By Jaime A. Pineda, PhD
Meditation means different things to different people — a tool, a lifestyle, a religious path. You meditate to relax, for health reasons, or to explore spiritual matters. Many see it as an answer to preventing mental chaos. How you do it varies — from sitting, lying down, walking, chanting, dancing, to carrying on with our daily life. Each mode and approach offer valuable insights. But often, the practices can appear unnecessarily complex and confusing. In fact, there may only be three essential actions needed to practice mindfulness meditation. Everything else is secondary.
1. Know yourself by being in the present moment and asking: “Who am I?” “Who is experiencing this?”
2. Stop identifying with your mind and body and do not get lost in your “story.”
3. Trust and surrender to the love, intelligence, and sacredness that arises.
Mindfulness meditation is trendy in the health and wellness community. At its root, mindfulness gathers, brings together, and focuses the resources of attention on the present moment. Along with gentleness and care, it broadens this window to reduce our reactivity to life events. With proficiency, the focus becomes our uncontrolled monkey mind, including its helter-skelter patterns, uncertainty, randomness, and emotional pain. Through persistent application, we allow the mental storms to be and develop calmness and curiosity about them. At some point, awareness itself becomes the focus. In this way, we discover our innate creativity and experience the true nature of our being.
Eight Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Regardless of our particular method and technique, consistently practicing the essentials as an act of love towards ourselves and others will help you experience the following unique qualities:
More than the absence of movement, stillness is an attitude that “life is perfect as it is” or, more simply, that “life is what it is.” Through mindfulness meditation, we learn to accept the reality in front of us — one outcome out of a set of infinite possibilities, given the history and circumstances of each moment — and which we do not need to change.
No-mind is the essence of what I call creative living. As fears subside in our mindfulness practice, the innate nature of our mind comes to the foreground: an inner and outer boundless field of awareness that is open, active, adaptable, dynamic, inquisitive, and creative.This has been referred to as mushin, a Buddhist martial arts term that translates literally as a mind that is not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and is open to everything. Such an unencumbered mind lacks self-centeredness and flows unimpeded from moment to moment. It is associated with the term “beginner’s mind” and “compassionate mind.”
The psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihályi described flow as when “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Flow overlaps with the idea of mushin or “no-mind.” It is the sense of being completely immersed and concentrated on an activity or task, and in which we lose the sense of space and time.
Clarity refers to a wholistic way of viewing life, with a clearness of perception, thinking, and intentionality. This is seeing ourselves, the context of our life, our goals and intentions as interconnected. It is opening our mind to the Infinite and recognizing that like a wave on the ocean, we express that ultimate reality.
5. Joy, Empathy, Love, and Compassion.
Joy is a state of being and cherishing of the moment; feeling fulfilled, lacking nothing, and being content. The others are qualities of being that reflect our sense of connection and responsibility for others. We feel what others feel and moved to help relieve their suffering. These are motivators and bonds that form a true intimacy with others.
8. Wisdom, Trust and Lack of Fear.
The wisdom of our open, curious, and creative mind, trusting life and the universe without fear, is available to respond intuitively, spontaneously, and appropriately in any circumstance, without the need to conceptualize and rationalize. It is a non-conceptual awareness that transcends intellectual/conceptual knowing and carries a sense of vitality, intelligence, and love.
The consistent routine of mindfulness meditation produces psychological and health improvements, including a reduction in stress, anxiety, memory loss, negative emotions, and pain. It improves heart rate, concentration, sleep, emotional health, patience, tolerance, imagination, and creativity.
As a spiritual orientation and lifestyle, many aspire to reconcile with an initial unity experienced as children, involving concepts of God, Buddha-nature, Life, the Source, enlightenment, kensho, satori, wakefulness, realization, and more. Yet, just like the act of driving remains the same regardless of the vehicle we use, and despite the hundreds of variations and styles of automobiles associated with driving, mindfulness meditation remains straightforward. At its most basic, it concerns the rediscovery of your genuine self and the mental and spiritual health to live creatively.
Jaime A. Pineda, PhD is Professor of Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of many widely cited papers in animal and human cognitive and systems neuroscience, as well as two books of poetry on mind-brain relationships with an emphasis on spirituality, mysticism, environmentalism, and social activism. Learn more on the author’s website. His new book is Controlling Mental Chaos: Harnessing the Power of the Creative Mind.
Jaime A. Pineda, PhD is Professor of Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of many widely cited papers in animal and human cognitive and systems neuroscience, as well as two books of poetry on mind-brain relationships with an emphasis on spirituality, mysticism, environmentalism, and social activism. Learn more at the author’s website. His new book is Controlling Mental Chaos: Harnessing the Power of the Creative Mind.