The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

I grew up Catholic as that was the religion of my family, of my Grandparents, of their parents and so on. However, after traveling and discovering the world, especially from my time in Spain, a bastion of Catholicism, I began to question that belief. I now hold no religion or dogma but am always searching. As a young person I would have considered myself religious but not spiritual. Now I consider myself spiritual but not religious. I’ve evolved from the outward looking Christianity, which always asks God, Jesus or the Saints to do things for them to inward looking, trying to find my own soul and understand what it is, who I am.

My method for doing this has turned from prayer to meditation and more specifically Zen meditation. The idea is to clear your mind, remove all idea of self, of all thoughts and just ‘be’ with the goal of entering into nothingness. The idea is both simple and difficult to explain. It is best represented by the kanji “無,” which means ‘nothing.’

However, learning more and even discussed in quotes below I cannot aspire to enter into ‘nothing,’ but would need to have no aspirations at all for the door to even appear. In my meditations I don’t believe I’ve ever come close to entering into a mindset of ‘nothing.’ Like anything else it takes practice and the closest I can get is to ‘just be’ for a few flickers before another thought invades my mind.

Usually I’ll do my meditations either upstairs in the reading nook or outside in the shed overlooking the garden. I used to use a virtual reality app which would place me on mountain tops, in bamboo forests and so on. Now, I no longer need VR and am content with ordinary surroundings. I was very glad to have the opportunity to participate in a Zen meditation session at the local temple of my wife’s hometown in Japan. There we sat in front of a plain wall composed of sliding doors. There were two sequential sessions each of twenty minutes where in between we walked very slowly in a circle to get the blood flowing in the legs again.

Afterwards we gathered in a commons room around the table and the monk gave a lesson about Buddha. I didn’t understand much of that as my Japanese isn’t sufficient enough.

Outside of meditation the goal is to be ‘mindful’ which is meditation but I take to mean applying meditation techniques to life. I need to take time out of the day just to clear the mind, to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. We’re bombarded with noise, with phone notifications, with never ending urgency for more at work. The human experience today is enough to drive people mad and given the state of things seems to have done so.

Here are my highlights from the book.

Then Allen said, “I’ve discovered a way to have a lot more time. In the past, I used to look at my time as if it were divided into several parts. One part I reserved for Joey, another part was for Sue, another part to help with Ana, another part for household work. The time left over I considered my own. I could read, write, do research, go for walks. “But now I try not to divide time into parts anymore. I consider my time with Joey and Sue as my own time. When I help Joey with his homework, I try to find ways of seeing his time as my own time. I go through his lesson with him, sharing his presence and finding ways to be interested in what we do during that time. The time for him becomes my own time. The same with Sue. The remarkable thing is that now I have unlimited time for myself!”

Yes! I learned this lesson long ago. My activities became my kids activities and the ‘trick’ was to find something we both enjoyed. Examples are going to the playground for the swings, playing video games, throwing the football on the patio etcetera. There is no ‘me’ time, my children and wife are always invited and often do so. Just yesterday I went metal detecting on the beach and my youngest joined me.

We must be conscious of each breath, each movement, every thought and feeling, everything which has any relation to ourselves.

This is hard to do, something to aspire to, or as a Zen master would say, don’t aspire at all, just do.

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

Our existence, our consciousness is a miracle. It is something that when contemplated deeply leads to the entire nature of reality.

Nguyen Cong Tru experienced the same thing when he sat down on a certain spot, and suddenly saw how others had sat on the same spot countless ages ago, and how in ages to come others would also come to sit there: On the same spot I sit today Others came, in ages past, to sit. One thousand years, still others will come. Who is the singer, and who the listener?

Fascinating to think about. In my previous post I describe this with finding arrowheads left by 16,000 years of Native American history that has been lost. They were here for countless generations and that history has been lost.

Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.

This is a basic technique. It is very difficult to stop thoughts from appearing in the mind. Meditation always comes back to breath.

Someone might well ask: is relaxation then the only goal of meditation? In fact the goal of meditation goes much deeper than that. While relaxation is the necessary point of departure, once one has realized relaxation, it is possible to realize a tranquil heart and clear mind. To realize a tranquil heart and clear mind is to have gone far along the path of meditation.

Whenever a wholesome thought arises, acknowledge it: “A wholesome thought has just arisen.” And if an unwholesome thought arises, acknowledge it as well: “An unwholesome thought has just arisen.” Don’t dwell on it or try to get rid of it, however much you don’t like it. To acknowledge it is enough. If you have departed, then you must know that you have departed, and if you are still there, know that you are still there. Once you have reached such an awareness, there will be nothing you need fear anymore.

When I mentioned the guard at the emperor’s gate, perhaps you imagined a front corridor with two doors, one entrance and one exit, with your mind as the guard. Whatever feeling or thought enters, you are aware of its entrance, and when it leaves, you are aware of its exit. But the image has a shortcoming: it suggests that those who enter and exit the corridor are different from the guard. In fact our thoughts and feelings are us. They are a part of ourselves. There is a temptation to look upon them, or at least some of them, as an enemy force which is trying to disturb the concentration and understanding of your mind. But, in fact, when we are angry, we ourselves are anger. When we are happy, we ourselves are happiness. When we have certain thoughts, we are those thoughts. We are both the guard and the visitor at the same time. We are both the mind and the observer of the mind. Therefore, chasing away or dwelling on any thought isn’t the important thing. The important thing is to be aware of the thought. This observation is not an objectification of the mind: it does not establish distinction between subject and object. Mind does not grab on to mind; mind does not push mind away. Mind can only observe itself. This observation isn’t an observation of some object outside and independent of the observer.

In the first six months, try only to build up your power of concentration, to create an inner calmness and serene joy. You will shake off anxiety, enjoy total rest, and quiet your mind. You will be refreshed and gain a broader, clearer view of things, and deepen and strengthen the love in yourself. And you will be able to respond more helpfully to all around you.

In Buddhism, we call the objects of mind the dharmas. Dharmas are usually grouped into five categories: 1. bodily and physical forms 2. feelings 3. perceptions 4. mental functioning 5. consciousness These five categories are called the five aggregates. The fifth category, consciousness, however, contains all the other categories and is the basis of their existence.

Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

Recall the most significant achievements in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, the convergence of favorable conditions that have led to success. Examine the complacency and the arrogance that have arisen from the feeling that you are the main cause for such success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that the achievement is not really yours but the convergence of various conditions beyond your reach. See to it that you will not be bound to these achievements. Only when you can relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them.

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By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/