A friend recently asked me why I practice sitting meditation and how I do it. In the process of answering I had an epiphany about the power of awareness.
First, the “how”:1. Sit comfortably, which typically means cross legged on something comfortable. Maybe get a little pillow for your bottom. 2. Breath in slowly, allow the action of breathing in to settle in your body, then breathe out slowly. 3. With averted eyes, continue to focus on breathing in and out. 4. Allow your eyes to come to a close, comfortably. 5. Stay with your breath. Follow its rhythm. 6. When your mind wanders, simply notice the thought, and then come back to the breath. Make no judgment about the wandering mind.
Now, the “why”:
As I recounted my practice I noticed, perhaps for the first time, why I continue to meditate. Of course, meditation practice is part of Buddhist practice generally, and often this would be my answer when someone asked me why I meditate. However, such a generic answer didn’t really explain the value of meditation, or why it’s an integral part of Buddhist practice.
As I spoke with my friend I realized that in the moment when I notice my mind wandering I have touched the jewel of awareness. It is by being aware of my wandering mind that I am able to bring myself back to the breath, rather than remaining caught up in the thoughts carrying me away. The long term benefit is that I water the seed of mindfulness in me, and as a result I am more mindful in my daily life when I am not sitting. Through meditation I become more aware of my thoughts, and my habitual ways of responding to painful situations. By seeing these responses and thoughts, I can begin to disidentify from them: I am not my thoughts, nor am I my reactions. That is, I do not have to craft an identity out of my feelings, thoughts and reactions that keep me locked into thinking, feeling and reacting in the same way for perpetuity. From the space of awareness I am free to make a different choice, liberated to feel, think and respond differently.
In short, I am free to grow.