Mindfulness “Investigation” – Cultivating Wisdom
A free offering from the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional
Mindfulness “Investigation” – Cultivating Wisdom
This month we look at why mindfulness is such a valuable/useful practice – through mindfulness investigation we can cultivate wisdom. In addition to reducing stress, anxiety, fear, etc., mindfulness helps us discern what is skillful or wholesome and what is not. Mindfulness opens up “space” for options or choices. – Mike Healy (September 28,2018
But First, What is Mindfulness? – Attention, Concentration, Awareness, and Compassion
Mindfulness is awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally (that is, suspending judgment). Mindfulness involves training in attention, awareness, concentration, and compassion. You come to know and understand yourself in a deeper, experiential way.
Key aspects of mindfulness: Concentration – the ability to stay focused on one object, one-pointedness. Awareness – another way of knowing that is non-cognitive, experiential, in the present moment; when we are not being caught-up in thoughts of the future or the past. Attention is where the mind is focused, with curiosity and gentleness. We focus attention on whatever arises in mind and body. Just directly observing the sensations themselves, moment-to-moment, with nothing added. This practice is done with Compassion – the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s or your own suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Mindfulness allows us to see more clearly and understand the conditions that largely create suffering; coming to know and understand these conditions creates space for great compassion.
Mindfulness practice allows you to respond rather than react to stressful situations. Reactions are often automatic, unconscious, and habitual. Responses are conscious choices arising from mindfulness – perception, appraisal, awareness of what’s actually happening in the moment. This mindfulness process results in not identifying as closely with thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, which in turn loosens attachment to them. This allows space for creative conscious, choices. You are fully present in the moment. Keep in mind, as with developing any art or skill, mindfulness requires practice and patience.
Mindfulness meditation practice includes both formal sitting practice as well as being present throughout the day. You mindfully attend to whatever activity you are engaged in, moment by moment. Whether it is eating, washing the dishes, or playing sports or a game, you can bring mindfulness to that activity. Notice how you feel, engage all of your senses, watch your thoughts as they arise. In this way, you are bringing your whole self to whatever you are doing.
Benefits of Mindfulness Practice
- Change your relationship to stress, anxiety, anger, fear, sadness, other difficult emotions
- Be less reactive and more responsive–allowing “space” for conscious, creative choices
- See more clearly – with fewer perceptual filers and biases, less conditioning
- Realize a deep relaxed awareness of mind and body
- Develop peacefulness, a reservoir of peace or calm energy
- Gain insights – identifying skillful and unskillful patterns of behavior, speech, etc.
- Know yourself more deeply, fully; be more open to your inner wisdom
- Be more compassionate with self and others
In short, you can realize greater health and happiness
Cultivating Wisdom with Mindfulness “Investigation”
Discerning “What is Skillful and What Is Not” is the first of five areas where mindfulness enables us to investigate our experience, leading to greater wisdom (Goldstein, 2013.
Investigation helps us see “what is what,” to understand things as they really are. Discriminating investigation of what is skillful or wholesome and what is unskillful or unwholesome leads to greater wisdom as your practice deepens. Unskillful or unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions are rooted in greed, anger, and delusion. Honesty and openness are part of the investigation, enabling you to see more clearly different motivations that may be present. “We are practicing in order to see things as they are and to make wise decisions based on that understanding” or to cultivate wisdom (Goldstein, 2013, p 236-237). With wisdom, writes Goldstein, we see the skillful thoughts and activities that are conducive to greater happiness and we see the unskillful ones that lead to further suffering and conflict” (p. 351).
A second area that mindfulness allows us to investigate, cultivating wisdom is “Recognizing Habit Patterns of Suffering” (Goldstein, 2013, p 236-237). Investigation is helpful when working with strong or afflictive emotions. Mindfully investigating the nature and qualities of emotions can lead to acceptance. With acceptance of what’s in the present moment we can see the impermanent nature of emotions. This understanding allows us to not identify with the emotions so we can let it go or let it just be.
The third area involves “Seeing Personality as Not Self” (Goldstein, 2013, p 236-237). Investigation also involves seeing into the basic structure of “personality types” – types based on positive and negative aspects of greed and desire, aversion and anger, and delusion. In recognizing these patterns or habits in our self and others, we can begin to see them as impersonal. We can see them more as habits of mind and not who we are. These areas are ripe for change.
The fourth area is “Understanding the Nature of Thoughts” (Goldstein, 2013, p 237-238). Examination, experientially, is an important investigative area. We spend much of our time and life caught up in our thoughts. Bringing attention to our thoughts, investigating its nature, we begin to notice the impermanent nature of thoughts and thinking. Thoughts often arise due to a variety of conditions much as a rainbow arises due to certain weather conditions – moisture, sunlight, etc. Upon mindful investigation we see that thoughts are similar to rainbows in that they have no intrinsic existence of their own.
The fifth area mindful investigation is “Exploring the Processes of Mind and Body” (Goldstein, 2013, p 238). Here we are exploring the nature and characteristic of mind and body with a focus on processes rather than content. As practice deepens we begin to see and understand the impermanent nature of these processes – how thoughts, emotions, and body sensations are constantly arising and passing. This deepening understand of the impermanent nature of all mind and body processes allows us to not identify as closely with these processes as a permanent, unchanging self. These insights gained from investigation leads to greater wisdom and less suffering. Practicing mindful investigation we can make more conscious choices. We learn to cultivate what is wholesome and to abandon what is unwholesome and unskillful. This leads to greater peace and happiness.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) workshop provides guidelines and practices for bringing mindfulness to stress/suffering that we all experience in life.
MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts in 1979. It is one of the most effective and researched stress reduction workshops available today. MBSR is taught and researched at US medical centers, universities, and elsewhere throughout the world, and is available through the Loran Smith Center at Athens Regional Health System, 240 Talmadge Drive, Athens, GA 30606. Research on MBSR is the “gold standard” for mindfulness.
MBSR Research – Visit http://www.goamra.org the American Mindfulness Research Association
Mindfulness information – AccessToInsight.org
Mindfulness Practice Evening is a Free Offering in the Athens Community –
that meets the second Friday of each month from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. These mindfulness instruction sessions explore different aspects of mindfulness through discussions and practices and are free. All those who are interested are welcome – whether you are just curious or have a regular practice. Free parking. The Dedicated
Mindfulness Practitioners Group meets, 1st and 3rd Saturday, 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. These two mindfulness practice opportunities and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop are held at the Healing Lodge, next to the Loran Smith Center, Piedmont Athens Regional, at 240 Talmadge Dr., Athens, GA 30606. The next MBSR workshop starts in early 2018.
A Taste of Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “is-ness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.