Greetings and welcome!
I am currently 23 days into a meditation course, specifically a mindfulness meditation course. I am going to outline what this means as well as describing my experience so far. The course is through the ‘Waking Up’ app by Sam Harris the author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and podcast host. The practice involves 10-15 minute daily guided meditations that Sam himself narrates.
So – what is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness – or ‘Vipassana’ — is a specific type of meditative practice derived from Theravada Buddhism. It involves learning to watch one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations as they arise and pass without identifying with them. By building the capacity to witness what arises in consciousness without attachment or reactivity, the teaching goes, one slowly begins to see through the attachment to our thoughts and feelings.
Just to paint a better picture, I have meditated on and off for around 3 years, so I do have some previous experience diving into the abyss of my mind. However, I have never been formally trained in any particular method of meditation and have lacked the discipline to make it a regular consistent practice. So, recently, I decided to change that and commit some time (and a few dollars) to learn how to meditate from an experienced meditation practitioner. This, for me, has been a wonderful investment. Let me explain why.
My crazy monkey mind is often stuck in thought loops and I have experienced periods of anxiety due to the nature of my inner world. What I am learning to do more often – and have actually noticed I am able to do – is create some mental space for myself to break my chain of thought and feel a sense of calm and peace. I am doing this using two techniques Sam teaches well.
The first technique involves learning to view one’s thoughts for what they are, just thoughts. Cultivating the capacity to sit and just watch the flow of consciousness ebb and flow within me has been rather pleasing. The ability to view thoughts and physical sensations as merely consciousness becoming aware of itself, or myself if you will is a skill I am noticing has lasting benefits.
I am no more my thoughts than I am an itch; both are merely flitters of conscious awareness, a passing sensation through one’s net of perception. This has been a rather liberating realization and skill (becoming aware of this) to learn for someone like myself. I am also learning to show myself more love. For example, usually, if some thoughts that are not particularly pleasant flow through my river of awareness this would usually bug me and send me into a wave of anxiety. I am now more able to greet these thoughts with love, not resist or psychoanalyse them before letting them pass on by.
The second technique involves improving the ability to focus my awareness on a particular sensory input, such as the breath or sounds. I personally prefer sounds. It may seem paradoxical but opening my awareness fully to any sound that arises seems to quieten the mind. I become more ‘mindful’, or present in the moment, and this is beautiful. For example, if I am walking through the forest, I can now look up into the trees and just listen to the sound of the birds or the wind, fully attentive to the moment – as opposed to being shackled by my inner dialogue and thoughts. It is lovely to be able to just look out at the sunset with an appreciation for what it is and the experience that is presented to me in the moment.
Now, whilst I am enjoying this practice and seeing some benefits, it is still too early to be able to tell the long-term benefits. I will keep doing the practice and intend to do it daily for the foreseeable future. What is 10 to 15 minutes a day for my mental wellbeing? It is not much of a question in my opinion. I am also generally interested in the mind and consciousness, so I am intrigued to see where this practice goes and what my mind is capable of. I intend to expand on not just a mindfulness practice but other branches of meditation and conscious expansion. I believe the human mind is far more capable than we understand.
I am looking forward to the future and for my practice to develop! I intend to do another update in the coming months.
Until next time.