Mindfulness: A Modern Practice Or An Ancient Tradition?

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

̴Buddha  ̴

Mindfulness has become a modern buzzword, popular with employers and even health professionals. Everywhere you look you are reminded to be mindful. You can even download apps to help you to become ‘mindful, so much so, that there are even some that vow to help you become a “Mindful Mom!”

What is Mindfulness?

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Mindfulness is a modern practice initiated by Jon Kabat-Zin. It originates from the Buddhist tradition of Vipassana or insight meditation which was first introduced by Buddha, 2500 years ago.

Vipassana meditation is an awareness of what is happening in the present and only the present. It takes many years to achieve this discipline of mind, and subsequently  full self awareness is achieved.

A wonderful detox for the mind

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The mind is constantly working, consciously or subconsciously. In today’s’ world of instant gratification, we tend not to engage in activities that focus our minds or attention on hobbies such as carpentry, gardening, knitting, writing and painting etc.

Unlike past generations, we find it difficult to focus our minds, and this has resulted in having today a generation suffering from stress related mental and physical ailments.

Mindful meditation is a wonderful detox of the mind. Once you master the technique of focusing your mind only on the present, you are able to recharge and replenish your mind, so that your senses become acutely aware.

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Studies have shown that eight weeks of mindful meditation significantly alters the brain, especially the Amygdala. This area is responsible for stress has been known to shrink after mindful meditation.

The Pre-frontal cortex, the area responsible for planning, problem solving and emotional control is also affected, it becomes thicker and shows increased activity.

Mindful meditation makes you more aware of yourself and your surroundings

You begin to communicate without speaking, listen without hearing, see beyond vision, feel without touching, and taste without eating,a complete sensory revamp.

Rise to the challenge

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To sit still and focus on our breaths for even ten minutes can be challenging for most people, especially if they are easily distracted.

Sometimes, it helps to sit for a while and experience the ebb and flow of your own breath. You may even do a body scan to try and find imbalances in your system.

However, this is something that the uninitiated among us would find a bit challenging. You may quite naturally find your mind pre-occupied and concerned about;

  • How uncomfortable your sitting position is
  • Or consciously aware of the things you need to do when you get up
  • Or that you need to be somewhere in an hour, while wishing that time would pass quickly.

Mindfulness: A Modern Practice Or An Ancient Tradition? 3

Once mindfulness is mastered though, you break through the boundaries of the mind, and your body becomes weightless.

The present remains the present, no depression about yesterday and no anxiety about tomorrow.

You may even have an out of body experience (OBE), or transcend to other realms, communicating with the Divine, but still in the here and now.

Is it safe for everyone?

Mindfulness: A Modern Practice Or An Ancient Tradition? 4

Studies have shown that mindful meditation is beneficial to physical and mental health.

It has been used by employers, schools, hospitals and even prisons to manage things like weight loss, anxiety, depression, athletic performance and special needs.

A word of caution, for those who are new to mindful meditation, it focuses on awareness of self, so works best with relatively healthy people, with well-balanced lives.

However, people suffering with clinical mental health issues should ensure that anyone facilitating these types of meditation sessions is experienced and can offer support and follow up after these sessions.

Sometimes, awareness of self can cause past trauma to resurface or aggravate psychotic episodes.

Bi-polar people are particularly vulnerable to negative side effects as are people who take recreational drugs.

Read more on this here

Buddhists who practice Vipassana spend many years training and learning different techniques that gradually cultivates mindfulness or awareness.

They go through many exercises to prepare themselves for self-discovery mindfulness is attained through harnessing the mind.

It is not an overnight thing that can be attained by downloading an app. A mindful approach should be taken when pursuing mindfulness.

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So how can we become mindful?

“Be patient everything comes to you in the right moment.”

̴The Buddha  ̴

Retreats

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Attending retreats are good way to start learning about mindfulness but you have to be realistic about how much can be achieved in ten days, once a year. Retreats may be viewed as a part of the learning but not the full journey.

Mindful Time

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Set aside time to be mindful

  • Find ways of incorporating some “me” time into your life, designate a space in your home just for you, where you can spend quiet time with yourself.
  • Take long solitary walks in nature
  • Sit in the garden and have a quiet moment with yourself.
  • Practice a creative hobby that encourages you to focus the mind. Zen masters knew exactly what they were doing when they set tedious and repetitive tasks for their students.

Simple changes such as these, pave the way for greater change. It trains the mind to be still, strengthening its ability to focus on simple things like appreciating nature.

More importantly, helps you get to know yourself without all the background chatter of the world. This is good preparation for aspirants to get comfortable with themselves before delving deeper into exploring self-awareness.

Solo and Group meditation

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A really great way to get started, especially for beginners is to join a credible Mindful Meditation group with a good facilitator.

Someone who can offer support and advice, particularly if there are undesirable after effects.

For more experienced meditators, practicing mindful meditation alone, is a wonderful experience, it is great for advancement and spiritual growth.

Food for thought

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To pursue mindfulness exclusively in meditative states is not “authentic”. One must also have an awareness of self, within the context of creation in its entirety.

Moreover how we interact and connect with the divine, through divine consciousness and with all expressions of divine consciousness.

Do you practice Mindful Meditation please share your experience with us?

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Great tips and reminders about the beauty and power of meditation. I like the phrase “detox for the mind.” 🙂

    1. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

      Thanks Brad, I enjoyed writing this post for precisely that reason, it is a great reminder; and yes, we detox everything else so why not the mind too. 😊

      1. Wonderful. May we purify our minds body and spirit.

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