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  • What is Mindfulness?
    Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word Sati. Sati is an activity. What exactly is that? There can be no precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced- rather easily- and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. (That is words can only be a possible indication of the experience, but cannot define or replace the experience) Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal – quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality which gives rise to words – the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness. Ordinarily this stage is very short. It is that flashing split second just as you focus your eyes on the thing, just as you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before you start thinking about it – before your mind says, ‘Oh, it’s a dog.’ That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is Mindfulness Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. Yet this moment of soft, unfocused awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the Mindfulness step is so fleeting as to be unobservable. We have developed the habit of squandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, cognizing the perception, labeling it, and most of all, getting involved in a long string of symbolic thought about it. That original moment of Mindfulness is rapidly passed over. It is the purpose of Vipassana (or insight) meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness. When this Mindfulness is prolonged by using proper techniques, you find that this experience is profound and it changes your entire view of the universe. From, Mindfulness In Plain English, by Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahatera
  • What is involved in the practice of Mindfulness?
    Vipassana is an ongoing investigation of reality and an examination of the process of perception and how we become attached to the various objects experienced through our senses (smell, sight, taste, hearing, etc.) and cognitive processes (thinking and feeling). Vipassana is usually translated as “insight”, a clear awareness of what is happening as it happens. Samatha is usually translated as “concentration” or “tranquility. Samatha is a state in which the mind is brought to rest, focused only on one item and not allowed to wonder from that one object, i.e.: breath. Most systems of meditation one encounters are that of a form of Samatha. The meditator focuses on a prayer or chant, a certain object before their eyes, such as a candle or box, or a religious image, and tends to exclude all other thoughts or perceptions from his or her awareness. The traditional Theravada literature describes the techniques of both Samatha and Vipassana, including forty different subjects of meditation described in the Pali literature. They are presented as either objects of concentration (Samatha) and/or as subjects of investigation leading to insight (Vipassana). In our weekly practice we invite awareness of sense objects such as sound, smell, sensations and feelings (Vipassana) with focus on breath awareness for concentration and grounding (Samatha).
  • What is Vipassana and Samatha Meditation?
    Vipassana is the oldest of Buddhist meditation practices. The method comes directly from the Satipatthana Sutta, a discourse attributed to the Buddha himself. Vippassana is a direct and gradual cultivation of mindfulness or awareness. It proceeds piece by piece over a period of years. The student’s attention is carefully directed to an intense examination of certain aspects of his (or her) own existence. The meditator is trained to notice more and more of his own flowing life experience. The object of Vippassana practice is to learn to pay attention. We think we are doing this already, but that is an illusion. It comes from the fact that we are paying so little attention to the ongoing surge of our own life experiences that we might just as well be asleep. We are simply not paying enough attention to notice that we are not paying attention. It is another Catch – 22. Vippassana is a form of mental training that will teach you to experience the world in an entirely new way. You will learn for the first time what is truly happening to you, around you and within you. It is a process of self discovery, a participatory investigation in which you observe you own experiences while participating in them, and as they occur. Meditation is a living activity, an inherently experiential activity. It cannot be taught as a purely scholastic subject. The living heart of the process must come from the teacher’s (and the participants) own personal experience.” From, Mindfulness In Plain English, by the Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahathera
  • Is Mindfulness practice a religion or cult or does it involves a special deity that the participants have to pray to or worship?
    Mindfulness practice is not a religion or cult, nor does it involve any deities or special prayers. The following excerpt from Lama Anagarika Govinda notes, “The demonstration of the universality of man and of his capacity to attain self-realization in the supreme experience of enlightenment-without the intervention of gods, priests, dogmas, and sacrificial rituals-on the direct way of meditation: this is what the Buddha gave to the world and which has become the very core of Buddhism, irrespective of differences created by sects, philosophical schools or scholastic traditions, or by racial or linquistic influences.” People from many different religions and philosophies are drawn to Mindfulness Meditation because it is initially and fundamentally mental training that evolves into deeper and deeper experiences of how one is living one’s own life. As such these practices will enhance and deepen whatever particular religion one may practice. Also, while this practice and training comes from the Buddha, one is not encouraged nor solicited to become a Buddhist. The practices and training is a gift from the Buddha to humanity without regard to anyone’s particular religion or philosophy.
  • How should I approach Mindfulness practice?
    Don’t expect anything. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself. But don’t get distracted by your expectations about the results. Don’t strain. Don’t force anything or make grand exaggerated efforts. Meditation is not aggressive…. Just let your effort be relaxed and steady. Don’t rush: there is no hurry, so take your time. Settle yourself on a cushion or chair and sit as though you have the whole day. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Patience, patience, patience. Don’t cling to anything and don’t reject anything: Let come what comes and accommodate yourself to that, whatever it is. If good mental images arise, that is fine. If bad mental images arise, that is fine, too. Look on all of it as equal and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don’t fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully. Let go: Learn to flow with all the changes that come up. Loosen up and relax. From, Mindfulness in Plain English, by Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahatera​
  • Where can I get more information about Mindfulness practice?
    As noted above most of the excerpts and references used are from, Mindfulness in Plain English, by Venerable H. Gunaratana Mahatera. The author responds to many questions and perceptions most often encountered as one approaches Mindfulness practice. This text is available through a link on the site and one is encouraged to read this text.
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