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Meditation for Everyday Life

Lesson 3 of 28

What is Mindfulness? with Q&A

David Nichtern

Meditation for Everyday Life

David Nichtern

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Lesson Info

3. What is Mindfulness? with Q&A

Lesson Info

What is Mindfulness? with Q&A

So for the rest the segment I wanted to talk just a little bit more about setting the table for the meditation practice that we're gonna learn in the next segment that's where were you know the rubber is gonna hit the road a little bit um having said you know that we're trying to be kind to ourselves um nonjudgmental brave uh you know, curious all those that's kind of setting a tone right mood what we actually are looking at now is what are we doing? What are we working with? Why is this thing called meditation at all? What? What is it? What kind of thing is it? So, um one way of looking at it it's developing you could call the art of attention and this is the first tier of practice that we're going to work with his called mindfulness that word mindfulness, that piece of the of the buddhist practice has definitely landed in the west, you know, and disembarked from the big spaceship and turned into something that people are working with just as itself. So mindfulness. What is mindfulnes...

s meaning the ability to pay attention to something right essential core like if you're giving somebody basic training in anything, mindfulness is an essential component of it if you can't pay attention to what you're doing uh it's it's gonna be impossible to actually do it properly so in a way, you could say mindfulness has nothing to do really with buddhism or any religion or any kind of spirituals training at all it's just the ability to put your mind on your body in the same place at the same time and it's a very pure uh, capacity that we have but we don't always go about things that way and I think many of us will notice is you start to practice that sometimes your mind is one place your body somewhere else, right? That's like almost a definition of confusion actually in a way, you know, so the idea is to synchronise the mind and the body that's sort of the first you know, skill that we're gonna work with developing uh now that is called mindfulness also it's called shama tha in sanskrit it's the basic sort of meditation practice that we're going to learn in the next segment and in a sense, what we're working with the primary thing working is the edge of our attentiveness placing attention someplace the premises were always doing that actually our attention leave their mind it's like the head of the arrow like if I said look at that everybody's attention jumps to that finger right and goes wow or this flower wrench please look at this flower writer it's so beautiful here khun um the ability to take our mind and place our awareness on our attention onto this is a sort of native thing and it's something we're always doing now, many of us feel our attention is scattered, I think, you know, that's sort of like a zai read between the lines of comments people come in, they go, my real problem is not that I don't have any money my real promise, not that I'm sick. My real problem is not that I'm frustrated and lonely, my real problems I can't pit what's happened, you know, underneath underneath it all there's this if you could simply focus on any of those situations properly, they will yield they will you have the resources, the capacity you need, but a lot of people these days, we've characterized an illness called a d d, but from a buddhist point of view, everybody hasn't everybody has a d d and we're moving into a time when things are moving faster and faster and faster and there's more scattered attention. You know, you talked to somebody you're not even sure if they heard what you said because they're texting somebody else at the same time, you know, we're living in a very fast paced reality and which are attention is often really distracted and diffused and arguably it's creating a certain kind of dis ease and anxiety and suffering even though it feels like a I'm in it I'm gonna you know, there's a certain dis ease so we're not saying you know none of these comments are meant to tell you how to live you cut you figure that out but looking this basic idea of attention placing your attention, your awareness and having some control over that process is supposed to feel like you being buffeted about by wind energy you know, so the ability to direct our attention is work within the mindfulness practice that's what we're really that's the edge of what we're working with and as you'll see when we talk about it we're talking about deliberately placing our attention someplace and that's called one pointed nous or even could call it concentration this is sort of a very basic boot camp kind of training for uh for meditation can you place your attention on something one point and hold it there rested there uh kelly I see you let alone its training okay it's training we're training ourselves to sit still we're training ourselves to focus that's the ground training now this is not even you could say from a certain point of view this is not the end point this is the beginning point so when once you have that quality right then you can practise the piano properly right once you have that you can run the production company here properly but if you somebody comes up to you and they're saying, what do we do about this this and this and then you're looking at you know you have to be able to focus its sort of basic you know, with the family situation the kids are running all over the place, you know? You have to feel the focus so this is a very basic ability that we're working with and it's called one point in this or concentration this practice if you go no further with any of your interest in the buddhist training or whatever this is the universal peace right here and it's been broken off people are doing mindfulness for stress reduction mindfulness for pain reduction you know a mindfulness in sports right? There's mindfulness in the military now there are people teaching mindfulness too in the military um it is a kind I called the universal mixer it goes with everything else you'll ever do uh so it's just the ability to pay attention to what you're actually doing and be present with it it seems like wow, right there's a little door factor there um but if yet if you look how we are and how we manifest uh uh expands into a kind of like um yellow and then red alert what the heck is going on here? And uh so this is a powerful beginning point for practice on dh it's the idea of placing attention on something we have a mind right it's always doing something right you might be thinking what do you thinking about right now? Maybe lunch all right anybody think about lunch yet? You need a good breakfast anybody out there you hungry? Yeah, hungry little food thing coming you know, maybe you're lonely thinking about somebody who met you know, maybe you're uh thinking about the job you just lost all your physical health the mind is sort of like off basically wandering in the meadows of time and space that's where our mind most frequently is now is saying take that mind and bring it back bring it back to one simple event so this is called sham eta and the one event can be anything you can use anything is the object of meditation this work you could look at that flower arrangement just let your mind keep coming back to that you could, uh use it to contemplate a particular subject. You know you want to think about your career, you could use mindfulness to say I'm going to stay very focused on this one aspect of what am I doing with my career? The object of the meditation doesn't matter the principle is to just keep coming back to one thing to develop strength and stability in the month so for those of you who are practical people out there this practice is said to develop and this is where we talked about remember the few and the practice and the result the result of doing this practice is said to be strength clarity and stability more stable mind clear mind and stronger in the sort of sense of having the ability to stay to stay to work with something um so uh we call this uh shaman sometimes translators calm abiding ability ability to stay to rest to stay with something it's interesting a lot of people have this with knitting and your neighbors there's sort of a feeling of like you just keep coming back to that it's very soothing in a way it's actually a tranquilizer sometimes called tranquility meditation it's better than any tranquilizer I'll probably get shot for say you know let's rewind and say it's in its own way as good as a tranquilizer um because it settles the mine down comes to mind one thing what do we use is the object of the meditation in our practice will learn to use it our own breath as the object we pay attention to breath so that's a very simple thing to do why breath is always here right are you all breathing right now I hope you know you can't do this exact practice if you're not breathing so if you're not breathing I have other practices for you okay but if you are breathing you simply bring your attention to it so you can't even sort of feel what that feels like it's like home coming home coming back and your mind will wander off and then you come back so really what were developing is the reflex or the strength to bring our mind back to to present through one object of meditation so if I say it just like what it to clarify what intent that attention is a little bit um let's move our attention around in the room uh just put your attention on your right big toe heel. You're right big toe and put all your awareness since you're right big toe no, put it into your scalp your attentions in your scalp the feeling in your scalp you can't even close your eyes if you like him sometimes it's easier to do it with your uh so now put your attention into your back a lot of times we don't feel our backs so much back body and now put your attention are your mother think about your mother? What does she look like? What her voice sound like? What does her voice sound like? What color hair does she have? What shape are her glasses? So we can either look att actually tangible things that are happening or even within inside our ability to re create our memory can be very precise with place placing attention this case what we're gonna do is place it onto the breath and that's where we'll pick up uh and when we start again after the the break that's coming up and this is a way of calming the mind actually settling the mind very, very powerful also we'll see how wiggly our minders we're going to talk about that quite a bit because as people try to do this we'll see it's like oh my goodness I did it for like once in about ten minutes I was able to pay attention in one breath in the rest of time I was completely gone so we're actually gonna look it up how our mind is currently operating in terms of its current capacity to pay attention to one thing, so I think that's where we'll pick up when we resume I think we should we have a few minutes left in this segment, so maybe we should just have a little bit more dialogue uh and then knowing that we're going to kind of get into it the next time and and but hopefully any questions now about the basic concept of what we're talking about what the point is what's what's the point of all this so if you have those maybe start here while you guys are collecting some from there the studio audience let's see if we can't move it around a little bit in our group here yeah, allison a couple things going back to a question from the audience about ongoing practice and whether we should, you know, think of it almost as a failure if we stopped promising and then starting again am I wrong to have never really thought of it as a failure when I've kind of stopped practicing for several months? I actually was just at kripalu a couple weeks ago and you're going to be there in november and that kind of you are gonna be there number I was there a couple weeks ago we're going to be there in november I will not be there in november but my mother might she's in connecticut okay, um I kind of rekindled my interest in and meditating I had been practicing yoga asana as you know and there is a bit of meditation that goes along with that but actually just seated in meditation, but I hadn't done it for a really long time I'm picking up where I left off, but is that a failure? Do I have to feel kind of like I'm starting over or is it ongoing? Well, you know, probably thinking what his failure might be extra toe actually getting back to it so it's just like any other thing that the main point is to get back to it and the characterization of it is kind of secondary, isn't it really so whatever we can do to read mind we cover our inspiration and remind ourselves what we're doing in our life all together and sort of keep to the important things that are actually important for us is effective and anything we use extra like, you know what they call it beating a dead horse you know, it's it's um it's not helpful so I think you know, guilt is maybe not the best motivator really it's a short lived motivator, you know? So you might call your mother once a month if you feel guilty, but if you actually remember why you're calling your mother and that you like her that's probably a better motivation and killed so I think it's extra to recriminate in that way but you know, everybody's got their own way of getting back up onto things on dumb has an ongoing process even if you've taken a break yes, it actually is and that's interesting way of looking at it it's ongoing but and we also say take a fresh start like even in the sitting session when you kind of like I can't do this anymore one more second here just re settle yourself and just start is if you just started you know, just take a fresh start so that's the best way is taking a fresh start yeah, but you know whatever works because the other approaches like you know we keep tricking ourselves out of it out of doing things that are really good for ourselves so you know, we could be ruthless about our own cleverness you know to me without without being you know, kind of um ill mannered about it you know, like just the same way you know tough love you know you might say to somebody come on let's go let's do this so but it but saying you're a bad person I've never seen it be effective or good for anything at all actually well uh you know, I think maybe, uh acknowledgement of life and it changes and it changes constantly and it's different every day it's different every moment in that kind of way and doesn't necessarily need to have that extra quality of good or bad it's just is but interestingly will on you brought this up is how do you stay with practice you know, and that's that's a threat that goes through good and bad so that you know there's a saying called son face put a moon face put it even when you're happy or when you're sad you still sort of practice since it's so developing that sense of practice is a powerful thinking what inspires us that towards that is important like too you know for me my teachers really inspired me all the time and I go like there's a sense of seeing somebody who actually for baird what's what's the right tense therefore for barons for boar he's the grammar yes, I think I think that one through I'm a grandma guru but you know I don't know you did practice for barons and steadiness of effort even though it's good even though it's bad and that's great practice frankly that's better than riding the waves like man I'm really look I'm practically levitating here you know it's so clear and anything or like you want want want want want you know that kind of approach you'll get to your cushion some days and you go what you want I want and then it's like uh okay you know so the practice is going through whatever with kind of one steady intention yeah it's really disciplines it's not heavy it's not externally imposed discipline but an internal discipline yeah. Anybody else in the room? Uh I just wanted to make a comment I think that, um the one of the most intimidating parts of meditating meditating to me is what you mentioned it which is you have to bring everything and, um for me managing stress whether it's with work family life in general aiken compartment cargo compartment of lives as a way of coping so the idea of bringing it all to meditation it's it's frankly, somewhat terrifying yeah, I think um lurking in your communist the notion is there anything better than coping? Is there in a sense of more evolved why have going about living coping uh thriving let's say flourishing blooming uh blazing you know so coping is already sort of we're back on our heels on defending the terror, the little territory we think we have gained in terms any kind of well being but I think we're looking at something bigger than that in terms of the possibility of, uh manifesting big time you know? And if you look in here I bet it's in there that you know, so we're not talking about just adding layers of intimidation for no good reason now now we've like loaded you up you're a good burro before but now we've loaded lots of bags onto you and now you can hardly walk, you know from from being so overloaded so any of those areas can be opened wider and uh and then what happens is if you just take the model of energy how energy works I think you must know this is a manager you see that the open things up the energy flows through better and there's less obstruction, you know, so um it's zamora celebratory and there is the big challenge me, then you go to the big party big celebration, so um but exploring all those being curious about them is the ground we're really talking about is a are you curious? Yeah, okay, that's where we're really starting from because without that we're dead in the water if we're not even curious and what's kind of dead end, then we're dead in the water, so just even looking at that like what you said is a very interesting comment as far as I'm concerned and, um, just exact examine that there's these different areas of life and sort of their managed compartmentalize and somehow that's been the strategy that's worked so far, is there more of a through strategy of how those things can weave together in a way that doesn't put you into a defensive posture about just managing the situation? Yeah, so curious seems a little bit like you're exploring around you and mindfulness seems like you're really trying to narrow in on one thing. Yeah, so how do those two things play off each other? Yeah, brilliant! We're going to talk about that's called mindfulness and awareness that's going to be a big topic, so if you can hold that question, david and see if we get to it, but that will be that yeah, how do you focus and also keep a sense of the whole picture going so that's definitely a topic that we're talking about more so we just get a few before we break we've got some really terrific questions that have come in from our on my audience thank you always first for sharing with us this is a really interesting one. It may be a bit too deep so if you want to come back to it later we certainly can but monta seventeen is asking I would like to introduce meditation to my granddaughter who's only five years old so that she can have this tool to use throughout her life is there an age when it's two young israeli advice of where to go to, you know, start finding out about this seven years old five, five years old? Yeah depends. You know, it depends on the individual person and there's way is definitely to introduce kind of flavor of mindfulness to children actually it's really important to introduce it to children because otherwise they will drive themselves. And you crazy, uh, you know it's not that short of dr I mean, not that long a drive, you know, or a cz my friend you say it's not a drive it's a putt um but, you know, five is probably too young for formal sitting. For most people, maybe around eight or ten, they actually could learn how to sit still even for like, a couple of minutes but you can start in just introducing the mindfulness idea of, like, you know, allowing them to do something and really focusing on a particular activity, which is one of the things is kind of scary right now to me about how children are being raised as they're being raised with very scattered attention in a lot of situations. So the the idea of, like, you're doing something like carving something or building something with your hands has a lot of mindfulness dimension into it. Uh, so I think the general shape of the training could happen now and then maybe when she's around eight, you know, she could start toe if if there's somebody who can teach her just and not make it a heavy thing because it's like piano lessons, then you're never gonna want to play the piano again, so it has to be honest, the organic, you know? But I've seen kids, you know, start at about eight, something like that eight or ten, you have another one, actually, I think we're out of time for questions for right now, but but thank you for that answer, ok? Yeah, so we'll pick up the ball on that, and I hope everybody can keep charming in your thoughts and questions as we go. We certainly will, and we're going to take a short break here. Now, david, about fifteen minutes. But what we're gonna be covering when we come back after the break. So the second segment, this first, then that was why I meditate, introducing the topic and something about the presenter. And then the second topic is going to be called, how to meditate, taking your seat and cultivating mindfulness. So we come back. We're going to go to the how to and actually doing it.

Class Description

In today’s hectic world, our busy lives often crowd out any chance to sit still. Who has time to focus on mindfulness when there are 40 emails to write? Join Buddhist teacher David Nichtern for an introduction to meditation. David will show you how meditating for just 15-30 minutes a day will clarify your mind and decrease your stress levels.

David will teach you the basics of meditation, unpacking the centuries-old spiritual tradition into a practical playbook for living a balanced life. You will learn simple posture, breathing, and directed contemplation techniques that will help you unclutter your mind and increase your energy.

Stillness is a powerful way to be kind to yourself. At the end of this workshop, you will be more present, aware, and connected to the world around you.


Sean Newton

I've tried to develop a meditation practice in the past and signed up for this course because of the title ..'everyday life' This course works!! I'd like to thank David and the Creative Live crew for providing a life enhancing course. At first I was a little impatient as I thought the sessions were long, drawn out and repetitive however, half way through it 'clicks' (it made sense) and what may seem as a long-winded preamble is in fact laying a firm foundation for understanding and progression. Hastily wanting to skip to some perceived 'good bit that helps hedge fund mangers etc ' is like sprinting to the end of the rainbow instead of appreciating the various colours. (Your own perceptual colours even ;-)) Anyway, a worthwhile course - so stay the course and feel better for fit

a Creativelive Student

David is an amazing teacher, he has a gift for relating the principles of mindfulness in an accessible, relatable way. Plus, he's really funny. I'm super psyched to participate in this workshop. Thanks CreativeLIVE!


Also found this through the DTFH podcast. What a wonderful, powerful, and approachable course in meditation. Highly recommended to anyone interested in starting on this path. It's chock full of practical information and ways to apply meditation to your life.