What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t). – James Baraz
Instead of living in the virtual world of thoughts, beliefs, judgments and stories, we are connected to the life within and around us. The practice of living mindfully, helps us notice the moments when we've left this vibrant, body and compassionate heart.
Life becomes more than just a moving from one activity to the next and the next. We pause, to actually be with what we're experiencing moment to moment. Instead of living consumed in the world of thoughts, we live in a vibrant, alive, aware space; the world of living, loving and dying. We stop avoiding certain experiences and feelings and instead learn to open to life; connecting with wisdom (clear seeing) and compassion.
The Different Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Formal Seated Meditation
We sit on a chair or cushion, for a certain period of time with the intention to be present with our moment to moment experience. We observe and sense what is happening in mind, body and heart as different moods, emotions, thoughts, sensations arise. We learnt o be with what is happening instead of reacting to it.
We deliberately slow down our automatic fast pace of walking and bring our attention to the activity of walking. Feeling the interplay of being embodied, as well as noticing when our attention drifts into thoughts. Gently bringing our attention back to the activity of walking, helps us cultivate concentration and stability of mind.
We pause before eating, we give gratitude to all the living beings and the earth that provided the food. As we eat, we set aside all distractions to be with the activity of eating. Taking in the nourishment of the food and learning to be with the sense experience of eating. We are present to witness the flow of attention.
In Daily Life
We intentionally pause throughout the day to notice what is happening internally. What is the breath like, what are the quality and mood in the mind, is there ease, tension in the body, can you feel the sensation of the breath, what is it like in the external world. Mindfulness allows us to see how the external and internal world are intricately linked.
Pausing to feel yourself here in this moment, body, heart mind without judgment is a simple way of practicing in daily life.
You can use Tara Brach's Sacred Pause as a daily practice. This is a short guided meditation that acts as an invitation to connect with what is happening in the present moment. A checking in to connect with this vibrant aliveness, innate goodness and compassion that is always accessible.
Retreats offer participants an opportunity to deepen their understanding and experiential practice of mindfulness. As we practice meditation, we learn to train and calm the mind and open the heart to compassion.
During retreats, we let go of outside distractions and focus our attention on developing our ability to observe the movements of the mind. We open to what is happening in the present moment; thoughts, sensations, emotions, perceptions are seen and experienced, often for the first time. In opening to our felt, alive experience in this way, we connect with the wisdom and compassion that is able to respond in ways that reconnect us with life, compassion and joy. We learn to see when we are reacting in ways that are unskillful and lead to suffering. As we witness and sense this suffering, we learn how to respond in ways that are skillful and lead to a liberation of mind and a compassionate response to life.
During retreat there are alternate periods of sitting, walking and eating meditation as well as breaks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The retreat is usually held in Noble Silence which helps us to deepen the meditative state, gain insight and increase our capacity to meet challenges with compassion.
Our upcoming 3 day Mindfulness retreat in January 5th-7th, will take place at the Casa San Carlos Retreat Center in Delray Beach, Fl. To register for the event click here.
Joining a Sangha or Spiritual Community Can Help
Learn to bring curiosity to the places that are difficult
Begin to notice how views, beliefs and opinions close off the mind and heart
How defensiveness affects the body, mind and heart and how to open our hearts to what is in need of attention.
As we practice in community and walk this path together the feeling of being a separate self dissolves.
Develop a consistent practice, strengthens our ability to be present with all of life's experiences (joy, sorrow, etc)
Learn to shift from reacting in ways that divide and hurt us, to responding in ways that connect and heal.
We also gain spiritual friends along the way and this is where the practice helps open our hearts. As it's in relationship that we're wounded, so it's in relationship that we can heal. Spiritual community offers us something that is valuable beyond material wealth. It opens up the possibility of learning how to live with a mind that is spacious and open and a heart that responds to pain with compassion and kindness.