Intro to Mindfulness and Meditation

"The mind is like a lake, and stones that are dropped into it (or winds) raise waves. Those waves do not let us see who we are. (...) The waters must be calmed. If one remains quiet, eventually the winds that ruffle the water will give up, and then one knows who one is. God is constantly within us, but the mind obscures that fact with agitated waves of worldly desires. Meditation quiets those waves" ~Bhagavad Gita V.28

— Huston Smith, Foreword, The Bhagavad Gita: Twenty-fifth–Anniversary Edition

 

One of the first yoga sutras says, "Yoga chitta vrtti nirodhaha": Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.  Our brain, or mind, is a powerful tool of perception, creativity, problem solving, and identification. However, the nature of the mind is to think, plan, analyze, and compartmentalize, and it tends to work on overdrive. If we can see the brain for what it is, an advanced instrument to use as we need it, and rest when we don't need it, we can broaden our sense of self to beyond the workings of our mind, and begin to notice the interconnectivity of our being with the entire cosmos. By practicing awareness of our thoughts and actions, aka mindfulness,  we can access moments of peace and stillness unavailable to us when our mind is constantly racing. Mindfulness practices bring us to focus on what we are doing and thinking, and gradually through these practices, we begin to notice we have more control over our powerful brain, rather than letting it control us. We realize that what we think determines the reality we experience, and notice that by directing our minds to thoughts of peace, joy, and gratitude, we begin to truly live the experience of peace, joy, and gratitude.

Mindfulness is the practice of bring awareness to your thoughts, breath, movements, and actions. There are many ways to increase our ability to be mindful. Specific, structured, seated meditation practices develop our ability to mindful outside of the structured seated position. There are unlimited ways to practice meditation, from simply following the breath, to practicing mantras, to guided visualizations, and more.

The Observation Meditation is one simple way to begin to develop your skills of mindfulness through a conscious practice of observing each of the sounds, thoughts, and sensations in the moment you are in.   Find a comfortable, seated position. Take a few deep breaths. Now simply use the silent phrase, "I notice", followed by any sound, thought, or sensation you observe. If you find yourself in silence without noticing anything, great! Just rest in the silence. As soon as another sound or sensation occurs, say to yourself, "I notice ______" If you notice you are following a train of thought, just notice it, saying to yourself, "I notice I was thinking", then bring your attention back to whatever else you notice in the moment.