Introduction to Mindfulness
For me what we're going to talk about, I maybe you've noticed I have so enthusiastic about this material that we've been talking about I feel so passionately about it, I found have found it personally, so enormously helpful, as I said earlier, I use it every day of my life, and so I feel very happy to share it and very passionate about it, but it would not be as useful to anyone without the next thing that we're going to talk about, which is mindfulness, which is a great buzzword right now, which is awesome even five years ago. If you said to someone I'm a practice mindfulness, they might be like, are you in a cult? Why do you do that? But now it's it's everywhere and I feel so happy about that. So we're going to talk in this session about mindfulness in some detail, and I promise I won't make it boring. Um, what it is like, what is it actually? What is it? Not three really big misconceptions that I find very common about meditation, and then we're actually going to practice together, ...
and my hope is that the instruction that I give you it's, something that you will be able to return to whenever you want, whenever you want to meditate and if you are just showing up in the course you two, you can too if you think you know anyone who was able to take this home with them will be able to return to this ten minute practice or will be about ten minutes let's say whenever you want. So as I was saying earlier in my open heart project, I do teach meditation and they're now close to twelve thousand people uh in the open heart project and if you are in the open heart project thank you. Um and I've made probably six hundred videos with meditation instruction, so I've given it this instruction quite a few times, but I've received the instruction probably twice as many times in my life as a meditation practitioner, which is now close to twenty years, and I want to say that even if you are an experienced meditator and I'm sure many of you are and many people there are, you can't hear the instruction to many times tresses nodding I would I would I interpret what I read into your knot is yeah, I always each with each meditation I was always something it's like oh yeah, I forgot that part brought that one detail oh yeah I should be breathing through my nose or my hand should be palms down whatever it is so that's very common if you have a meditation practice now that's awesome that's great about to you I want to ask you in this room especially but also people out there who may be listening if you do a different practice that's awesome but let's all try to do the same practice when I give you the instruction because there's something very powerful about everybody following the instruction together it's for not only powerful it's supportive so I guess the first thing I want to talk about is what is mindfulness because like I was saying earlier it's definitely a buzzword and if you just google I did this the other day by the way I just googled mindful eh? And then I saw what would google just auto filled? It was like the mindful artist the mindful apple picker the mindful atheists the mindful etcetera and I went all the way down to like the mindful janitor literally and what I at that point I was like okay, this this has arrived there is a website everywhere for the mindful whatever so that's cool but what is meant what is meant? Did you want to offer a definition you did the other please do uh yes being conscious unconscious off being present with whatever it is like thoughts or actions title in extent definitely being conscious being present with thoughts and actions is a great definition of mindfulness and how is your mindfulness practice going how did how is it hard for you isn't easy for you? How does it go for you a different days it's changes on the door stays it's very hard it's the most needed I recognized it was nearer than can make an extra effort or recognize its very hard and it's like not criticize myself for not being able to stay with my thought for one one one one second hold ever it is that is awesome that in itself is a practice the practice of not criticizing yourself is a fantastic practice and when you're trying to practice meditation and stay with your thought stay with your breath and you can't the first practice of not criticizing yourself for being unable to do that is a great place to start is itself a demonstration of mindfulness does anybody else have any other definitions? Yes uh actually I tried um and meditation before and I had a little hard time uh getting it but I try to see the as an analogy I try to see them mindfulness is an analogy to situation like when I'm traveling in trains so you see the scene raised animals the houses just come and josh woman and passport so that thing off not really attaching yourself but just experiencing it uh and seeing it and that it letting you go that analogy is kind of a meditation for me that's beautiful of being on a train and just having your thoughts be like the scenery that's passing by but you don't actually stop get off that's a great analogy I really appreciate that I'm curious and for people out there too if I had let's say a dollar for every one who said I have tried to meditate and I just can't do it once would be on me let's just say, um because everybody finds it difficult so I'm curious if you have tried it what difficulties you may have run into and if people out there have tried it, what difficulties have you run into so we could be sure to talk about them um at the right time so has anybody tried and what difficulties do you encounter? And if you I haven't and you don't have any it's no problem, we'll just move on yes, and then yes, um I would say, uh, actually two difficulties one this staying still and suffering staying still still, you mean your body? You're just like I'm always like moving my legs or something right, always moving around and um also meditate for long periods of time you find it difficult to meditate for long, longer period of a like more than fifteen minutes yeah that's hard I find it difficult to so I'm sure many people can relate to that and when you say you find it hard what is difficulty I think um because like that when I've done it I've um set a timer on my phone so I maybe that's the distraction itself like okay when I'm gonna be done with this right, I'm just going off you're a like it's seems like it's been a long time is it going to be over soon or should I just consider is the time we're not working tonight if it was like all these thoughts running through my mind okay? And we get back to what I'm supposed to be doing to sit in here and focus on the still become and let my thoughts wander freely but there's so many thoughts running through my head at all it's amazing when you tune in there it's like wow it's like a tsunami in there yeah, well that's great and we're going to we're going to talk about that so I'm glad you brought that up did you have a difficulty you wanted to mention yeah as you mentioned that exchange teo in the mindset because well, I try to do lots of things so those things kind of jumps out at you and it comes in between when you're trying to like states teo s o ms ah I couldn't like a dirt for longer period even for the two minute I find it difficult so during that time a means I would just take a moment off break and take a pull of debra's so that ten twenty seconds is enough for me and what do you find difficult many thoughts and ideas try to jump in and my mind mines and I'm trying to like uh clean this late off my mind and make it blank but I just couldn't there was problem. Well, you will be very, very pleased to know that wiping the slate clean and making your mind blank not required to meditate. Yes, greg de alley bridge the whiz raj me girlfriend they all popping into the conversation here some challenges are the distractibility the mind chatter being committed the wiz actually says the payback seems slow and coming howto increase the effectiveness of it or how did better ease into it it's the questions and then green mint green machine just popped in and says I get bored what was the first one the first well the distractibility that mind chatter those were the conversations and then the wiz says the paybacks lame team seems slow and coming and how to increase that effectiveness or better ease into it you some questions okay so distractibility slow pay back and bore board we're going all of these things will be covered so hang in there please so let me just jump right into what I want to tell you about mindfulness and a tricia's smiling eyes she's a member of the open heart project and so you probably know I have heard some of the things that I'm going to say so and by the way thank you. Um the first thing I want to talk about with mindfulness is what is it so there because if you just google it like I was starting to say earlier you find the mindful janitor in the mindful atheists and so on you'll also find a tremendous amount of fairly recent scientific research that says mindfulness is something that helps you regulate your blood pressure it's something that, uh lowers stress hormones it's something that alleviate symptoms in diseases or conditions with a stress related component it's something that can actually increase happiness and forgive me if I can't always remember it sort of decreases or increases I can't remember which one it is activity in the middle I think it's decreases and then increases it in the prefrontal cortex it could be the opposite of what I just said but in any case in the part of the brain where stress lives activity lessons and the part of the brain where happiness lives, activity increases so all scientists and researchers please forgive me for mangling that if I did um so that's cool ok maybe that's what it is maybe it's a way to be healthier uh it can help you sleep and so can cure these health conditions. It can help you sleep. It can lower stress it can help you fight depression. I have a friend, jonathan foul stew says that if meditation where is a pill will be called the miracle drug of the century, which it certainly would and add to that all those great benefits that discovered in the last say, fifty years, twenty, five hundred years of benefits reported by practitioners from eastern traditions that say not that report the benefits of things like more kind, more patient, more wise, more insightful. This is one hell of a practise that can do all of these things. So is that all there is to it so often we come to mindfulness meditation because we want one of those things more regulated, brought blood pressure or to become the buddha whatever it might be. And so we sit down. We think I have this perp this is why I'm doing it and this better happened. Hopefully it will happen. But I I want to offer you a very simple definition of what mindfulness is. All it is is substituting for your discursive mind, another object of attention, and I'm gonna explain what I mean by discursive mind I'm sure everyone can relate to this. Your discursive mind is the part of you that is always doing something like this what is she talking about? I wonder when she's going to be done I think I'm hungry when was the break? She said forty five minute break but I think it was only a fifteen minute break oh my god my knee just heard I think I might have knee cancer and how am I gonna get home today when it was just a bus stop running you know you get what I'm saying the mind that is always sort of just going la la la la la la la and that is where our attention is absorbed most of the time for all of the times say and we might think well of course where else can your attention be but on your thoughts however, if you have ever done any of the following so please listen for something that you yourself may have done in the past yoga, swimming taking a long drive made out with someone cooked spaghetti or anything then you already know exactly what I'm talking about about in regard to what it means to place your mind on something other than your thoughts because these activities yoga and swimming and kissing and cooking and so on are things that I ask you to place your mind and your body in the same place your mind wants to or needs to be on what it's doing if you're in yoga and urine tree pose and you start thinking about breakfast but my fall if you're swimming and you stop thinking about your breathing you start thinking about something else you might inhale water of course when you're kissing someone it's not a big deal you your present um but these are things that do what is called synchronizing mind and body and the way we are built us humans it would appear when our mind and body are synchronized we relax there's a quality of absorption arises and whether what you're engaged in is beautiful or painful or interesting or not when your mind and body are synchronized in it there's a sense of you can relax now so meditation is the practice of synchronizing mind and body by placing your attention on something other than your thoughts and in some meditation practices that something is an image, something that you gaze at or imagine in visualized within yourself and when your attention strays until wonder what's for lunch then you let that go and you come back to that image in other practices that object could be a sound like you chant home or something and then when your attention strays wonder what's for lunch that's my favorite example because I'm often asking myself that question you bring it back to the sound in the practice that we're going to do that object is your breath which is very conveniently located wherever you are so all this meditation is all mindfulness is is being able to place your mind on an object other than your thoughts and keep it there and when it strays, come back it's the practice of synchronizing mind and body and in our case, using the breath as the medium so has to some extent so the kind of meditation that I'm going to teach you shortly is called shama tha meditation shama tha s h a m a t h a is a sanskrit word that means the practice of tranquility, the practice of abiding peacefully and of course, we all want that we all want to abide peacefully, and you may think to do that, I need to go on vacation or go for a drive, or pull the covers up over my face and just stay there all day, and those things can be good, but they're not very practical. You can't just jump into bed and pull the covers up when you get riled up, but instead we the place where we tranquilly abide is in our own minds, and this is always possible, which may sound what that's what I need to get away from anya, if you can, by going on vacation or thinking about something else that's great, but again it's not practical when you gonna learn howto relax with your mind within your mind that is called the practice of calm, abiding you're always able to find the tranquility in your own mind no matter what is going on in your life and in your mind so it's a very powerful practice that has endless spiritually and pragmatic application so that's one definition of what mindfulness as mindfulness is I have two more the second uh perhaps you've heard buddhism described as the middle way has anybody ever heard of that the middle way what's in what is it in the middle of so there are certain spiritual practices or belief systems or what have you that and one of these you probably have some experience with or you prove you think that might be the best one there certain religious or spiritual practices that say if you act right or do these things or believe in the such us in such a way later on you will get a big goody you will get a reward you will be united with everyone you love you will go to heaven maybe you will like I hope so there's some sense of there's a great eternal plane that we could somehow find and live on or gain access to through our spiritual practice and in that plane which is somewhere else everything is kosher everything's a okay in buddhist thought we call that eternal ism okay, you know what? I don't know if all that's true or not how would I know the second uh sort of way of thinking about spiritual practice or mindfulness or religion or whatever is to say no such thing that not only is there no eternal plain or or otherworldly place to get to this world is all there is you're born you live you die that's all she wrote and the best we can do is sort of just try to make this terrible you know be happy be healthy try toe be comfortable and safe and make the world a better place while you're at it all that but there's nothing else than this and we might call that nihilism or nihilism it's pronounced both ways so they're sort of opposite ends of the spectrum there's a way that everything could be awesome and it's somewhere else there is nothing else and this is all there is so zip it eternal ism nihilism buddhist thought it's the middle the middle way iss not this and not that and interestingly and this is gonna be bad grammar not not this and not not that so it's not only is it it's not saying yes or no or no or yes it's just saying irrelevant the middle way is the present moment and that actually is what is real and I invite you and you and everyone to completely call b s on everything I'm saying because the most important thing in approaching the practice and study of mindfulness is your mind to make up your mind it doesn't matter what I say, you have to test everything that I say or anyone says against your own experience, you are the arbiter and what you find to be useful and true now it's your wisdom and has nothing to do with me or anyone who you heard it from and what you are find to be not true, actually that I don't believe that I don't think that my experience doesn't bear that out. You never have to think about it again don't worry, so please do your best to make a personal connection, whatever that means for you to this practice, that is by far the most important thing as opposed to getting doing it right or that kind of thing. So first it's simple substitution for your descriptive thinking sank it it is a middle way between eternal ism and nihilism and third eye. The third definition I want to offer you is to explain that mindfulness is actually I have only fifty percent of the story in the practice of mindfulness practice that we're going to do. Um what you will notice or may have noticed if you practice is that the practice of mindfulness meditation is very precise you place your mind on an object in our case the breath, breath and when its strays no problem just come back and everything that is not breath is considered thinking and you let go gently and you come back the gentle peace is the most important breath breath very precise at the same time somehow through this very precise practice your mind expands an insight arises sometimes meditation is called the practice of insight you see patterns you didn't see before understandings arrives from nowhere your ideas deepen your mind seems to expand and that is called awareness so mindfulness is the precise part awareness is this great opening that comes with mindfulness they're inseparable so be more accurate to call the practice that we're going to do mindfulness awareness practice rather than simply mindfulness. So those are my three thoughts about what mindfulness is simple substitution middle way includes the practice of awareness now I would like to uh offer you a talk on what it is not and that talk consists of one word religious thiss concludes the section on what mindfulness is not it has not any religion you can see if your justice your breathing god you're following your breath and it has nothing to do with beliefs you don't have to take on new beliefs you don't have to dispel current beliefs in fact, the less beliefs you have, the better off you are beliefs are actually an obstacle, so don't worry about that yes, there is a relationship between mindfulness and spirituality, mindfulness and spiritually is there any relationship between mindfulness and spirituality? Well, I'll tell you my personal answer which is there is no such thing as not spiritually so you can there is not theirs not spiritually and mundane there's just life but what do you mean by that question? What do you think? Uh uh it's not everyone kind of understanding difference between religious and spiritually so means like same mindfulness is uh being at the moment it's kind of sound like being connected to some spirit or that divine whatever that eternal power kind of thing so at this moment so that sounds like mindfulness being connected to an eternal power sounds like mindfulness yeah it's eternal power divine at this woman is something supernatural something supernatural yeah that's what is that what I said what what I said sounds like do you think that's what I was asking if there's any relation? I don't know I don't know but it's an important question for you to pursue the answer to um so I want to point out before we practice three very big misconceptions about meditation practice and I think they're going toe talked to perhaps the distractibility piece and the board piece not the payback so much and then a couple of you said I can't wipe the slate clean I I find it hard to meditate because I have so many thoughts and so on so hopefully this will address some of that the first misconception the kahuna the big number one misconception about meditation practice is that meditation means you are supposed to stop thinking stop thinking that that is actually the only thing you have to stop thinking is that meditation means you're supposed to stop thinking because you don't have to stop thinking if you suddenly stop thinking it would be very weird so your mind exists to produce thoughts hey if it didn't we'd be in trouble so trying to make your mind stop thinking by sitting down on your meditation cushion or chair and thinking I'm gonna pull this spiritually emergency brake and the black the whole thing's gonna shut off is unreasonable not required and a little silly if I may say so I want to ask you and you and you to do a little experiment with me that demonstrates I think how hard it is to stop thinking you don't have to do and change or do any dances or anything like that unless you want to so presumably you are looking out through your eyes right now you're looking at me or you're looking at something you're looking out the window whatever it might be is fine and if you happen to be uh sight impaired use your sound you're listening to something okay don't change anything keep looking at whatever it is you're looking at or listening to whatever it is you're listening to and now trying not to see anything or hear anything try really hard look out through your eyes and try not to see anything and if you could do that report to me immediately um that's how hard it is to stop thinking it's unnecessary could anybody not see anything it's frustrating right it's like well why would anyone stay here and try to do that so don't do that you don't have to stop thinking so that's the biggest misconception in meditation practice rather and and working with your analogy of the train it's not like we're trying to stop the train like jump off the train of thought because when you tune and you see that your mind is going a billion miles an hour all day long and sometimes all night long and there is an unending waterfall of thought happening constantly and your mind is like a train that's going a million miles an hour and if you think you're going to jump off of it and stand in front of and go stop well of course it's not gonna work but instead you could jump off the train what sort of sit down on the hillside and just watched the train go by and you're not stopping the train you're just taking a different relationship to it and that is what we are going to do in the practice of mindfulness meditation shortly learn how to take that different relationship with me okay? The second misconception is that meditation is a form of self help and of course, if you read articles about mindfulness meditation and it will help you do this, it will help you do that it will help you, but you know, I'm getting to know you a little bit in our time together, but even if I don't know you that well for anyone out there, my guess is that you are already working pretty hard to try to improve yourself and your life and that when you say I need to get better at this, whatever this is and you know, I need to get better this and this starts to come okay, I think I'm getting good I think I'm getting good at it and then like, I don't care about that anymore if I can do it, anyone can do it. Okay what's, the next thing I need to get good at and there's unless these air just coming towards you going get better at this s o you know you're already yourself improvement dance card is full so don't put meditation on that card because it is actually not a way of self not a way of improving yourself as much as it is a way of jumping off the self improvement treadmill and resting so most of us have lashed ourselves to this treadmill very tightly in the practice of mindfulness we unhook from the self improvement machine and take a seat and let ourselves rest so rather than trying to improve our minds we're letting our minds rest so this is very beneficial so we all know for example that exercise is beneficial but if all you ever did was exercise like starting right now on ly going to exercise in about ninety minutes or three hours or a day or depending on how fit you are exercise would start to become bad for you so it's the same thing with utilizing your mind if all it does is work it gets tired and meditation if you look at it in no other way but a chance to rest your mind and gain the benefit of rejuvenation um in addition to not being self help for the reasons I just said it's actually a way of seeing reality I just finished writing a new book called start here now a guy is not out a guide to the path and practice of meditation and I made that subtitle path and practice because it's more than a simple practice that you do on a cushion and then get up and leave it becomes a path a way that you look at things like like we're seeing in our time together presumably this information about mindful communication and how does your energy work and where is your mind right now is a path you don't just get it okay done that okay and let me move on it's a path it changes the way you look at things that change is what you do things so it is a spiritual practice in other words, the final misconception and please don't be mad at me is that meditation will make you more peaceful because it won't you know it doesn't make you a little bit more calm let's say, but most often people come to it because they want to calm down and that's a great reason and it will help you calm down so I'm not saying it won't but while meditation sort of gives you a different relationship to your mind, it changes the way you feel about yourself so instead of judging yourself constantly, you may still judge yourself but in meditation you let that go and instead you are simply with yourself oh, now I'm being very judgmental oh now being being very peaceful oh now on board oh no, I I I'm finding it very difficult I'm sort of speedy and you stay you stay with yourself if you ever wanted a friend who would like be with you that's what great friends do right? They don't say this is how you need to get better they say yeah, but I like you when you're awesome and when your bung you know when you're unhappy, I'll come hang out with you meditation is extending the hand of friendship to yourself and as you do so you soften you softened to yourself, gentleness starts to arise in your system, and you are able to be with yourself when you're awesome and when you're not so. In other words, you soften. Does that make sense? And as you soften, your heart opens and you feel more so rather than being constantly defended, not gonna think about that. I'm only gonna think about this. Meditation opens the field of your own mind and the gate to your heart so things start to touch you more and I've heard many, many meditation students say to me why the more I practice mindfulness, is it that the more I feel, the more I cry, the more things touched me well, that's, because it opens your heart so anything can come in. And rather than making you more peaceful, however, it makes you more genuine, which is the essence of good communication genuineness so mindfulness and becoming a good communicator in my world are intimately connected. So the three misconceptions you have to stop thinking, stop thinking that it's a form of self help it isn't, and, um, it will make you more peaceful problem actually making more authentic.