Welcome to life, awareness of the here and now. Place your awareness into the body,
because the body always exists in the present moment.
Interrupt the normal operations of the thinking mind and of normal patterns of mental
and emotional activity. Focus the attention. By taking control of the conscious
mind, we are in a sense taking control of the ego, since the conscious mind is a
large and integral part of the ego.
One is taming, training, and relaxing the ego; and thereby reducing its tendencies
to take care of one’s interests exclusively; to compete and compare with others;
to give way unquestioningly to the emotions/desire/aversion; and to employ subconscious
ego defenses. It is not surprising that meditation promotes calm and restfulness.
... the true nature of the mind ... the union of awareness and openness.
Tulku Thondup – “The Healing Power of Mind”
Thinking and observing. Talking and listening. Doing and knowing.
The attention can only be on one thing at a time. Your mind can think, or it can
observe, but it can’t do both at once. We cannot talk and listen at the same time.
In order that we can observe, the thinking, evaluating, reacting, analysing mind
has to be made quiet.
Learning mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is a skill that you gradually learn rather than a set of ideas, but it
helps to know some theory.
In order to learn mindfulness meditation, you need to find an experienced teacher.
One place to look is your local Buddhist centre.
Calmness and insight meditation
The mind can never stop working. Consciousness has to have an object, which means
it has contact with that object and there are emotions about the object. In calmness
meditation, attention is focused on one point (for example: breathing; or the feel
of feet slowly walking on the ground). In insight meditation (vipassana) we also
observe the mental phenomena that arise during calmness meditation, in order to learn
about them. What arises is relevant for us, otherwise it would not arise, and since
it is relevant for us, it is worth learning about. All conscious phenomena come
with their accompanying emotions of likes and dislikes (except for the most neutral
possible phenomena like breathing or slow footsteps), and it is necessary to examine
each emotion in terms of its goals and the object that is promoting or hindering
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR MIND AND HOW YOU THINK. This is called neuroplasticity. ...
Scientific evidence has shown that neurons (brain cells) can rewire and change patterns
throughout your lifetime as a result of your experiences and how you think about
But it takes time to alter your habits of thinking; ... It takes intentional concentration
and repetition over time. You can change but only if you make the effort not to
do the same old thing, the same old way, day in and day out. You, and the way you
see the world, are the architect of how your brain is mapped. ...
We can, with certain practices such as mindfulness, actually have some control over
the chemicals in our brains that drive us to stress, to anxiety and even to happiness.
This remarkable organ in our heads holds infinite wisdom but so few of us know how
to use it. It’s similar to having a Ferrari except no one gave you the keys.
The reality is that the demanding voice in our heads is not who we are, it plays
a very small part in the big scheme of things. What’s really running you is a million,
trillion gigabyte-powered engine room in your brain, managed by your DNA, that instructs
hormones, memories, muscles, blood, organs and really everything that happens inside
you to ensure that you survive at all costs, and not that stupid inner monologue
about why you’re too fat to wear tights.
My aim ... is to show you how to become the master of your mind and not the slave.
If you learn how to self-regulate your moods, emotions and thoughts, and focus your
mind on what you want to pay attention to rather than be dragged into distraction,
you might just reach that illusive thing called happiness.
... The point is still to experience feelings, even positive ones as transitory;
they all pass so you're not aiming at holding onto a feeling of beatific bliss but
of equanimity, of 'going with the flow'.
Ruby Wax – “Sane New World – taming the mind”
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Mindfulness is defined as non-judgmental awareness in the present moment. It stems
from ancient Theravada Buddhist philosophy and Indian yoga traditions of samaadhi
as a means of gaining personal insight into the meaning of life, the true nature
of existence and to achieve long-lasting happiness. There are two primary aspects
to mindfulness: the first is attention to one’s immediate experience and the second
is an orientation to approaching life experiences with a sense of curiosity, acceptance
and openness. Mindfulness is cultivated through meditative practices that focus
on attention regulation (sustained attention to internal and external stimuli such
as smells, sounds, feelings and emotions), bodily awareness and non-reactivity to
inner experiences (allowing thoughts and emotions to come and go without being caught
up with them). Mindfulness encompasses a variety of practices such as meditation,
visualizing, focused thought, deep breathing, nature connectedness and artistic self-expression
that are unified in their application of critical first-person attention, focus and
intention to the present moment. Existing research demonstrates that mindfulness
promotes well-being, stimulates positive emotions and lowers stress-related symptoms
such as anxiety, pain, substance abuse and depression.
Srividya Ramasubramanian – “Mindfulness, stress coping and everyday resilience among
emerging youth in a university setting: a mixed methods approach”: International
Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 2016
Stanford psychologist and meditation teacher Kelly McGonigal, PhD, describes recent
research in how meditation practice changes the brain and reduces suffering, including
physical pain and depression. Presented at the Buddhist Geeks conference in Los
Angeles, CA, July 30, 2011.
Mindfulness – Prof Mark Williams Lecture
Science Oxford Live March 2012. Professor Mark Williams from Oxford University delivers
a lecture to the public about the science of mindfulness.
Neuroscientist Sara Lazar's amazing brain scans show meditation can actually change
the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathetic,
compassionate, and resilient under stress.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Seven Attitudinal Factors of mindfulness
According to Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, Seven Attitudinal Factors constitute the major pillars
of mindfulness practice. It is recommended to read Dr Kabat-Zinn’s book “Full Catastrophe
Living” which brought considerable awareness of mindfulness practice to the secular
sector and even brought mindfulness meditation into the mainstream health sector
generating successful results.
Those Seven Factors are:
A beginner’s mind
The Way of Mindfulness
[if] you are not focusing on your current experience, and you are not really in touch
with the “here and now” ... this way of operating is often referred to as automatic
Mindfulness is the opposite of automatic pilot mode. It is about experiencing the
world that is firmly in the “here and now”. This mode is referred to as the being
mode. It offers a way of freeing oneself from automatic and unhelpful ways of thinking
Benefits of Mindfulness
By learning to be in mindful mode more often, it is possible to develop a new habit
that helps to weaken old, unskillful, unhelpful and automatic thinking habits. For
people with emotional problems, these old habits can involve being overly preoccupied
with thinking about the future, the past, themselves, or their emotions in a negative
way. Mindfulness training in this case does not aim to immediately control, remove,
or fix this unpleasant experience. Rather, it aims to develop a skill to place you
in a better position to break free of or not “buy into” these unhelpful habits that
are causing distress and preventing positive action.
Core Features of Mindfulness:
The first major element of mindfulness involves observing your experience in a manner
that is more direct and sensual (sensing mode), rather than being analytical (thinking
mode). A natural tendency of the mind is to try and think about something rather
than directly experience it. Mindfulness thus aims to shift one's focus of attention
away from thinking to simply observing thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations (e.g.
touch, sight, sound, smell, taste) with a kind and gentle curiosity.
This aspect of mindfulness relates to noticing the very fine details of what you
are observing. For example, if you are observing something like a tangerine, the
aim is to describe what it looks like, what is its shape, colour, and texture. You
might place a descriptive name to it, like “orange”, “smooth”, or “round”. The same
process also can be applied to emotions (e.g. “heavy”, “tense”).
An aim of mindfulness is to allow yourself to consider the whole of your experience,
without excluding anything. Try to notice all aspects of whatever task or activity
you are doing, and do it with your full care and attention.
It is important to adopt an accepting stance towards your experience. A significant
reason for prolonged emotional distress relates to attempts to avoid or control your
experience. When being more mindful, no attempt is made to evaluate experiences
or to say that they are good, bad, right, or wrong, and no attempt is made to immediately
control or avoid the experience. Accepting all of one's experience is one of the
most challenging aspects of mindfulness, and takes time and practice to develop.
Bringing a kind and gentle curiosity to one's experience is one way of adopting
a non-judgemental stance.
Focusing on One Thing at a Time:
When observing your own experiences, a certain level of effort is required to focus
your attention on only one thing at a time, from moment to moment. It is natural
for distracting thoughts to emerge while observing, and there is a tendency to follow
and “chase” these thoughts with more thinking. The art of “being present” is to
develop the skill of noticing when you have drifted away from the observing and sensing
mode, into thinking mode. When this happens it is not a mistake, but just acknowledge
it has happened, and then gently return to observing your experience.
How to Become Mindful:
Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to develop. It is not easy, and like any
skill it requires a certain level of effort, time, patience, and ongoing practice.
Mindfulness can be taught in a number of ways. Meditation is one of the key techniques
used in mindfulness training, but not the only technique.
Imperfections or human weaknesses (Kilesa). Kilesa are defilements of the mind.
There are three main defilements:
The Characteristics of Lobha:
The tendency of the mind to stick to an object, greed, lust, craving, attachment,
covetousness, envy, conceit, holding on to one’s own opinions.
The Characteristics of Dosa:
The tendency of the mind to repel an object, hatred, anger, ill-will, jealousy, disrespect,
The Characteristics of Moha:
Delusion, ignorance, inaccurate and less objective perception of reality.
To achieve success in meditation, moral conduct should be much better than average.
Moral transgression occurs because of the mental defilements. Moral transgression
can wreck or damage sincerely and considerably the benefits of mindfulness. The
beginner should at least abstain from immoral behaviour and indulgence in intoxicating
drink or drugs.
The changes depend on which kind of meditation is being practised.
This is a small organ at the back of the brain which registers salience - things
which matter to us. Necessarily, it is more sensitive to negative than to positive
stimuli, because negative stimuli have the potential to signify something harmful
in the environment. In experienced meditators, the fear response of the amygdala
is reduced, and the compassion response (registering need in others) is increased.
Gamma wave bursts
These are a type of brain wave that occur in our brains at times of understanding
and enlightenment – that light-bulb “aha” moment. Very experienced meditators –
those who have practised for 10,000 hours or more – are found to be experiencing
these almost constantly.
Posterior cingulate cortex
This is part of the brain involved in self-reference: a sense of self. In experienced
meditators the activity in this region changes so that the boundaries of the self
feel reduced in strength, resulting in an increased sense of compassion, empathy
and connectedness with others. It is said that the feeling of “boundedness” becomes
reduced. The salience of what is internal and what is external becomes more similar.
Default mode network
This network is responsible for the minute-to-minute daydreaming and planning in
the mind. In some people the mind-talk can be negative in character. In new meditators,
the pre-frontal cortex dampens down the default mode network, but in experienced
meditators, the network quietens itself without involvement from the pre-frontal
This region is involved in mapping the internal states of the body. Meditation promotes
increased knowledge of the internal states, which means that experienced meditators
can understand the difference the effect of affect on the emotions: for example they
can more easily tell the difference between hunger (negative bodily affect) and anger
In meditators with 40,000 or 50,000 hours' experience, it is found that their brains
age less than those of the rest of us.
In a predominantly racially white culture such as in the USA or Europe, it is found
that white people, and even black people, are unconsciously biased against black
people. It is found that loving-kindness meditation reduces implicit bias. This
can also be reduced by learning about positive aspects of the other culture.
Judson Brewer from the University of Massachusetts Medical School has found success
in reducing cravings for things we are addicted to, using mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in reducing chronic pain.
Chronic and recurrent depression
As an add-on to standard therapies, MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) has
been shown to reduce relapses of recurrent depression.
Mild to moderate anxiety
Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in reducing mild to moderate anxiety.
Introduction to mindfulness
Taming the wild buffalo
The Buddha told a story comparing mindfulness training to taming a wild buffalo.
Suppose there is a wild buffalo running free through the forest: it may do what
it likes, rest or run when it likes. You can take a rope and tie the buffalo to
a strong stake driven into the ground. You restrict the buffalo's food so that it
does not have too much energy. Gradually the buffalo becomes used to being restricted
to a small area and a limited diet, and becomes quiet. The buffalo is like your
reactive, untamed thinking mind and ego (that machine for looking after you); and
the stake is like mindfulness training.