After more than forty years of daily meditation I've realized that mindfulness is the way I want to meditate.
I'm no longer interested in withdrawing from the world via repeating a mantra, or focusing on some spiritual "eye center" that supposedly is the gateway to supernatural realms of reality. That used to appeal to me. No longer.
Because reality is a horrible thing to waste.
Sure, what's inside my head, my brain, that's real. But mental cognizing, no matter how refined or ethereal, is a different order of reality from what mindfulness focuses on.
What is present, right here, right now. Not a fantasized future or remembered past.
Mindfulness isn't about walking down interior psychic corridors filled with theological speculation, spiritual imagination, and faith-based anticipation. It's about embracing reality as it is, not as how we'd like it to be.
Usually I find guided meditations irritating. But the three-minute video below appealed to me. Probably because it doesn't involve imagination ("picture yourself watching ocean waves from a warm beach..."), just whatever is present, right here, right now.
The video comes courtesy of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, which says it is about "Preventing Depression and Enhancing Human Potential by Combining Modern Science with Ancient Wisdom."
Thumbs up to that.
If meditation can't be shown to be good for something, other than making meditators feel "I'm doing something good," it is pretty much worthless. Here's another video from the Centre where the science of mindfulness is described.
Having practiced a much more mystically inclined form of meditation for many years, I understand the attraction of feeling like you're on the verge of entering into a realm of the cosmos far removed (and far superior) to everyday physical existence.
But here's the thing: wherever you go, that's where you are. (Ooh, great book title! Too bad it's taken.)
If you're in your bedroom, meditating, that's where you are. If you're at the right hand of God, meditating, that's where you are. Great. Be mindfully aware of where you actually are. Sitting in your bedroom, imagining you're at the right hand of God -- that isn't mindfulness. It's imagination'ness.
I like how researchers have shown that mindfulness practices provide genuine benefits.
One intriguing area of research is being carried out with United States Marines. If mindfulness is an aid in extremely stressful combat situations, it sure seems like it should work in dealing with the milder anxieties and worries of everyday life.
Stanley, who is also involved in studies for the Army, said the techniques can help warfighters think more clearly under fire when they are often forced to make quick decisions that could mean life or death, and help them reset their nervous systems after being in combat.
Maj. Gen. Melvin Spiese said he was convinced after looking at the scientific research and then taking the course.
While teaching troops to shoot makes them a better warfighter, teaching mindfulness makes them a better person by helping them to decompress, which could have lasting effects, he said.
"As we see the data supports it, it makes perfect sense that this is what we should be doing," said the 58-year-old outgoing general, sitting in his office adorned with pictures of war and a 1903 rifle. "It's like doing pushups for the brain."
Last year I wrote "Why mindfulness is better than concentration." I explained why focusing on one thing isn't as beneficial, either practically or spiritually, as being open to whatever.
That's how I feel, at least. To me, mindfulness is more authentic than other forms of meditation. Check out my "Mindfulness is better than 'spiritual' meditation."