“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” Sharon Salzberg
“Meditation practice is a way of making friends with ourselves. Whether we are worthy or unworthy, that’s not the point. It’s developing a friendly attitude to ourselves, accepting the hidden neurosis coming through.” Trungpa Rinpoche
Mindfulness is a practice, a skill and a state of being.
We live at the effect of many conditions; things we can control and things we cannot. Mindfulness is not about controlling life or our feelings, but rather learning how to be skillful, loving and aware of our thoughts. This is what Shakyamuni Buddha taught over 2500 years ago. Mindfulness is about our bare attention to what is present in each moment. No special dressing, nothing added. It is not creating anything or subtracting anything either. Rather, it is a skill that treats all experiences kindly and equally. In time and with practice, mindfulness leads us to the richness of human qualities like compassion and equanimity. This is where our mind and hearts become tender, deeply accepting and unconditional providing us respect for our inner world and the chaotic world around us.
Our vision at Sarana Institute is to be a support and resource as you develop, sustain and transform through the skills of mindfulness practice. Today, mindfulness is popular, yes, and its face in the journals of neuroscience, psychology, and medicine is very present as more research reveals its benefits. We are lucky to live in such times, when mindfulness and contemplative practices, recognized for centuries as tools for “awakening” our inner goodness, are being researched and understood from a scientific lens. However, just because it is good for you, doesn’t mean you’ll do it. So we are of the mind, as Pema Chodron has stated: “Start Where You Are”.
It’s all about YOUR Mindfulness practice. Like all good intentioned endeavors, we need real tools and skills that support us and help us to develop new habits. We believe the skills must be grounded in daily “sitting” practice, but also in everyday mindfulness practices and skills that remind us to pause, observe, and ground our selves in the present moment. Simultaneously, we will gain confidence in our ability to let go of unhealthy states and nourish the life-affirming ones. The more you practice, the better you feel. We must remember that through the capacity for compassion, equanimity and wisdom will come the means to fully transform long standing mental and emotional patterns that challenge us .
One of goals over the next few years is provide mindfulness training opportunities to fit the varying needs of the community. By inviting local and visiting teachers from a diverse field to teach, we are hosting a variety of paths in establishing your practice and in mapping your mindfulness skills into everyday life. Through ongoing courses and classes, as well as workshops, retreats and training, in conjunction with our Resource Pages, you will have access to a wide variety of approaches from within both secular and non secular mindfulness traditions.
If you are interested in mindfulness training, please contact us and we will notify you as soon as more courses and programs become available.
“Mindfulness practice also helps us to stabilize the mind and the body. It helps us to be less reactive, more responsive and more resilient…Whether praying or meditating, we need to bring our whole being to our meditation practice if the practice is going to have real benefit…A meditation practice is not a quick fix for long-standing mental habits that are causing suffering. Just as the body needs to be slowly stretched for greater flexibility, so does the mind need time for its training.” Roshi Joan Halifax
Developing a practice requires a steady and sustained effort. A participant in one of our trainings tried everything she could to find a time that would work in her hectic life. Finally, she found it: Sitting in her car in a outdoor carport at the hospital looking out at the morning sky. That was her sitting spot. Where’s yours?
THOUGHTS TO “KEEP” IN MIND
- Choose a time and a place that works for you. Keep to that time as best as you can.
- Keep the length short and build up to longer sittings
- Keep listening to different practice styles to familiarize yourself with the instructions
- Keep repeating the instructions to yourself until you naturally remember them
- Keep releasing judgment and criticism and keep returning to the instructions
- Keep calm in the midst of chaos, change, and distress.
- Keep smiling.
Getting Started with Good Instructions
Like learning to ride a bicycle, the first part of the practice is “getting on” the bicycle and then falling off. Beginners benefit from hearing the instructions to mindfulness practice from teachers with established practices and then gradually integrating these instructions into their own daily practice. Listening to guided instructions of varying lengths gives us a structure and will act as a reminder of the practice as we develop more confidence. Choose recordings without background music and trainer’s with pleasing voices. In time, you will hear the instructions in your own head. Your task is to find the “best” fit for you.
How long should I sit?
Choose a length of practice, i.e., 5, 10, 15 minutes and gradually build your sitting muscles and lengths of time for your sitting practice. The body requires time to adjust to the practice and become comfortable and at ease, as does our mind. Mental and physical discomfort may accompany the early stages of establishing our practice, so it is also important to speak to a teacher or mindfulness trainer. They can guide you in building healthy strategies. For this reason, it is helpful to attend an intro course that gives you tools to succeed. Starting with shorter periods, you may build towards a goal of 20-25 minutes which is excellent preparation for attending a meditation retreat.
What style of mindfulness should I practice?
Today, we have amazing access to guided practices across both the secular mindfulness community and the various schools of Buddhism. Thus, we often say “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Take your time to explore as many styles as you can. Experiment with local teachers and audio practices until you find the one that best suits both your temperament and your meditation goals. We hope you find this web site to be a resource hub that supports your “journey” to manifesting an engaged mindfulness practice. Mindfulness practice is one part of the training…..
The next aspect is learning the various skills of “focussed attention” known as shamatha in Sanskrit. These core elements include: concentration, noticing various states, labelling them, developing non judgment and non reaction. Through these skills you learn to let go, to relax more calmly and to become more accepting of where our mind travels. Following this, you develop an enhanced mindfulness skill called “receptive awareness” or vipassana from the East. This enables us to gain insight into the nature of how the mind becomes tangled and to see how this leads us to distress and suffering.
What am I focusing on when I practice?
Traditional and modern instructions all include guided steps in bringing the mind into relaxed ease. Beginning with Body Scan, Breath Counting and Breath-Body awareness, the guided practices will focus on your senses and to what arises moment by moment. At first, you learn to concentrate and focus on an object like the breath, the body & the seven points of posture and the actual practice of bringing the mind back every time it wanders. However, there are many other “objects of focus” for our practice including contemplative skills focussed on compassion, death & impermanence, forgiveness, equanimity, lovingkindness, generosity, etc.
- Harvard Health Publications on the benefits of Mindfulness
- “Mindfulness can literally change your Brain” from Harvard Business Review by Christina Congleton, Britta K. Holzel & Sara W. Lazar
- The Science of Mindfulness – Oxford
- Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation, Davidson, Kabat-Zinn, et al