While concentration meditation focuses our attention on a single, relatively stable object, mindfulness meditation assumes a more dynamic, inclusive field of observation.
Traditionally, one first practices concentration meditation for some time to still and focus the wandering and undisciplined mind. Then this strong concentration is directed to look deeply into the nature of the mindbody process in order to awaken wisdom.
Mindfulness meditation is then applied to investigate the nature of experience, and many profound insights arise that alter our deeply held, but unexamined, beliefs and realign our values with a way of life more in harmony with the deep nature of things.
The heart of mindfulness meditation is compassionate awareness able to hold and bear any experience without turning away, and without compulsively trying to change the experience. Developing our capacity to "sit in the fire" with our own suffering is very powerful. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we need to remember to "smile to our sorrow and to our pain because we are more than our sorrow or pain."
The following mindfulness meditation will build your confidence and compassion and strengthen you to be more wholeheartedly present with others you care for when they are suffering. It will help you find the courage to "sit in the fire":
First, center and balance yourself by mindfully resting in the flow of your breathing. Inhaling, gently smile to yourself and know that you are breathing in.Exhaling, gently smile to yourself and know that you are breathing out.
Inhaling. . . exhaling ... mindfully with full awareness of the sensations of the breath flowAfter a few moments of centering yourself with mindful breathing, turn your mindfulness to deeply experience whatever discomfort may be present for you.Allow the steadiness of your mindful breathing to help you to draw your awareness into the experience, and then carefully observe in minute detail the nature of the sensations, emotional feelings, thoughts, and perceptions that you find here.
Then make a mental note of whatever you are experiencing: "itching ... itching ..." "burning. . . burning .....restlessness ... restlessness ... " "worry ... worry ..." "anger .. anger ..." "fear ... fear .....or whatever best describes your experience in the moment. Allow the breath and the gentle smile to steady your awareness as you go.Gradually allow your mindfulness to investigate how this experience is changing and modulating in nature and intensity moment to moment. Notice how this experience that you label with a certain concept is actually a constellation of ephemeral, constantly changing phenomena.
Notice the flow and patterns of sensations in your body that are associated with a physical pain, emotional upset, or state of mind. With an inquiring mind notice: Are the sensations pulsing, throbbing, tingling, intense, subtle, painful, pleasurable, steady?
In a similar way, focus your mindfulness to investigate the changing nature of emotional feelings: What physical sensations are linked to this emotional experience? Is this emotional state constant, changing, intense, subtle? What thoughts or inner conversations are associated with these emotional feelings and physical sensations?
Looking, listening, and feeling deeply into the moment, discover what is really taking place without imposing extra overlay or interpretation upon it. Allow your mindfulness to give rise to insight into the nature of suffering, its causes and conditions, its changing nature, its gifts and challenges, and allow a greater wisdom and compassion to grow through the power of your presence.
[Adapted from the book "Luminous Mind" by Joel & Michelle Levey]Return from Mindfulness Meditation to Mindfulness