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"Usually we think that the other person is outside of us. That is not right view. In this case, we think that our father is outside of us, and we need only to change the outside and not the inside. We need to see that our father is in us; our father is present in every cell of our body. We are the continuation of our father. It may be easier for us to change our father inside first, and we can do that twenty-four hours a day. You don’t need to go and see him, talk to him, in order to change. The way we breathe, the way we walk, can change him in ourselves. Invite him to walk with us, to sit with us, to smile with us, and the father inside of us will change."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is being truly aware of what is going on in our body, our feelings, our mind, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we are really present for ourselves, for others, and for life. We are nourished by the peace and joy that are available within and around us, in the here and now. With continued practice over time, mindfulness enables us to touch the roots of the pain that lies deep within us, such as fear, anger, and despair, and to embrace them and see deeply into them, making transformation and healing possible. Made of understanding and compassion, mindfulness relieves suffering, transforming our hearts, our relationships and our society. The practice of mindfulness is the practice of love.
"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it." - Thich Nhat Hanh
                                 

ESTABLISHING A MINDFULNESS MEDITATION PRACTICE
 
Mindfulness meditation training can help nearly anyone to live life more fully, peacefully, and resourcefully. Many studies have found the following benefits for people who have completed mindfulness training and practice mindfulness meditation:
  • Increased self-awareness, self-trust, and self-acceptance
  • Enhanced appreciation of life
  • Serenity in the face of difficulties
  • More accepting attitude toward life and its challenges
  • More fluid adaptation to change and development of more effective coping strategies 
  • Lasting decreases in a variety of stress-related physical symptoms, including chronic pain
  • Significant decreases in anxiety and depression
  • Improved concentration and creativity
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Decreased symptoms secondary to cancer
  • Strengthen positive brain states

Because our bodies, minds and emotions are inter-connected, physical difficulties, emotional concerns, and mental problems all contribute to one another. It makes sense that mindfulness training would affect a variety of areas in people's lives.

Posture

The Buddhist approach is that the mind and body are connected. The energy flows better when the spine is erect, and when it’s bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects the thought process. Our posture actually affects the mind.

Those who need to use a chair for meditation should sit on the front of the seat, upright with feet touching the ground. Those using a meditation cushion such as a zafu or pillow on a block. Find a comfortable position with legs crossed and hands resting palm-down on your thighs. Udyana bandha: The hips are neither rotated forward too much, which creates tension, nor tilted back so you start slouching. You should have a feeling of stability and strength.

When we sit down the first thing we need to do is to really inhabit our body—really have a sense of our body. Often we sort of prop ourselves up and pretend we’re practicing, but we can’t even feel our body; we can’t even feel where it is. Instead, we need to be right here. So when we begin a meditation session, we spend some initial time settling into the posture. Feel the spine is being pulled up from the top of the head so the posture is elongated, and then settle.

The basic principle is to keep an upright, erect posture. Being  in a solid situation: with shoulders  level, the hips level, the spine stacked up. Visualize putting the spine and shoulder bones in the right order and letting the flesh hang off that structure. We use this posture in order to remain relaxed and awake. The practice we’re doing is very precise: be very much awake and calm. If you find yourself getting dull or hazy or falling asleep, then check the posture.


Gaze- drishti

Jalhara Bandha :For mindfulness practice, the gaze can be downward focusing a couple of inches in front of the nose with a soft gaze, hooded lids or the eyes can be closed. We are trying to reduce sensory input as much as we can. We’re just trying to work with the mind and the more we raise our gaze, the more distracted we’re going to be. It’s as if you had an overhead light shining over the whole room, and all of a sudden you focus it down right in front of you. You are purposefully ignoring what is going on around you. You are putting the horse of mind in a smaller corral.



Breath


When we practice, we become more and more familiar with our mind, and in particular we learn to recognize the movement of the mind, which we experience as thoughts. We do this by using an object of meditation to provide a contrast or counterpoint to what’s happening in our mind. As soon as we go off and start thinking about something, awareness of the object of meditation will bring us back. We could put a rock or a candle in front of us and use it to focus our mind, but using the breath as the object of meditation is particularly helpful because it relaxes us.

As you start the practice, you have a sense of your body and a sense of where you are, and then you begin to notice the breathing. The whole feeling of the breath is very important. The breath should not be forced, obviously; you are breathing naturally in and out through the nose. The breath is going in and out, in and out. With each breath you become relaxed.


Thoughts


No matter what kind of thought comes up, you should say to yourself, “That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it. Now I’m practicing meditation.” It gets down to how honest we are, how true we can be to ourselves, during each session.

Everyone gets lost in thought sometimes. You might think, “I can’t believe I got so absorbed in something like that,” but try not to make it too personal. Just try to be as unbiased as possible. Mind will be wild and we have to recognize that. We can’t push ourselves. If we’re trying to be completely concept-free, with no discursiveness at all, it’s just not going to happen.

So through the labeling process, we simply see our discursiveness. We notice that we have been lost in thought, we mentally label it “thinking”—gently and without judgment—and we come back to the breath. When we have a thought—no matter how wild or bizarre it may be—we just let it go and come back to the breath, come back to the situation here.

Each meditation session is a journey of discovery to understand the basic truth of who we are. In the beginning the most important lesson of meditation is seeing the speed of the mind. But the meditation tradition says that mind doesn’t have to be this way: it just hasn’t been worked with.

What we are talking about is very practical. Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. And because we are working with the mind that experiences life directly, just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.

The book Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a great introduction to MBSR. Another book, The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Williams et al is a wonderful guide to MBSR as a preventative for relapse prevention for depression.