Day 4 – Mindfulness Meditation for the Modern Life, Working with the Mind
We have taken half of the series to explore body and heart before leaping into the experience of the mind. The mind is complex and quite believable so we take time to know what may be residing beneath the thoughts first. Where as the mind may remember what thoughts, emotions or physical sensations we experienced yesterday and can even anticipate into the future, the body and the heart know only what we experience in this moment and help to keep us grounded. The exploration of all these centers of experience and wisdom truly deserve a life-time of discovery.
As we enter the domain of the mind, we already have a sense that though the mind may tell us one thing, the body or heart could be experiencing something quite different. An awareness of the subtle and energetic body is essential in leading a life that will feel more balanced and at ease. The inquiry and insight gathered from a practice of vipassana allows us to do just this.
If you didn’t think you had a knack for story-telling, you might think twice. Pause and listen. Perhaps a story is spinning in your mind right at this moment. We are often telling ourselves stories all day long. Some stories might be accurate, others not so much. Others continue to spin without much notice at all. It is relegated to background noise and subtle self talk that influences us without our full awareness. Here we break that pattern. Instead of unconsciously being led by our stories and our thoughts, we turn to see them clearly in the light of our awareness. We practice the discipline of not adding any further commentary or judgement, always returning to our breath to strengthen our center. Every return to the breath disrupts the reactivity that grows in the absence of awareness. We begin to see rather than believe or identify. Slowly, we will unhook ourselves from old unwholesome habits and mental afflictions that limit how we see ourselves and others. In place of this, we build our capacity for both clarity and kindness. Clarity will strengthen our inner kindness, as kindness feeds our inner clarity.
In addition, the effect of a vipassana or shamatha practice may be a renewed sense of creativity and flow in life. Many of us have had the experience of working hard at a problem with no solution in sight. Sometimes instead of taking time away, we keep working at it to no avail. When we do step away for some given period of time, the solution almost suddenly appears. This time away is equivalent to our pause and centering on our breath. When we continue to charge forward in our perspective, our stories or reactivities, the options going forward begin to feel narrow and limited. We continue to look at situations or problems in the same way. Time apart from this allows us to return with a mind that feels more open and broad.
Enjoy practicing with gentle persistence through the week. Discipline is an important part of the practice. Without discipline, the obstacles will throw us off the path. Continue to set your weekly intentions for practice. Don’t be hard on yourself if you end up skipping. That is your opportunity to bring practice directly into your life by being kind, yet committed to the next opportunity to sit. There are three important qualities to practice with: kindness, patience and humor. Yes, meditation can be light. We don’t have to take everything that comes up so hard and so austerely. Instead, we might think, “Well that was interesting”. There is discipline, but within discipline there lies great gentlemess and humor. The ways in which we get caught up and hooked can be our support for lightening up in life. In the moments of lightness, we remember to smell the air, to feel the sunlight, to be present to both the beauty and mystery in life. With humor and curiosity, enjoy your week of meditation!