In mantra and breath meditation, you focus on a word or your breath and
try to empty your mind of everything else. This mental clearing is what most people mean
when they refer to meditation.
But there's another kind of meditation, a practice Buddhists call vipassana
or sometimes called mindfulness, or insight meditation. It is the art of
becoming deeply aware of the present instant. Mindfulness means fully experiencing what
happens in the here and now. It is the art of focusing our minds on what's happening in
and around us at this very moment. Mindfulness helps you turn down all the noise in your
head- the guilt, anger, doubts, and uncertainties that upset us moment to moment. It is a
technique that encourages you to stop and smell the roses.
The key is not so much what you focus on but how you do it. What is
more important is the quality of the awareness you bring to each moment. That awareness
should be meditative in the sense of being a silent witness, accepting and nonjudgmental.
It, however, does not imply resignation to abuse or injustice. It teaches acknowledgment
of the moment-to-moment reality and prepares those who use the technique to respond to
that reality less impulsively and more effectively.
There are two kinds of mindful meditation - formal and informal.
is a good example of the formal type. In a yoga class, participants focus intently on
their breathing and the postures, moving slowly from one position to the next, exquisitely
aware of their feelings during the process. Practitioners are taught to concentrate on
their breathing and its passage through the body as they dismiss any distracting thoughts.
Though it sounds simple, mindfulness takes practice, and the longer you practice, the
easier the process becomes. Breathing is the vehicle of transition from our conventional,
anxiety-ridden, goal-oriented experience of stressful living into a natural state of
functional calm and tranquility. Tai chi offers a similar dimension of mindfulness.
Informal mindfulness involves turning the headlong rush of daily living into a collection
of discrete moments of experience, each savored fully. For example, Dr. Kabat-Zinn hands
each of his students a single raisin and asks them to eat it. Ordinarily people would
simply pop the raisin in their mouths, chew a few times and swallow, largely
unconsciously. But mindful, meditative raisin eating is much different. It begins with
looking intently at the raisin, considering its shape, weight, color and texture. Next
comes placing the raisin in the mouth, focusing on how it feels on the tongue as the mouth
welcomes it with salivation. Then the mindful raisin-eater chews the raisin slowly and
thoroughly, focusing on its taste and texture. Finally, swallowing the raisin involves
following it all the way down to the stomach.
Once you commit to a mindfulness trigger-such as hanging up the phone,
sipping a cup of tea or eating fruit snacks, starting the car or petting your dog-it's not
difficult to work a dozen mindful moments into each day.
Next Topic: Journey Meditation