Mindfulness is a major classification of meditation practices, known as vipassana, or insight meditation. Sometimes just called breath centered meditation. While it is taught in various ways, depending on your guide or the lineage of the practice, the practice always has some main characteristics. You being by gathering your attention on your breath and slowly move to a wider and wider scope of attention, observation - such as noticing sound in your environment. When thoughts (or feelings and sensations) pull your attention from your breath you simply note the thought as best as you can with out judgment and instead of dialoguing with it or following it, you gentle relax more. In addition, just as sound rises and falls - you relax with everything that is in the field of your awareness. You relax with your breath, in your set, as present as possible with each moment as it’s happening.
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years. It is a non-sectarian technique, which focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations or actions in the body. (Such as watching your breath rise and fall in your belly). Through this observation-based, self-exploratory technique the habits and conditions that influence one's thoughts, feelings, judgments and sensations become clear. It becomes easier to notice and understand how one grows or regresses, how one produces suffering or frees oneself from suffering. Benefits that quickly arise are increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace. Personally, I love Vipassana because it is not about “rising above” our human experience -- or becoming “enlightened”. Instead, it is a means to become present, fluid, and peaceful — in our lives and the world -- as it is actually happening in the moment. I’ve come to believe that “enlightenment” is simply being fully present and open. I think this poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, and quote from John Kabat-Zinn capture the flavor of Vipassana Meditation:
In the Present Moment
“Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the Green Earth in the present moment. To appreciate the peace and the Beauty that are available now. Peace is all around us, In the world and in nature. And within us — in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace. We will be healed and transformed. It is not a matter of faith; It is a matter of practice.”
— Thich Nhat Han
Learning to Surf
“One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of the mind as the surface of a lake or ocean.
There are always waves, sometimes big, sometimes small. Many people think the goal of meditation is to stop the waves so that the water will be flat, peaceful, and tranquil—but that is not so. The true spirit of mindfulness practice is illustrated by a poster someone once described to me of a 70-ish yogi, Swami Satchidananda, in full white beard and flowing robes, atop a surfboard and riding the waves off a Hawaiian beach. The caption read: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
— John Kabat-Zinn