Finishing

  • Coming back to a sense of the whole body
  • Having the intention to keep a sense of continued presence and awareness.

Taking the initiative

This is about having the ability to consistently keep the initiative and follow through on what you are doing once you have decided to do something.

If you decide to apply yourself to do one thing like paying attention to the sensations of the breath does your mind randomly shoot off after a few seconds, can you consistently stay with what you want to stay with? If your mind has wondered off on it’s own accord without you having decided to do that can you honestly say you are doing what you want?

So just reflect on this and the general  implications for your life

Sustaining a chosen course of action or direction

Doing meditation exercises like the ones we are doing on this course can help you see to what degree your attention hops about randomly without a clear sense of direction. This awareness of what actually happens when you put your mind to something gives you the possibility of assessment and choice in the moment

Determination and resolve to practise mindfulness

Together with the main intention to pay attention to something like the breath you can  also hold subsidiary intentions which support that main intention. These supportive intentions can be conscious and developed over time.

Some examples of qualities and skills which can be included in your intentions to stay with the breath.

Determination:
This is about an attitude to keep going when there is a tendency to give up, either when things seem fine and dandy and complacency sets in, or if things are hard to do and you want something easier.

Gentle persistence: keeping going with the process of staying with your attention on the breath, gentleness rather than  hard forcing is the main quality.

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Developing a broad range of sense experience and objectivity about our situation

There are always sensations of pleasure and pain going on in our body to different degrees but an unconscious filtering process can over-ride our actual experiences so we don’t feel them, even though they are still going on. You can use your meditation and general mindfulness practice to broaden your range of experience in terms of the sensations of pleasure and pain. In the practice of mindfulness you come back to the direct experience of what is actually happening and develop a capacity and ability to stay with a wide range of experience without cutting off from what is actually going on or adding an unrealistic mental interpretation of what is going on.

An important aspect of this direct and broad experience of sensations is that it gives you the ability to notice when your mind and emotions adds to what is happening by building up an interpretation and story about what is happening and start to take you out of objective awareness. From a series of more difficult sensations it is possible that  a momentum of pessimistic and morose states of mind can take you over without you at first noticing it, this slide can make you feel down and out of touch with a wider perspective which might include positive potential. The wider the range of actual sensations is the more likely you will catch the tendency to fall into or build a negative story about what is happening.

On the other hand a series of pleasurable experiences can trigger an unrealistic and over optimistic view of your situation in which you also miss the whole picture. You can get into an excited over ebullient state which is not based on what is actually happening and also miss the bigger picture.

The steps and stages of making plans in a mindful way

  • Clear the mind of random busyness by using focus on the breath, Check periodically whether unconnected thoughts have arisen, clear them and come back to the topic.
  • Connect to a broad sense of yourself especially the sense of the torso, stay with this through the whole process.
  • Have a clear sense and basic idea of what the project is.

You are going to decide on 2 or 3 steps of a plan, each of which is defined by a word or simple phrase.

  • Staying connected with the torso drop in the question, what is the first step? Be open to a word or simple phrase which characterises the stage. Check does it fit.
  • Then the same process for the 2nd and 3rd stage,
  • Check that the 2 or 3 stages connect and relate to each other.
  • Commit to the steps and decide not to jump off the plan randomly.
  • Stay with the steps but after a while on the basis of mindfulness assess whether the plan needs adjusting, adjust it consciously with clear choice.
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