Meditation and Mindfulness are often depicted as the panacea for the modern world.
Forget all the world’s problems (and your own)… Simply sit in meditation an hour a day and all will be well.
But is it REALLY that easy?
When I started teaching mindfulness meditation in my role in the National Health Service (NHS) here is the UK, I was pretty clear I knew what I meant by mindfulness.
Soon after I was invited by a colleague from another team to go and talk with her on the subject – as she was actively engaged in mindfulness too.
On meeting with her, I came to understand her version of mindfulness was very different to mine, and largely involved listening to tapes such as the sounds of dolphins.
Since then I have continued to come across mindfulness meditation in various forms and now see both ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ as umbrella terms, which can mean a whole host of different things to different people.
Let me tell you a little about my mindfulness journey.
My mindfulness journey has been largely meditation. It started in 1993 when a friend taught me a version of Transcendental Meditation.
Transcendental meditation required you to simply recite a mantra (‘sacred word’) in your head, and when you found you had drifted away from the mantra, you brought your mind back, and started reciting the mantra again.
I was told to do this twice a day and did so religiously with great enthusiasm. I pretty much caught the mindfulness bug straight away.
But then I discovered……
The Path of Buddhist Meditation
In a way Buddhist Meditation wasn’t so different. Swap the mantra for the breath – and when you lose the breath, bring yourself back to it again.
Buddhism also had the advantage of about a zillion teachings on meditation and mindfulness and the path to the end of suffering, which greatly attracted me at the time.
And it introduced to me ‘Loving Kindness Meditation’ where you deliberately cultivate positive emotion and direct it towards yourself and others – again returning to this focus should you drift off during the practice.
You can see there is a pattern here….
When you drift off, always bring yourself back
This for me was the essence of meditation back then. The ‘monkey mind’ as we called it, had a habit of jumping from branch to branch (otherwise known as distraction)….
But if you kept bringing it back, one day (so we were told), the mind would eventually stay.
Though I have to say, that rarely happened to me.
Even as learned new and more ‘advanced’ practices , as I moved through my Buddhist journey, this principle of coming back remained the same.
Sometimes it was purely concentrative, as with the breath.
Sometimes it was blended with another practice, such as loving kindness, or devotion, or seeing the nature of things.
The thing is Buddhist Meditation didn’t really work
Not for me anyway.
Sure it made me a happier, more integrated, more ethical, more together and more energetic human being.
(Which is kind of amazing when you write it down)
But I was always looking for something more.
I didn’t want to be a ‘better’ person. I wanted freedom. I wanted ‘the end of suffering’ everyone was talking about.
And though I’d got infinitely better at managing my emotions and mental states, after 20 years of practice there had been no fundamental change in the core of my being.
I had not found the solution I had been looking for when I set out on this journey.
The Universe threw me a lifeline.
Disguised in the form of death.
Heart surgery. Then a melanoma diagnosis. Then Barretts Oesophagus – a pre cancerous condition of the throat.
(Well they say things come in threes!!!)
I was lucky in a way because these health conditions pushed me out of the safe Buddhist bubble I was in.
I began to question.
I began to ask why I had not reach my goal. And I felt time was of the essence.
It was actually after heart surgery that I discovered Direct Pointing
Direct Pointing is a form of practice where you just need to look
Someone will ask you a question about your experience, and you need to answer from your experience, not from what you ‘know’.
Crazily I’d never done this before, and I found it incredibly frustrating.
But the result was a new way of seeing.
And I REALLY mean ‘new’.
Three weeks of Direct Pointing had given me the answers I had been searching for for 20 years.
And it didn’t involve meditation at all.
Soon after, on diagnosis with melanoma, I made another leap.
I discovered a HEART approach to practice.
This was not like the loving kindness I had practiced before. It was an acceptance of whatever arose, be it pleasant or unpleasant.
And if that was sometimes difficult, it was an acceptance of that difficulty.
This was RADICAL.
Once again it changed my life.
And again, it was nothing like the meditation I had spent so many years diligently practising before.
So this is why I say ‘Screw Mindfulness’
Not because I don’t believe in mindfulness.
These new practices and ways of being I was introduced into were actually mindfulness par excellence.
It’s just that they are a million light years away from listening to dolphin.
Or focussing on the breath.
It’s almost like Mindfulness has become the New Religion. And someone needs to say.
There is something better out there. If only you can break out of yourself-imposed prison to see.
Advanced Mindfulness is a method of resolving mental and emotional conflict, removing emotional blocks and limitations from our past, and allowing the natural state of happiness and presence to sine through. Sagara is an experienced Advanced Mindfulness Practitioner whose mission in life is to help empower people to be able to work with their emotional states, to live happier, less stressful and more fulfilling lives.