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Friday, 24 January 2014

One paragraph to mindfulness

Does it take months to experience the benefits of mindfulness? No - in my case it took minutes. I discovered mindfulness in the late 1980s while browsing in Easons bookshop in O'Connell Street in Dublin. I noticed a book called “The heart of Buddhist meditation” which was so unusual to see on a bookshelf at the time that I picked it up. The book opened at a page on Bare Attention which it described as follows: “ … attention or mindfulness is kept to a bare registering of the facts observed, without reacting to them by deed, speech or by mental comment which may be one of self-reference (like, dislike, etc), judgement, reflection. If during the time, short or long, given to the practice of Bare Attention, any such comments arise in one’s mind, they themselves are made objects of Bare Attention, and are neither repudiated nor pursued, but are dismissed, after a brief mental note has been made of them.”

I tried it there and then and I liked it. I have been practising mindfulness, to a greater or lesser extent, ever since. The point I want to make is that I began to practice mindfulness after reading that paragraph, and so can you. You don’t have to undertake lengthy periods of focussed meditation - such periods were probably designed for people living as Buddhist monks or nuns and not for those in the hurly burly of wider society. Mindfulness is an attitude you can bring to your experiences as you go through your day. The purpose of the short practices I write about here and elsewhere (including my forthcoming book Mindfulness on the Go) is to remind us to be mindful. If you spend a few minutes every day observing your breathing and perhaps another few minutes observing your posture as you walk or sit, without getting caught up in thoughts as you do so, this should help you to bring a useful degree of mindfulness to your normal activities.

(The author of the book was Nyanaponika Thera and its full title is "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation - A handbook of mental training based on the Buddhist way of Mindfulness.") His book, The Power of Mindfulness, is free on Buddhanet.

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