Engagement with a personal mindfulness practice enables an investigation on a personal level of what arises during moments of inattention (mindlessness or automatic pilot) and during moments of mindfulness as kindly attention is brought to the unfolding of experience, and through the recognition of the universal nature of these mind patterns. In this way, trainees are engaging in an exploration of the general vulnerability that we all carry by nature of being human. Mindfulness practice and teaching illuminate our understanding of the traits (shared by all humans) that tend us towards unhappiness and distress (for example, our use of language, our ability to operate in automatic pilot and to move our thought processes into the past and the future, and our physiological response to threat that does not discriminate between internal and external stimuli). The practice also offers us a way of working with these traits — enabling us to recognise them for what they are, thus reducing our tendency to add suffering to unavoidable pain.
Williams, J. M. G. (2008). Mindfulness, depression and modes of mind. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 721–733.
The importance of bringing “kindly attention” to one’s experience cannot be under-stated. This morning, in my meditation practice I noticed how difficult it was for me to stay with the breath. I tried using counting, but could not get past “one”. With some resignation, I noticed striving, I noticed frustration, I noticed my deep desire to be in a place of peace that would put me in a positive frame of mind for the day ahead (I had woken feeling a bit stale and crabby).
My wise mind encouraged me to say it as I was experiencing it, and so the diatribe went some thing like this: “This is not satisfying, I am not getting anything out of this, I want to relax into being but I’m such a hopeless meditator that I can’t let go of my planning mind long enough to get past #1! Damn this; this is not what I want!!”
And then I felt myself melt inside. There was a softening, a release, a beautiful and gentle holding of what was. My whole body softened, inside and out, as I let go, effortlessly. I was transformed through allowing what was alive in me. I see how hard it is for me to let my ‘jackals’ speak, and yet how important it is, in order to be able to really be with what is.
When we experience what is in our mind, even if it is not ‘pretty’, we have the opportunity to offer it “kindly attention”, and then it can be released. Conversely, if we hide what is really alive inside, it gets buried and it will not shift.
Can’t wait to get back on the cushion 🙂