Mindfulness is a wonderful practice, which can be dressed up in all kinds of techniques and analysed by neurological science. But if we really hone it down, there’s just one insight that matters. Without it, the practice is groundless and ineffective.
Maybe you’re dying to hear what it is, so you can quickly close this blog down and carry on with your busy life. However, I really suggest that you read on, as this is the heart of the teaching.
I’m going to use a couple of exercises and metaphors to describe this.
The first is sound. At any time we can tune-in mindfully to the sounds around us. This is a great practice (and just for a few days I’m making a library article with a guided meditation open to non-members – get it here ).
But the twist is this: as you listen mindfully, bring your attention not to the sounds, but to the ‘space’ in which the sounds arise – the gaps between the sounds, or the air through which the sound waves travel.
Ok, next one. This is about your body. As you read this, do a quick scan and find any part of your body that is a little uncomfortable. Don’t move. Be aware of the discomfort. But instead of focusing on the itch/ache/whatever it is, bring your attention to that which is doing the noticing.
So, we’re getting there. Underneath, or behind, or around, or within all our sense perceptions, there is just awareness. Naked. Without comment. With no preferences (too loud / too buzzy, too achy/ too itchy). It’s always turned on. It’s the space in which the sounds we hear appear. It’s the baseline awareness in which body sensations appear. It’s also the field of mind in which thoughts appear.
Get that and you need nothing more. Stay tuned and build your familiarity with it. This is the source of wisdom. All the other stuff, the sounds, the itches and the thoughts, are like waves splashing around that take up most of our attention. Get under the surface, or bring to mind the whole ocean. All these sounds and itches and thoughts and waves are temporary appearances. The ground of awareness is always there, and always unaffected by these arisings and passings away.
So that’s it. Have a lovely day.