What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply about paying attention, in a non-judgemental and non-attached way, to the present moment and everything that it contains. Our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the environment around us. We train our mind to recognise that present moment and remain there using meditation practices
By practising Meditation and Mindfulness we begin to see that we are not the events or physical sensations we experience. Nor are we the thoughts or mental commentary about those experiences.
This gives us perspective. We see things for how they really are instead of them being clouded by our emotions or preconceived ideas.
That perspective not only allows us to experience calm in the chaos but it also means we can be much more skillful in our response to any given situation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is just the process of applying your attention to something. That could be washing the dishes or playing an instrument or following your breath.
The process is very very simple but not necessarily easy to do and unless you understand what it is about, it is very easy to get frustrated and feel like a failure for not being able to stop thinking (word to the wise – we’re not trying to stop thinking!)
Essentially we are just learning how to let go.
We practice over and over again, the watching of thoughts and emotions as they arise and then gently letting them go as we return to our meditation object.
It really is that simple.
But don’t dismiss it for that simplicity because that ‘learning to let go’ can have a profound effect on our lives.
Learning to let go decreases our mental and emotional attachment to things, which lessens the effect they have on our emotional stability. If I may ask a question, how can you continue to suffer if you are no longer attached to that which has made you suffer?
What should I expect if I start a meditation practice?
The video below is a fantastic primer for starting a meditation practice from my teacher Daizan Skinner Roshi of Zenways
Do I need to become a Buddhist? / My religion won’t let me practice meditation
In short, no, you don’t have to become a Buddhist, now or at any time in the future, and with the exception of the Dharma Discussion Group, where we discuss Buddha’s teachings, and the Insight course, where we get into the realms of Kensho and a direct experience of your true nature, there is nothing to give your religion concern.
All other courses and workshops are without religious content although the meditations taught are from the Zen tradition and they do quote Zen Masters when their words illustrate a point very well.
Even in the Discussion and Insight groups I suspect that only the strictest of orders would prevent you from learning in this way and becoming more fully engaged with your true self.
In fact the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.”
A more engaged, more aware, more authentic you, can only be a good thing.
Indeed if you look back at all major religions they all seem to have a contemplative part to them at some point.
The derogatory term ‘navel-gazing’, for example, arises from Catholicism’s attempt to discredit the contemplative side of the Greek Orthodox Church in the 14th Century.
More information on this subject can be found here: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/christian-contemplative-tradition
The long answer is probably better answered with the following…
What is Zen?
The word ‘Zen’ is Japanese. It comes from the Chinese ‘Chan’. Which in turn came from the Sanskrit ‘Dhyana’. All simply mean meditation. So when we say Zen Meditation we’re really saying ‘Meditation Meditation’.
In terms of Zen Buddhism it’s really saying “this is a type of Buddhism that places more emphasis on meditation”
There are a number of different types of Zen that denote different levels of engagement with the Buddhist religion.
Here at Being Now, in the Wellbeing and energy cultivation workshops, we are principally concerned with Bompu Zen. ‘Bompu’ means ordinary in Japanese so what we are dealing with here is ‘Ordinary Meditation’. In other words this is meditation that has no religious connotations but is done for the wellbeing of body and mind.
In the Dharma Discussion Group and the Insight course we start to bring in elements from Daijo Zen.
If you wish to know more on the types of Zen you’ll find a description of each of the five different types here: https://zendirtzendust.wordpress.com/2009/07/26/kapleaus-5-forms/
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is a religion, a way of life, and a philosophical treaty on the nature of existence and how to bring about an end to suffering derived from the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni as he is often known.
In his late 20’s Gautama, having led the very sheltered life of a prince, discovered sickness, old age, and death after sneaking out of his palace compounds. After reaching a personal crisis over what he saw he left behind his wife and son, and all his riches to become an ascetic searching for an end to suffering.
After trying many different methods including nearly starving himself to death he sat down one day and resolved to not move until he had found the truth and could bring an end to suffering.
As dawn broke and the morning star (Venus) rose, he became enlightened. He went on to teach for 50yrs before his death at the age of 80.
His first sermon after achieving enlightenment contained The Four Noble Truths:
The First Noble Truth is that life has a quality of dissatisfaction or suffering about it (Dukkha in Sanskrit).
The Second Noble Truth is that Dukkha is caused by craving (Tanha in Sanskrit) or aversion ie we look outside of ourselves for things to make us happy or avoid due to being unpleasant.
The Third Noble Truth is that there is an end to suffering ie enlightenment and Nirvana
The Fourth Noble Truth is that the means to this end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path…
The Noble Eightfold Path:
Right View or Right Understanding, insight into the true nature of reality.
Right Intention, the unselfish desire to realize enlightenment.
Right Speech, using speech compassionately.
Right Action, ethical conduct; manifesting compassion.
Right Livelihood, making a living through ethical and non-harmful means.
Right Effort, cultivating wholesome qualities; releasing unwholesome qualities.
Right Mindfulness, whole body-and-mind awareness.
Right Concentration, meditation or some other dedicated, concentrated practice.
What is the Dharma?
The Dharma can be translated from Sanskrit to mean truth ie it is the ultimate nature of reality.
The Dharma from a Buddhist perspective is both that and Buddha’s teachings that point to it. In effect there is no separation between them.
W.B.Yeats illustrates what I mean by that in a snippet from “Among the School Children”
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
May you realise the ultimate truth and the fruit of your endeavours be of benefit to all beings.