Taking the first few moments of the sitting to settling to your sitting posture at ease in the body and at ease in the mind. And then, whether you choose to attend to a chosen object, like the breath, the posture, or sounds, or whether you choose to let your attention be called where it will, and noticing them, those objects, whichever way you choose to let your practice unfold, check your attitude of mind in the effort and in the way that you’re practicing. Settling in, letting the body relax on to the sitting bones, acknowledging how you experience environment— all in the service of establishing clear perception. Remembering to recognize the present moment experience as it occurs. Sustaining a continuity of this remembering and recognizing, and checking your attitude of mind.
What is the attitude of the effort behind your practice, or with which your practice? Is there some agenda? Is there a sense of being hyper vigilant? Is there some desire for a particular kind of experience? Or you’re looking for something familiar?
Or can you adjust your attitude and the posture of the mind to be open, receptive, allowing, receiving, patient, acknowledging, willing, interested? Can we just let the moments of life to just unfold by their own design and just notice? This is the way it is come to be for me, for now. All in every moment there is something being known. The object is being known.
What we’re cultivating with mindful awareness is the ongoing continuity of the awareness, the recognition of the awareness that is doing the knowing, so while the object, maybe, similar or familiar or recurring like the breath, or whether the object is changing in every moment from the breath, to a sensation, to a thought, to a sound, to a memory, to an emotion, really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter what the object of our attention is if we’re recognizing the awareness of them. This is particularly important when we notice what we’re thinking, or what we have been thinking, or there’s a tendency or urge to think. Thinking is not the problem. Getting entangled in the thoughts, not being aware of them—and this is not mindfulness.
And so, when thinking occurs, as best as you can, see if you can recognize if it is accompanied by one of the torments that I spoke about last night. Some form of wanting, anticipating, hoping for something, hanging on to something, trying to create something, or if there is some form of aversion, being impatient, irritated, disappointed, or maybe there’s just dullness or sleepiness or heaviness of mind, or doubt.
Am I doing this right? Or what am I supposed to be doing now? Should I label, should I note? How do I do this?
It is any kinds of thoughts that have these kind of content. Don’t just whack it away in a hurry to get back to your chosen object—the breath, the posture. But instead, recognize what this quality of mind or heart is.
Aversive? Desirous? Confused? Doubting? Lethargic?
It could be excited. It could be enthusiastic, leading to a lot of planning, excited planning. Could be dreadful, remembering something from the past. Don’t let the thoughts be the problem. This is just a visitor to the mind conditioning this kind of thoughts. And to the extent that we can recognize, all these is fear, all these is anxiety, all these is confusion.
And we can observe it, and we can sustain a continuity of awareness recognizing the state of mind, then we’re doing fine. Practice is not to get rid of these thoughts, or to get rid of these difficult or challenging unpleasant state of mind. But rather, insight practice is to be aware of them, and to observe them with interest in order to understand them.
We don’t have to try to figure them out.
We don’t have to try explain them or justify them.
We just have to observe, what is this like?
When the mind is visited by this kind of thought or this state of mind, inside our – said, the mind is not yours, meaning, anything can arise in it anytime, but you’re responsible for it. Once it has a reason, it’s up to us to work with it, to deal with it. And without awareness, we will just react in deeply conditioned habitual ways. With awareness and recognition, oh, this is what’s happening now. This is the way it is for me for now.
Because there’s an acceptance, or not acting them out. We can reframe our understanding to recognize that this is an opportunity to expand our capacity, to be aware of more of what is occurring in our life. And with that, reframed understanding, we just observe. Let mindfulness just receive the full texture, the fingerprint, the thumbprint, the feeling of the state of mind.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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