Mindfulness - how to get the best from your practice
Mindfulness is not all about sitting and waiting; some 'work' has to be done.
Many people come to Mindfulness meditation as a result of an issue in their lives. These issues can be both varied and curiously universal. However, one of the common threads is that when we sit, we want or expect something to change, shift or alter. Sometimes it does, but the more we crave its disappearance or release, the more it holds on. These are symptoms of craving, striving and aversion.
So how do we get the best out of our practice?
Well, when a farmer wants a healthy harvest, they do more than throw seeds onto the ground and wish. They prepare the ground; so it is with meditation practice.
These preparatory steps begin and end with how we choose to live our lives. This may not be easy and the mind will construct many reasons why life is difficult and often seek to blame external factors. However we do the best we can, with what we have, where we are.
It appears that a lot of time in life the approach is 'what can I get out of this?'. If we approach our practice with this attitude we may find the answer is either superficial or very little. There is an expectancy that someone or something else will be doing the work. If however we approach it with the attitude of 'what can I give to this practice?', we may find the contents of our thoughts and our answer changing.
This attitude can be cultivated in everyday life by considering acts of generosity, self sacrifice and giving. We can ask ourselves 'where is my focus?'. Does it give rise to greed, anger or selfishness? If so, consider where this maybe originating from. We are sensory creatures and so all we consume effects us - what we choose to watch or see, eat and drink, listen to, smell or feel - all these can be observed and discernment is required if we are to become more balanced in our lives, on and off the cushion.
Do we find that our once a week sit 'ticks our spiritual box', or do we consciously seek out space at other times in our lives for silence and solitude? Even 5 minutes can start to build a practice and will enhance our longer sits.
Finally, would we consider our actions skilful or unskilful? By this I mean do we endeavour to conduct our lives honestly, peacefully, morally?
I would suggest that all of the above are aspirations, aims to be conscious of and to work towards. Sometimes we will succeed and sometimes we will stumble; such is life. However even if we consider these aims, at least in this way, we are facing in a healthy direction.