Meditation has been practised for thousands of years in cultures of both the East and the West. Originally the exclusive domain of the religious practitioner, meditation is fast finding increasing relevance and application within our contemporary culture amongst all members of society.
This is particularly the case with the 2,500-year-old traditional Buddhist meditation that enables the development of a calm-mindful-awareness.
Once viewed as an Eastern art, practised within the religious/spiritual context of a Buddhist monastery in the service of realising Enlightenment, the practice and potentials of mindfulness based meditation are finding a much wider interest and expression.
What makes this particular meditation form so approachable and applicable, beyond its original context is the universal quality of mindfulness.
Mindfulness, as the term denotes, is a fullness of awareness; the direct perception and conscious clarity of our ongoing present moment experience. Mindfulness is our ability to sustain a quality of awareness either in an attentive focused way leading to concentration and deep calm, or as an inclusive open-receptiveness leading to insightful understanding and wisdom. The elements or qualities of Mindfulness may be seen as follows:
JOHN BARTER’S ‘FIVE FACTORS OF MINDFULNESS’:
- Present Centered Awareness
- Attention (giving and holding)
- Objective Observation – non-reactive, non-judgmental
- Open Receptiveness
- Impersonal – free from self-identification
Mindfulness is the clarity of conscious awareness that connects us to our direct experience of life, free from the habitual ‘reacting, resisting, denying, and distracting’ that often occurs. Engaging mindfulness reduces general life stress, and the acute stress responses of ‘fight, fright, or flight’. This helps us to enable greater physical health, healing, and wellness; mental calm, clarity, and creativity; emotional responsiveness, ease, and joy, while also fulfilling our full human potential.
Meditation may thus be appreciated as: ‘The conscious practice of Mindfulness’, or more specifically:
‘Meditation is the practice and process of consciously developing a quality of sustained-mindful-awareness; enabling calm-clarity, and insightful-understanding.’ ~John Barter~
Meditation practice is important for the exercising and development of Mindfulness, whilst also offering a conscious break from the business of the ‘doing’ mental mode to a quality presence of the ‘being’ mode. However it is the application and use of mindfulness in our ongoing day-to-day life and experience that is essential. Mindfulness can thus be applied in our daily life, helping us to consciously respond from a clarity of awareness, and presence, a ‘fullness of mind’ (mindfulness) in attending to our ongoing experience.
It is here that mindfulness ,enhances the quality of our relationship to our ongoing experience, and thus enhances the quality, appreciation, and expression of our life.
Meditation is as much the process of engaging and enhancing qualities of our mind/heart, as it is the practice of bringing awareness to, and developing insight into ‘ the various elements of our conscious experience. Yet meditation is also the avenue by which we may experience and realise that which is beyond our ‘personal’ (persona) experience, the ‘transpersonal’, unconditioned or spiritual. These three areas of benefit from the practice of meditation, give rise to three main reasons for which people practice meditation, these being:
- Health/Healing ‘ preventative or curative measures
- Personal/Professional – development and enhancement
- Transpersonal/Spiritual – understanding and realisation
These three main reasons relate to the three main levels at which the practice of meditation enables change and transformation within the individual, enabled by increasing calm and insight. These are:
- The Physical, enabled by increasing a calm-ease, while decreasing stress and tension
- The Psycho-Emotional, enabled by increasing calm-balance and a mindful self-awareness
- Consciousness, enabled by deep calm-clarity and deep insightful-understanding.
What underlines and embraces the primary motivations for practicing meditation, as well as enabling change and transformation, is the development and enhancement of a mindful-awareness. A mindful-awareness enables a quiet depth and spaciousness from which to view and experience more fully the content of our consciousness, the constant flow of mind/heart experience (phenomena). A mindful-awareness helps create space around our thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that we can see them more clearly for what they are; for example ‘it’s just a thought, I don’t have to believe it or get caught into it!’
Mindful-awareness helps us to re-perspect our thoughts, issues, ideas, and entanglements that previously appeared looming and overwhelming. To appreciate the dynamics at play that cause our stress and distress, disappointment and despairing; to have insight and develop understanding and freedom from such entanglements. Here we can begin to see and experience the content of the mind, as discernible from the context of the mind, the natural stillness, spaciousness, and silence of the mind apparent between the thoughts, ideas, and mental images.
This inner ‘Stillness ~ Silence ~ Spaciousness’ of mind enabled by a mindful-awareness, is the natural state of our mind uncluttered from the flow of mental chatter, images, ideas, and constant commentary. When we become too removed from the inner true nature of the mind’s ‘Stillness ~ Silence ~ Spaciousness’, we can begin to lose balance, harmony, peace and well being in our life; we are susceptible to more stress, distress, angst, and illness. A mindful-awareness practised and cultivated as Meditation, enables us to sustain greater ‘Stillness ~ Silence ~ Spaciousness’ as a resource for greater personal health, professional performance and actualisation of our full human potential.