I am starting a number of mindfulness courses these days and so the first posts this week will be on the basics of practice. However, in a sense, we all start over each day, each new week, each moment, discovering how little we actually like to be in the present moment….
Cultivating mindfulness is not unlike the process of eating. It would be absurd to propose that someone else eat for you. And when you go to a restaurant, you don’t eat the menu, mistaking it for the meal, nor are you nourished by listening to the waiter describe the food. You have to actually eat the food for it to nourish you. In the same way, you have to actually practice mindfulness in order to reap its benefits and come to understand why it is so valuable.
Jon Kabat Zinn
There is a difference between watching the mind and controlling the mind. Watching the mind with a gentle, open attitude allows the mind to settle down and come to rest. Trying to control the mind, or trying to control the way one’s spiritual practice will unfold, just stirs up more agitation and suffering.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness
Thoughts can be our best friends and our worst enemies. When they make us feel that the entire world is against us, every perception, every encounter, and the world’s very existence become sources of torment. It is our thoughts themselves that rise up as enemies. They stampede through our mind in droves, each one creating its own little drama of ever-increasing confusion. Nothing is right outside because nothing is right inside. When we get a close look at the tenor of our everyday thoughts, we realize the extent to which they color the inner film that we project onto the world….. According to Andrew Solomon, “In depression, all that is happening in the present is the anticipation of pain in the future, and the present qua present no longer exists at all.” The inability to manage our thoughts proves to be the principal cause of suffering. Learning to tone down the ceaseless racket of disturbing thoughts is a decisive stage on the road to inner peace.
Matthieu Ricard, Happiness
Meditation isn’t really about getting rid of thoughts;
it’s about changing the pattern of grasping on to things,
which in our everyday experience is our thoughts.
If you need something to do in meditation , then watch the breathing. This is a very simple process. When you are breathing out, know that you are breathing out. When you breath in, know that you are breathing in, without supplying any kind of extra commentary or internalized mental gossip, but just identifying with the breath.
[Learning to meditate…..] is like a child who is learning to write. At first she doesn’t write nicely – big, long loops and squiggles – she writes like a child. After a while the writing improves through practice. Practicing meditation is like this. At first you are awkward… sometimes calm, sometimes not, you don’t really know what’s what. Some people get discouraged. Don’t slacken off! You must persevere with the practice. Live with effort, just like the child: as she gets older she writes better and better. From writing badly she grows to write beautifully, all because of the practice from childhood.