Mindful Meditation: Training the Mind
by Ven. David Astor (Xi Ken)
When we enter the practice of mindful meditation we are also training the mind to become familiar. In Buddhist terms, familiarization, or meditation, refers to transforming the mind in positive and productive ways. This training is a process of mind transformation that works to eliminate negative thought and actions while positive qualities are developed and enhanced. We enhance awareness both of ourselves and the world around us. So it would be fair to say that awareness facilitates change. In general, the first objective of someone new to mindful meditation is to understand and practice the techniques associated with “cushion time“. We practice sitting in the correct posture, learn to place our hands in a mudra that best helps us relax, and work to become more aware of our breathing, and we try hard to put the mind in a “quite state”. Like any new practice of mind-body performance, this stage of meditation takes practice, and the more we practice, the better we become at quieting the mind. This sounds easy, but it takes a strong will power and dedication to get past this first preliminary stage. When the practitioner has gained a good deal of certainty about mastering a meditation technique, the mind is made to focuses without much disruption for short periods of time in the beginning. Therefore we must come to recognize the importance of training the mind.
It is also important to understand that it is natural for each of us to innately desire happiness and avoid misery. These are natural human characteristics. But how do we achieve the objectives of human flourishing? In Buddhism we study the Dharma to find lessons in how to gain a meaningful life, and in doing so we increase happiness and decrease unsatisfactoriness. Our training may take different forms, but what is a common factor in gaining knowledge is only beneficial when we apply it. In Buddhist terms we become engaged practitioners. Study and meditation together help shape the mind. For any physical and mental training to take place, there must first be a motivation. The mind recognizes the advantages of this training and develops interest in it. This is what brings us to try meditation, and also study the Dharma. The purpose of training the mind is to make our lives more productive. This process allows for our awareness to be enhanced and by doing so we have the potential of learning many new things.
When we look at our lives within a social context, education has a vital role to play. How we perform in a given situation depends on the conduct of our mind, body and speech. So a disciplined mind is essential. Our own happiness depends on the capability of our being able to assess a situation and develop a useful and product outcome that avoids harm. When we analyze the lives of successful and socialized individuals, we should discover the control they have developed over their minds and are not disturbed by failure or adverse circumstances. This is a good indication why training the mind is so important.
Over the next few weeks Wayne and I will be introducing mindful meditation (sati) to our readers and working through the various stages of this practice. We acknowledge that there are many books on the market teaching meditation. Some are even good. But a book can not always answer questions directly, or give pointers that might be useful to individual needs. By using this forum for introducing meditation, we are offering our “book Buddhist” friends an opportunity to comment and use our site as a personal meditation instructor. You might not have an opportunity in your community to attend a meditation center, or you might not be able to attend one directly, so we are giving you an opportunity for interacting with us as an alternative. We look forward to hearing from you. Stay tuned.