Mindfulness Meditation – Just observe
image thanks to erix!
Mindfulness meditation is an excellent place to begin meditation practice. It is the basis of zen meditation, and it will provide a solid foundation to building your mental focus and awareness.
For those individuals just beginning meditation, you must first realize; it is not going to be a secret source of instant happiness and relaxation. Much like everything else it takes time, commitment and work. Even after extended periods of meditation you may still experience a wandering mind or unfocused thoughts. This way of thinking, along with any anxiety and stress, will fall away after becoming more immersed in your practice. There is a certain amount of trust that you must have that the practice will work. This trust must be given at the beginning so that you can continue without giving up.
When beginning meditation practice – if you find yourself unable to focus – recognize how much effort is present. Where is this effort coming from? You are capable of observing this and it will help distracting thoughts subside.
What exactly does it mean; to observe the self?
It’s easy to get caught up in patterns of thought. This is why, when we sit to meditate, the mind can often wander. We think about work, relationships and the future. None of which have to do with the present moment. Observing these patterns and not reacting to them is what will eventually free you from them. Generally speaking, positive thought and action will come out of awareness in the present moment. Negative thought and action tend to come from old patterns of desire and thought.
This is why, with mindfulness meditation, the best course of action is non-action. Just observing the thoughts and feelings welling up within the mind without trying to stop them will help quiet the mind.
With mindfulness meditation, often it is helpful to focus the attention on the breath, a mantra, or image. Personally, I tend to alternate what I use at different times, depending on my current state of mind. Sometimes it is easier for me to imagine an image of the buddha and focus on it. At times though visualization can be difficult, which is when I repeat the mantra “Om Mani Padme hum” silently in my head. If you cannot remain focused on either, then just bring your attention to the breath. When the mind begins to wander, or you have a thought pop up, just remind yourself that this is okay. Do not become frustrated and try to force the mind to be quiet. All that will accomplish is more mental chatter, and you will add power to the wayward thoughts. Simply and gently bring your attention back to the breath, image, or mantra.
For more information on mantras please take a look at my post of the mantram handbook. I will be covering mantras in another article, but you may find this book useful in the meantime: Mantram handbook
So the next time you take to your meditation seat, don’t expect anything. No progress, no release from stress, anxiety or wandering thoughts. Just observe your thoughts from within that other part of you, the silent awareness. When you begin to reside more and more in this silent awareness, then you may notice a subtle shift in your thinking. You will go from wrestling with your thoughts, to simply not creating them.
Don’t try to rush this process. It takes time to be able to reach into this state of awareness and remain there. If you can remember a point in time when you had a still mind and focused awareness, then this may help your progress. You can also try to imagine what it would be like if you were a zen master who has practiced meditation for 30 + years. Imagine what would go through their mind while meditating. What are they feeling? Chances are that they are deep within themselves and immersed in silence. Bring this feeling to your thought process and then just observe.
By taking a step back once in a while, you will notice a positive shift in your thinking patterns. You will notice that random thoughts fall away, and you remain in the present moment more and more. Cultivate this awareness during your meditation practice and you will be happy with the results.
This article was written in order to facilitate the thought process behind the practice. It doesn’t go into details about how to sit, and how to focus on the breath. If you are looking for details regarding the best posture and where to place the focus, then you may want to read this article: Meditation for beginners.
This video may provide you something to contemplate before meditation. It describes an appropriate way to see ourselves within the natural order of things.
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