Mindful Matters

Image by Jack Moreh

Why Mindfulness Practice is a Must

Why Meditate-Meditation is a mental exercise. Mental fitness is a product of mental exercise, just as physical fitness is a product of physical exercise. Without some form of mindfulness practice, the human mind is to some degree dysfunctional.

Concentration and Contemplation — The Two Primary Functions of Mind

  1. Concentration — The mind is neurotic and wildly undisciplined without a daily mindfulness practice to counteract its natural erratic tendencies. A balanced mental state is the discipline mindfulness practice cultivates. Focused states of concentration like study or athletics are a product of objective or conscious awareness and have no influence over the deeper subjective or unconscious level of reactivity. Ignorance exists on the subjective or unconscious level of the mind and rises to the conscious level in the form of unexamined beliefs and reactive impulses. By themselves, intelligence, focus, and determination cannot evolve your consciousness from ignorance (unconscious) to insight (conscious). As an example, consider clever and cunning criminals. The aim of mindfulness practice is to develop concentration (focus) and equanimity (a nonreactive awareness) as a pathway to insight. Ineffective motivations include seeking results, benefits, cures, or assumed outcomes because they split the focus of the mind. The quality of concentration determines the quality of equanimity, which defines the nature of insight.
Image by Jack Moreh

About Concentration

The following terms and definitions are interpreted here to best fit a mindfulness context.

Concentration — Exclusive attention on one object /Mental Absorption.

Mindfulness — The act of concentrating with equanimity.

Equanimity — A non-reactive mental state/Balanced Mind.

Contemplation — Thoughtful Observation/Reflection.

2. Contemplation — is a primary function of mind, which automatically channels and processes thought without your consent or control. Everyone’s mind has a mental set-point where it rests on a frequency or attitude of contemplation that is either mostly positive or mostly negative. If no effort is made to adjust the mental attitude of mind, then it naturally rests on a level of negative contemplation such as fear, doubt, confusion, discomfort, dissatisfaction, or some other state of agitation. Mental clarity is always a function of intention, discipline, and maintenance. There is no such thing as a consistently effortless positive mental state of clarity for the average person. A balanced mental state means your consciousness rests in wholesome contemplation. Wholesome contemplation is the foundation for an enduring and expanding prosperity/happiness/well-being.

Image by Jack Moreh

About Contemplation

The mind thinking thoughts is the act of contemplation.

You don’t think thoughts, nor do you control the thinking process. The thinking process is an automatic function of the mind. Much like your heartbeat and breathing are automatic functions of the body. Therefore, clearing your mind is a misnomer. The aim of mindfulness practice is to establish concentration and equanimity not thought control.

Mindfulness practice eventually allows the practitioner to direct their attention (focus, concentration) into two primary modes of mental activity under your control, the volition of thought (intention, will, motive) and the character of thought (condition, nature, virtue). Therefore, a disciplined practitioner learns to redirect their thinking process into wholesome mental action. The method of redirecting mind is mindfulness practice, which is a valuable skill anyone can learn. In this example, the volition of mind means the mental action of doing no harm, and character means contemplating the positive as ultimate Reality over the negative, which is always a delusion.

My Mini Mindfulness Motivational Manual

· Base your opinion of mindfulness practice exclusively on your experience. Find the courage to try it, with the intention of sticking with it until an intuitive understanding develops. Establishing a strong practice won’t be easy and will certainly take time. Once a reasonable level of concentration is achieved a natural enthusiasm generates sufficient momentum to continue improving.

· Understand why mindfulness practice is essential to your well-being. Your answer to the fundamental question of, “why I meditate?” is critical. Your answer will determine your intention (volition), your intention determines your experience, and experience determines the quality (character) of your ongoing success. “What you imagine you create.”— Buddha

· Why I Meditate. My answer has changed as I have developed in practice. As a beginner, I believed meditation could help me become happier, healthier, and better adjusted. As a daily practitioner with years of experience, I am happier, healthier and better adjusted. Because of these effects, my current answer is, “to continue the process of self-mastery.” I also believe my continued development, for the time being, depends to some degree on my daily practice. These are positive and powerful incentives that I rely upon to stay committed to a practice that is often demanding and uncomfortable.

Image by Jack Moreh

· Why You Meditate? If your answer is shallow such as, “I like to meditate to relax, or clear my mind, or be at peace with nature” your experience will be shallow, meaning non-transformational. If your answer is to grow, evolve or develop self-mastery your practice will lead you to that level. Remember, the volition of mind is one of the areas of mental activity you control. If your answer challenges you to grow, then you will gravitate toward a practice that will provide opportunities to improve. If your practice is not facilitating a change for the better, then both the way you are practicing and the technique you have chosen may be insufficient. Most people prefer weak and shallow forms of meditation because the idea of mindfulness is intimidating. Finding the appropriate mindfulness practice is the same as finding the right doctor, therapist, or mentor. If you aren’t experiencing positive effects on the level of your expectation something is off. Mindfulness practice cannot benefit you if it is too easy, intermittent, or devoid of a principled doctrine.

· Understand the common pitfalls of practice, especially in the early stages of development, which often lead to a diminishing commitment. Pain, frustration, fear, anxiety, agitation, restlessness and a host of other distractions will immediately present themselves to convince you to stop. The undisciplined mind has always enjoyed free-reign, so attempting to diminish its influence over you will absolutely result in distractions and discomforts.

· Proper practice will be challenging and uncomfortable from time to time. Therefore, how you learn to deal with yourself will directly correlate to your progress. Mindfulness is the practice of learning to deal with ‘“you” honestly. An adequate practice should eventually reveal every distraction as a product of ignorance and imagination, leaving only your technique, determination, and experience as the key factors for your appraisal of its worth.

· Be prepared for the three big mental arguments to arise when attempting to change the erratic habit pattern of the mind. Whenever a positive intention tries to override an ignorant or unconscious habit pattern the ego resists. Resistance is always a function of ignorance or the automatic reflex of an undisciplined mind. Resistance takes the form of rational arguments designed to reestablish the status quo of a familiar comfort zone. There are other forms of resistance that arise, but it helps to know that resistance always has an unconscious cause. Dealing with the mind effectively addresses all types of ignorance including resistance.

Image by Stuart Miles

The Big Three Arguments

1. Too Difficult/I Can’t Do It — If you can breathe, you can meditate. Meditation is an entirely natural process for cultivating self-mastery. Every limitation humans experience is rooted in a mental cause within your control.

2. No Time — A busy life is a rational argument of resistance to positive change. An example of a useful solution to issues of time requires sacrificing some sleep time in the morning and downtime like TV at night. Experienced meditators understand that mental stress consumes energy as it produces adverse effects like tiredness, irritability, psychosomatic illness, and the entrenchment of destructive habit patterns. Proper mindfulness practices generate positive mental energy by developing wisdom in place of resistance. Self-mastery is never a game of diminishing returns. Self-mastery is the game of independence and liberation that requires sacrifice but never losses.

3. Unnecessary/I Don’t Need It — Without mental exercise, the mind suffers from varying degrees of psychological dysfunction. Every mind needs a mindfulness discipline to counteract the fear and negativity inherent in human existence. Experienced meditators experience mental dysfunction, but they engage valuable skills to redirect their minds into wholesome states of consciousness. This is why experienced meditators continue to practice. Self-mastery is the never-ending process of self-discovery that depends on a serious method, a methodology and a commitment.

The big three arguments are the most common reactions that prevent people from establishing a daily practice. All of these arguments are entirely false. The ego perceives mindfulness as a threat of control or a diminishment of its freedom to remain erratic, so it impulsively pushes back in the negative. Breaking the unconscious habit pattern of the mind to resist mental discipline is another common ambition of mindfulness practice.

My Message May Differ

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A Divided Mind Cannot Overcome Ignorance

Here is where I differ from many mindfulness advocates. Countless highly skilled and well-intentioned meditation teachers market their expertise on desirable benefits, results, and effects. Clear your mind and experience a sense of profound healing peace, as well as the promise of reduced anxiety and stress. Indeed, the point of any mindfulness practice such as meditation is to improve your well-being. However, the experience you have is entirely based on your commitment to a worthy technique. Results vary based on the quality of the technique, the time allotted, and level of dedication applied. Becoming established in a transformative mindfulness practice can be deceptively ineffective without a proper understanding of what you intend to accomplish. The foundation becomes firm when the right motive backs a precise technique. Mindfulness practice succeeds by developing concentration and equanimity without dividing that focus through imagined benefits.

Image by Kim Daehyun

A Mental Match

Mental clarity cannot flourish without moral clarity. Moral clarity is the absence of lying, cheating, stealing, harming others, intoxication, and sexual misconduct. For example, intoxication and meditation do not go together. Attempting to purify the mind while engaging in habits and behaviors that muddle the mind is the very contradiction that simultaneously causes suffering, and the desire to be free from pain. A desire to imbibe and meditate is the very state of confusion that mindfulness practice aims to correct. To effectively resolve conflicting experiences one must develop the courage and maturity to make only wholesome choices. Once the volition and character of mind match the integrity of a worthy technique, the evolution of mind becomes possible.

Image by Kim Daehyun

Meditate To Evolve

Meditation techniques (in my opinion most of them) that do not develop depth of consciousness by evolving insight from ignorance are surface-based experiences, akin to relaxation therapy. There is nothing wrong with taking time to relax, as long as you accept that relaxation techniques have no capacity to evolve your consciousness. I often say, “jump in a hot tub, get a massage, or read a novel if you want to relax, but meditate properly if you expect to evolve.”

Transformation as a Proper Motivation

Any mindfulness practice can produce benefits, but lasting change requires a transformative technique. Transformation in this context means moving from ignorance to insight, or unconscious reactivity to mindfulness. Insight is the intuitive recognition and acceptance of Reality as it is, and a proper ambition of good mindfulness practice. Temporary benefits are all there is without a transformative technique for developing insight.

Image by Kim Daehyun

A Common Delusion

A temporary benefit such as relaxation will often degrade into an experience of dissatisfaction from a practice that has no faculty to address unconscious ignorance. Dissatisfaction eventually erodes determination or stalls the process entirely from a lack of transformative change. It is common for delusion to arise in practitioners that are committed to practice, but practice ineffectively, or employ a surface technique. A practitioner’s delusion usually takes the form of confusing a temporary benefit with a permanent change. The assumption that the act of practicing equals being better off is the essence of the delusion. Therefore, it is wise to choose a mindfulness practice based on its moral doctrine, daily discipline and ability to help develop and maintain equanimity. Also, without ongoing guidance and supplemental instruction, every practice will eventually stall, and this often happens without the practitioner realizing it. It is extremely common for practitioners to go through the motions of practice without developing insight significantly. Transformation or self-mastery is the proper motivation for making a commitment to mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness that does not lead to liberation is a missed opportunity.

This commentary was designed to encourage people to try a mindfulness technique, what to expect if they do, and not to give up until they understand for themselves why they are doing it. This essay also intends to caution practitioners of how easy it is to become stalled and deluded in their practice, therefore it is wise to seek supplemental instruction continuously.