Sunday, October 27, 2019

Elements of Good Meditation: Mindfulness

Active mindfulness aids a meditator’s concentration to remain lucid, sharp and strong. Its function is to ensure that the mind of a meditator is focused on the object of meditation without getting distracted. Active mindfulness checks the emergence and flow of discursive thoughts. From here on, unless otherwise specified, whenever I use the term mindfulness, please know that I mean active mindfulness.

When you nurture and master active mindfulness in meditation, contemplative mindfulness emerges automatically in your daily life. It is a natural outcome of good meditation. Mindfulness in meditation is not a state of passive receptivity that you are simply observing your thoughts or that you are mindful of what is happening around you, or that even you are mindful of your thoughts in a non-judgemental way. 

It is not bare attention. 

On the contrary, mindfulness must be looked upon as the ever awake watch guard standing at the door of your mind. As soon as a discursive thought or a disturbing emotion emerges on the canvas of your mental imagery, mindfulness is the guard that alerts your mind. Along with alertness, it closes the door to your fortress so you may continue to concentrate uninterrupted. 

It is stated most beautifully in Thannassiro Bhikku’s translation of Aṅguttara Nikāya, 7.63

“Just as a royal frontier fortress has a gatekeeper – wise, experienced, intelligent – to keep out those he doesn’t know and to let in those he does, for the protection of those within, and to ward off those without; in the same way, a disciple of the noble ones is mindful, endowed with excellent proficiency in mindfulness, remembering and recollecting what was done and said a long time ago. With mindfulness as his gatekeeper, the disciple of the noble ones abandons what is unskilful, develops what is skilful, abandons what is blameworthy, develops what is blameless, and looks after himself with purity.”

Mindfulness, as a good guard, knowing that the emperor has forbidden any and every one from entering the palace, will not communicate with any visitor (thought). Its job is not to discriminate and find out who is fit to go in. The guard of mindfulness is deployed to keep the door shut for all outsiders.

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