It is important to understand what is meant by meditation and how it is used in mindfulness.
We are not going to get into either spiritual or scientific theories of the effects of meditation. If you wish to do so you can easily find all you could possibly wish for with a quick Google search.
We will use meditation simply as a means to an end. You will need to practice to know how to do the exercises. It’s just like you need to learn to drive to go on the road, but you don’t need to know how a car actually works.
It is important to come to meditation with an open mind. The structure, words and form of the meditations we will encounter are not to be considered to be of intrinsic value in themselves. They are not rules and are not like prayers or recitations that have to be got ‘just right’.
You may find meditation difficult or somewhat ineffectual at first. This is fine and normal. Don’t let it put you off.
Try to avoid judging the meditations, particularly if you are finding them difficult. Don’t get caught into thinking that ‘they’ don’t work. ‘They’ are nothing in themselves only words or sounds (or even the lack of sounds a lot of the time).
After a while, you might find one that is a favorite or that works best, or that you pick up easier than the others. That’s fine. Notice that.
It’s what you do during the meditation that counts. You are never trying to empty your head of thoughts – that would be the opposite of mindfulness. Instead you are trying to make space in your head for awareness of the moment.
The meditation is you and your mind. Remember it’s the goal of becoming aware of the moment that counts.
Tasks for Today
Make sure you have an open mind on meditation. It is of no consequence if someone you know has disparaged the practice or if you have tried it in the past and found ‘it didn’t work’. Put these opinions aside.
If you feel you are comfortable with the concept, here is a short article on meditation by the renowned teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.
Have a read through. There’s no need at this stage to try to master any or all of the exercises he identifies as we will be coming to very similar exercises in future days of this course.
You may find that he appears to be rather over enthusiastic. You are entitled to hold that opinion, but know that it is an opinion of one who is only starting to study the subject.
You may be skeptical. Again, that’s fine but know that you are assessing this subject using whatever skills you have developed or knowledge you have acquired in some other discipline. Is this a reliable approach, or even appropriate?
Try not to be judgmental. Above all, it is essential that you do not look at what he says in a cynical manner. That would betray a closed mind and you would be ensuring that meditation cannot work for you.