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Lions Roar : March 2018
what’s going on in our world. Mindfulness helps us respond with greater clarity and a kind heart to whatever situation we find ourselves in. It helps us to be more present for our lives. In the Theravada tradition, mindfulness meditation is called vipassana, which means “to see things clearly.” When you are mindful you know what is actually happening in your present moment’s experience, without judging how it is or wishing it were different. If you have an itch, for example, mindfulness feels the sensation of itching with no agenda to get rid of it. It is the bare knowing of experience. When you’re mindful, the mind is fully present for what’s actually happening. The key moment in the meditative process is when you realize your mind has been wandering. How you respond to that fact determines how you will relate to meditation practice. If you react with frustration and judgment, you will strengthen those qualities. The secret to skillful meditation is bringing your atten- tion back with great patience and kindness. In doing so, you will develop a healthy relationship with your mind, as you cultivate patience and kindness along with mindful awareness. After establishing the breath as your connection or anchor to the present, you can then include any part of your experience as the subject of your mindfulness meditation. There is nothing outside the meditation field. Whether it’s the breath, sensations, sounds, images, emotions, or the thinking process itself, you simply are aware of what is happening now, allowing your expe- rience to be just as it is. When a loud sound calls your attention, mindfulness knows that hearing is happening. If you’re restless, mindfulness knows that restlessness is here. If you are calm, mindfulness means simply knowing you are calm. Mindfulness does not try to fix anything. Along with kindness and patience, it’s important to let the mind be as relaxed and spacious as possible, so that it’s not con- tracted or tight. This allows you to more easily open to anything that arises. Practicing mindfulness with this relaxed, interested, non-judging awareness will help you develop these qualities in the rest of your life. You will see for yourself why the Buddha called mindfulness the most direct way to overcome suffering and realize great happiness. JAMES BARAZ is a teacher in the Insight Meditation tradition whose online course “Awakening Joy” begins in February. * Stability and Insight: The Buddhist Formula by Gaylon Ferguson IN THE TRADITION of the buddhadharma that traveled from ancient India to Tibet (and, more recently, to various points west), the two main kinds of meditation practiced are shamatha (peaceful or calm abiding) and vipashyana (insight). These are two different but complementary types of training and a doctrinal description of what is completely natural to us: our innate wakefulness. Calm abiding meditation develops the mind’s inherent stability, clarity, and strength. We place our attention on the body or the breath, notice when it moves away, and gently return to resting the mind one-pointedly. Gradually, we overcome what Suzuki Roshi called our “monkey mind,” our habitual patterns of wildly grasping after objects of pleasure. Eventually, even subtle obscurations of mental dullness and lethargy dissolve in the pacifying coolness and stable clarity of shamatha. Insight meditation turns the mind away from delusion, our confused notions about ourselves, others, and our world. It turns the mind toward the reality of things as they truly are. Insight meditation helps us understand, in a series of progres- sive steps, the truths of egolessness, emptiness, and great joy.