Mindfulness Meditation Seminar October, 2009
with Eyton Shalom, M.S., L.Ac.
Mindfulness Meditation comes out of Theravada Buddhism (the Buddhism of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia) In Buddhism it is an aid to experiencing ultimate truth: “seeing things as they are.”
For us mere mortals a regular meditation practice (note the two words, regular and practice) brings peace of mind, deep relaxation, pain reduction, healing of illness, teaches how to be in the moment with self and others, and is a valuable tool for stress management.
Mindfulness is also called Awareness (sati). It is cultivated in a sitting posture, with eyes closed or open, but can also be practiced while walking, driving, washing the dishes, standing, talking, at any time of day, even lying down.
Over time mindfulness leads to Vipassana, or Insight into the Nature of Things. Insight into the Nature of Things is Seeing Things As they Are, not as “we wish they were.” This has enormous implications.
Vipassana practice is not cut off from life. It embraces the “whole catastrophe.” It is not about transcendence, but about deepening, sharpening, and making clearer our deepest levels of experience. by doing so life becomes more comfortable and we achieve greater levels of acceptance. so that we can act with intelligent discrimination, gently, kindly, without causing harm
A fundamental truth of living is that all experience rises and falls, no experience lasts for ever, things are always changing, in flux, as time passes and space changes.
The practice of Mindfulness gives us practical experience of this truth as sensations, feelings, memories, thoughts, and ideas pass through us, while we pay gentle attention.
As we pay attention we may notice that of the objects that arise in our field of consciousness, there are those we find attractive, those we have aversion to, and some, less common, that are neutral. As we gain equanimity, we find that attractive things have less power over us, and adverse things are less disruptive.
Goodwill and generosity are one of the bases of practice. Goodwill puts the mind in an unlimited state. Greed, anger, fear, and delusion create limits.
Identifying with our feelings, thoughts, and sensations creates self imposed limits. Recognizing that feelings and thoughts come and go, have their own life cycle–that its what we add to the initial feelings, fears, angers, etc–the “value added” thinking and holding and tightening and closing, that creates a lot of the discomfort and stress we experience.
The more we practice, the less we identify our thoughts as “ours”, and the more we recognize them as the epiphenomena they are, not so important, just thinking. Then our mind is free for the kind of intentional thinking we would prefer to do. Thinking is not a bad thing. It is what distinguishes us as humans. The issue is one of identification, lack of control, not being present, and much else.
We can counter with limitless goodwill and conscious loving-kindness. While the mind is dwelling on limitless goodwill the mind opens. Keeping the breath in mind we are sensitive.
Sensitivity requires being fully present, fully open to all nervous system information, to what you sense along with the breath. The nervous system opens up, the process of breathing feels circular, and our loads of grievances are unburdened. Now we can ask, is an action or way of being useful or necessary?
Cultivating gentleness with your self and others. As you meditate, the gentler is your breath the more solid the mind gets. Thoughts, feelings, hearings, sensations appear and disappear. The whole body is breathing in. The whole body is breathing out. The more immersed in the breath you become, the more immersed you get in the present.
This is the both the starting and ending point, immersed in the breath, in the present.
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego