What is Mindfulness really?
What strikes me as I emerge from another week of meditation retreat is the fundamental shift I witnessed in both myself and the others who committed to the journey. This transformation is unique. I see people physically change and become more themselves. What is happening and is this mindfulness?
Relaxation and Stability
Mindfulness is a word that is being used a lot these days. Usually it is referring to what occurs in the first step of meditation. This step brings about relaxation and creates stability. It involves focusing on one thing like the breath entering and exiting the body. When we are calm we are able to witness our thoughts and begin to see how much power we give them. This is an important first step. A lot gets lost if we stop here.
Meditation is an effective tool for lowering cortisol. The amount of medical research on mindfulness and meditation is impressive. Both topics receive nearly 5000 hits each in PubMed. Nearly all is focused on step one of meditation. So what’s step two?
Once a certain amount of stability has been established our lives begin to show up full force. Its as though the volume gets turned up and our capacity to meet it grows. I like to think about this in terms of human development. Each stage creates the foundation for the next. As we grow we reach a point that is beyond our reach and get destabilized. With meditation we have tools to work with this without shutting it down and thereby allowing growth to continue.
People change quickly when they meditate in a way that is not just about relaxation and certainly the opposite of suppressing life. Meditation provokes life to come at us full tilt. It increases our capacity to include everything especially those parts that we previously were not able to look at.
Ego is a cocoon. Our DNA is wired so that we can grow beyond this self-centred way of being. The caterpillar becomes the butterfly because this is what is meant to happen. As humans we need to train because we are easily distracted from what wants to emerge in us.
Learning to relax into the intensity of life is the real point of meditation. What comes through as we practice is an innate intelligence, a warmth and generosity. These qualities are what naturally arise because they are who we really are. It’s a natural part of human development for them to express. It brings about joy and happiness.
Meditation retreat is by far the most important thing on my to-do list. I attribute the major growth spurts of my life to meditation. Its not because these were on an agenda I made up. Life was able to come through more strongly because meditation gives life room to happen. Without practice our minds tend to manipulate, take over and even destroy the beauty that just is who we are.