Mindfulness meditation explained

Here's my attempt to explain it, mainly so I can clearly differentiate for myself between mindfulness and concentration meditation (explained here). The first thing to note is that there is no specific mindfulness meditation; it is a technique used in both concentration meditation and vipassana meditation (commonly refered to as mindfulness meditation (confusingly)).

Mindfulness, then, is using awareness to observe the activity of the mind (and the impressions of the world on the mind) directly. Most of the time we rely on our brains to interpret reality for us so that we don't need to make any conscious effort ourselves. This is quite handy because our brains screen out a lot of junk that we don't need to know about, but it also leads to problems because we can live in a totally distorted view of what is really happening. This is not good. It's like we form an opinion about the weather by watching weather forecasts rather than by looking out of the window to see for ourselves.

So then, mindfulness meditation is the intentional effort to pay attention to mental phenomena. We set out with the intention to observe something reliable and neutral, typically our breath, and sit there and watch. Within moments we are distracted by thoughts. The thoughts come and go, and then we return to our breath. Perhaps we notice the difference in the quality of our awareness.

As we sit there we may notice other things. Sounds may come to us and we make a mental note - hearing. Back to the breath - in breath, out breath. Are we breathing long? Are we breathing short? We may notice a pain or sensations in the body and we make a note of those. If our mindfulness is strong then we might investigate those sensations - where is the pain? Then perhaps we become lost again.

This is the mindfulness meditation technique; observing, noting, getting lost, coming back, observing something else that arises. If we manage to maintain awareness for long enough then the awareness may settle and then we fall into a state of momentary concentration. We are then at rest in awareness and phenomena come and go effortlessly. This then becomes the launch pad for further inquiry and we start vipassana meditation in earnest.

That'll do for now.


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