Introduction to Mindful Awareness P5

Daniel Vinograd

You can also notice the sound. For a moment, everybody listen to the sounds in the room. Some sounds come and go; some sounds seem more constant. We don’t have to be in a completely silent place to meditate. We can just come into the present moment through listening. Listening meditation is actually a really wonderful way to practice mindfulness.

 

For the last minute of the meditation, if you want to stay with your breath, stay with your breath; if you want to stay with listening to the sounds – and notice you may start to think about the sound, what it is, why it’s there. See if you can let go of that, and just come back to the pure act of listening, or the pure act of breathing.

 

Then take one more breath, with awareness, and whenever you’re ready, when you finish that breath, feel free to open your eyes.

 

Let’s hear from you what that was like, what happened, what did you learn, what questions that might have come up. Yes?

 

SPEAKER: I just smell so good. (laughter) Oh my God. It’s like a perfume commercial. When I was breathing in really deeply, it was like I was traveling with the scent. It was just magnificent.

 

DIANA: Wow. Okay, what she said was, she said “I smell so good.” It’s a lovely comment, because I think what she’s pointing to is the way in which our senses open up when we’re mindful. I was talking earlier about it counteracts that automaticity. We just live, going through life, just like on auto-pilot. Here, our senses open up. We feel more alive, more present, and it sounds like it was a really neat experience for you to feel that, to really focus on what was happening in her nostrils. Thank you. How about others? Yes.

 

SPEAKER: It felt boring.

 

DIANA: Boring. It felt boring. Anybody else get bored? A few people. It can be boring, yeah. Here’s why: most of the time, we don’t spend our lives doing not much of anything. Most of the time, we’re so used to being distracted, having external stimuli, distracting ourselves. So when we sit here and do something fairly neutral, which is just pay attention to our breathing, it’s like “Okay, I’m waiting for something interesting to happen.”

 

The fact is, it’s a great skill to learn, even when it’s boring, because it teach us not to have this need for constant stimulation. It actually teaches us to have more ability to be present with simple things. That would happen over time, but then just to say, if you notice yourself getting bored when you’re doing it, pay closer attention. It’s a great way to add some interest, that curiosity, and it can shift the experience. Or, what’s it like to be bored? Get to be mindful of boredom. That’s a very interesting thing. Yes?

 

SPEAKER: To be honest, even though this is not as positive a comment as I wish I were making, but I was getting warmer and warmer and warmer… that was part of the whole experience for me.

 

DIANA: She reported getting warmer and warmer and warmer and said it wasn’t positive. It was uncomfortable?

 

SPEAKER: That’s uncomfortable, but I have multiple sclerosis, so being overly warm is not something that’s foreign to me. But this process made me feel warm.

 

DIANA: Okay. Because of your multiple sclerosis, you are used to getting warm, and so this process made you be really tuned into it. One of the things that happens when we meditate is that we open up to the actual experience of what is going on in our body and mind in this present moment. Sometimes it’s really lovely and peaceful and maybe even some joyful, blissful happiness. Sometimes it’s a little uncomfortable. How many people had a peaceful experience when they were meditating? Okay, a lot of you did. How many of you had an uncomfortable experience in some way. Okay, and there were a bunch of you who did.

 

With mindfulness, it’s wonderful when we have those peaceful experiences, because it’s really helpful. It’s encouraging. We get inspired to do more. When we have the uncomfortable experiences, what we learn is that mindfulness can be present no matter what life brings. That we can learn that capacity to be present with life, whether we have difficult things or easy things in life. It’s an incredible skill to learn, to be able to be okay with no matter what life brings. That’s what we’re doing here. We’re not trying to have a specific experience; we’re trying to learn to be present in the midst of all that life brings us. Thank you for sharing that.

 

SPEAKER: I was wondering, since mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose, and the present moment is continually coming at me, and once the present moment is gone, I have to be aware of the next present moment… how does it relate to the future? (laughter)

 

DIANA: Wow. That was an intense question. Let’s see how I can answer that. Yes, the present moment is continually changing, so when you say how does it relate to the future, what are you actually asking? What makes you ask that?

 

SPEAKER: It’s just that somebody told me that mindfulness is correlated with the future and what’s going to happen in the future. In the immediate future. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that. That’s why I was asking.

 

DIANA: I’m not exactly sure about that particular correlation. What mindfulness does is mindfulness keeps us present, and then when we face whatever comes up in the future, we’re right there. We’re available to be there for it. By the way, some people say, “How can I be mindful all the time? What if I have to plan?” or “Don’t we have to plan to live life?” Of course you do. The future is relevant, it’s important. You don’t have to be mindful every second of the day. But you can be present, and then you can go back to doing something that involves future planning or past thinking, and then you sort of take a breath and come back to yourself. I don’t know if I’m getting exactly at your question, but I’m just trying to touch on it a little bit. Yes?

 

SPEAKER: I’m meditating almost every night, following your advice. And I pray to the power of now, etc. The only thing is that it’s almost impossible to stop thinking and only feeling something. When this thinking comes back. Feeling only is almost impossible because of how to reject all this thinking that comes in.
DIANA: Okay, this is a really important piece about mindfulness: you are not trying to stop thinking. I don’t know if you’ve heard that about meditating, that you’re supposed to get into this blissful state and your mind is supposed to stop. That is not what happens. At least not in this particular kind of meditation. What happens is, thoughts keep coming. Because that’s what our minds do. In the same way that our heart pumps blood, our brain is thinking. So what we learn is that when our thoughts take us away, that we come back to the present moment. It’s fine to be thinking, as long as you’re aware that you’re thinking, and then you just came back, and you learn to let go.

 

I want to give you this analogy, because it’s really, really helpful: let’s imagine that our thoughts are like trains. Let’s say that we have a thought train, and the train is just going, going, going. So you start thinking about something: “Hmm, what am I going to do after this? Maybe I’ll go out and get some dessert. I wonder what place to go? What’s open? Nothing in Santa Monica really stays late, blah blah blah blah” – you know what I mean? Your mind just goes.

 

Or you hurt yourself, and you think “Oh no, this is really serious. What’s going to happen? I’m going to have to call the doctor. This always happens to me.” You know what I’m talking about, the way our mind just kind of goes? Yes? Let’s imagine that’s like a train.
What we typically do, and you may have saw this when you meditate, is that we can think of it as you get on the train. You’re meditating, you get on the train, and the train leaves the station, and you’re 20 miles down the road and you’ve just been lost in this thought, caught in the grip of this thought. There’s another option, and that option is that the train leaves the station, but you stay on the platform. You see what I mean? That thought is still there. You’re not stopping your thinking; it’s going, but you’re not on it. You find this place of awareness, of centeredness, of groundedness. The thought is still going, but you’re not in the grip of that thought.

 

There’s a really amazing bumper sticker – I don’t know, I’ve seen it a lot – but the bumper sticker is this: “Don’t believe everything you think.” (laughter) Have you seen that? Some of you know that. I used to live in Berkeley, California; I saw it all the time. I moved to L.A., I don’t see it very often. (laughter)

 

 
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