Mindfulness includes the capacity to remember, remembering what is happening right now, and also remembering what is skilful and what is unskilful in the mind, so that we are better able to discern what qualities of mind bring about suffering in our lives, for ourselves and others, and what states of mind bring about happiness, peace for ourselves and others, this is the broader meaning of mindfulness. both in our meditation and in our lives.
“Meditation is a deep listening with the body, heart and mind to find graciousness, wisdom and ease amidst all the change around us. We can invite a sense of calm and steadiness with each breath. We can become the loving awareness that is tuning into our heart and listens deeply.” – Jack Kornfield
“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centered on the body.” – The Buddha
As the American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says, we meditate “to wake up from the cocoon of our habitual patterns”.
Every day, as we sit in meditation, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves: “As I go into this day, what is the most important thing? What is the best use of this day?”
What is the best use of each day of our lives?
Meditation practice invites us into this reflection: every day, we could be more sane, more compassionate, more tender, more openhearted and more in touch with reality.
Our practice allows us to realize when we are hooked on automatic pilot, so we can pause and to create a gap. With this pause comes choice: we realize that we can choose a different, wiser response, instead of our habitual conditioned reaction.
The Thai buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah described our meditation practice as stopping the war: “We human beings are in conflict, in battle, at war with so many things: with one another, with ourselves, with our ideas, our ideals, with our wishes, with our hopes. We’re in conflict with when it’s too hot, and when it’s too cold, and how it tastes and how it sounds and how they are. Why not step off the battlefield, stop the war? Find the place of peace that’s beyond and around, that’s larger than all those conflicts. Why not live in peace?”
“The human mind can create conflict. It can also create peace. To find peace in the world, we have to find peace in ourselves.”
We will explore what it means to live with a peaceful heart, and how we can practice equanimity and peace in our formal meditation practice and in daily life.
This teaching starts to explore the practice of loving kindness for others. Loving kindness starts with the intention to be better friends to ourselves and to others. It counter acts the sense of separation and threat that come from our conditioning. It teaches us to let go of our self-judgment and critique of others, so we can be kinder. This practice usually starts with getting in touch with the love we feel for the people close to us, and then expands to include neutral people and difficult people, ending with all beings.
Cultivating the attitude of letting go or non-attachment is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness. But our conditioning is to hold on to things: we hold on to our experiences, the way things are supposed to be, beliefs, material goods… While we would like things to be a certain way, the reality is that change is happening all the time, and we tend to struggle with it. Our practice helps us to realize that it is okay to rest in change. We don’t have to control our experience, resist it or try and change it, we can just open and relax and let it be.
The practice of resting in open awareness teaches us to become conscious of witnessing all experiences that arise without becoming entangled or lost in them. Jack Kornfield calls this witnessing quality becoming “the one who knows”. It allows us to recognize our experience and then to respond wisely rather than being caught up or reacting to it, no matter what happened.
It allows us to stop identifying with our experiences and identities. We realize that we are this witnessing consciousness that can hold all our experiences.
This article starts with reviewing the three components of self-compassion, before presenting a few simple self-compassion practices that you can do in your day-to-day life when you encounter a difficult situation. To conclude, it exposes some of the misgivings around self-compassion in order to illustrate the actual benefits of this practice. This is based on the extensive work of Kristin Neff in the field of self-compassion.
Self-compassion teaches us to recognize and accept our suffering when we are going through a difficult time; it reminds us that suffering and imperfection are part of the shared human experience; and it teaches us to treat ourselves with kindness and care in response. This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation.