Chapter 2 – Learning How to Practise Mindfulness & Meditation
THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR BODY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT – GUIDED MEDITATION (SHORT VERSION)
In my last post, we started talking about meditation and a Spanish book I am rereading APRENDE A PRACTICAR MINDFULNESS by Vicente Simón. We also checked the Basic Tools to practise meditation: Finding a good posture, Finding a time that is good for us, Having a safe space to practise. How did it go?
This time we will talk about what happens in the mind when we meditate: It is awesome!
We all probably have heard that meditation is great for our mind; we have seen yogis sitting down for hours and looking like their mind has been cleared and cleansed in a Mind-Wash Machine. That’s probably why we (only me?) think we just need to sit down and wait for our mind to shut up and know what to do. But this is typically not the case. We DO need to give explicit instructions to our mind on what to do when we meditate. The clearer the instruction, the less we have to wander! And that’s priceless when we start the path of meditation.
And so the first explicit instruction for the mind is to “monitor our attention, so it stays in the present moment and the present experience”. This step is so essential, Simón calls it the Fundamental Instruction.
So, why is the Fundamental Instruction so important?
If the mind keeps its attention to the experience happening right now, this means we are in the present moment, which is the only time where Mindfulness can happen. We should strive to “observe whatever comes without getting engaged, just as a silent witness would do”. No matter what we think about it or how it makes us feel: “my foot is itchy, my back is hurting, this noise is annoying, I hate my neighbour, why do I have to live here, I bet he is…”, breath!… and observe.
Then the Fundamental Instruction is “Stay Present”. Easier said than done, I know… but we can learn how to do it.
We observe, ok! But what exactly can we observe?
According to Simon, there are four objects – external or internally created – that we can observe in our mind:
a. whatever comes from our 5 senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell)
b. the signals from our physical body (information from muscles, joints, pain)
c. our mental activity (emotions, feelings, thoughts)
d. our ability to vibrate emotionally with other people and to ‘guess’ what other minds are thinking (I hope he explains this better soon!)
What happens when our mind can observe its own activity?
Ufff, we need a lot of practice, but getting here is a significant milestone. At the beginning, we might only be able to do it for a few seconds before we wander with our mind to the past, future, monologues, etc. But the only thing we can do every single time we catch ourselves wandering far away is to bring us back as gently as possible to the present moment. Again. And Again. And Again!
Once we have practised observing our own mind, we might then be able to identify ourselves as the “observers”; as that silent witness observing what is unfolding in front of us. “So, anything that happens either externally or internally (in my mind) is observed by Me, the observer?”, yes! This is brilliant news because then we can separate from what we are observing. What we are observing is not us, is not me. I am not what I think, I am not the anger I feel, I am the witness and, as so, I can decide what to do with that object I am observing. Simón calls that separation “Disidentification”, which essentially adds space between the observed and the observer, giving us enough time to think how/if we want to react.
Wow, this is big, ha?
I think it is a beautiful way to put it, Simon! And now, let’s practise this theory with the following audio of a guided meditation. So, choose a comfortable position you can hold for around 15 minutes and get ready to begin.
Let me know how it goes!