What is Mindfulness?*
Mindful-awareness is an attentional skill that grows with practice. It has three aspects: concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity. Concentration is the ability to stay with a chosen point of focus. Sensory clarity is the ability to keep track of what is presently happening within the focus space. It has two parts. First, we clarify which sense gate we are focusing on. For example, are we observing visual sight, physical relaxation, or internal emotions? Next, we keenly observe the various qualities arising moment to moment within that focus space. We witness the physical distribution, volume, tone, intensity, frequency, and/or movement. Finally, we bring an attitude of equanimity to our experience. Equanimity is the calm allowing of sensory phenomena to come and go without indulging our preferences.
Why Practice Mindfulness?*
Common motivations to start a meditation practice include the alleviation of stress, anxiety, discontent and distractedness. We may aspire to be more relaxed, at ease, patient, aligned with intention, satisfied, and present. Of course, these fundamental experiential and behavioral changes do not come without effort. Given our cultural context, we've likely spent many years watering the seeds of busyness, multi-tasking, and aggression toward ourselves or others. With regular meditation practice, we can transform our negative habitual tendencies and nourish our innate skills of mindful-awareness.
While mindfulness is not quick fix, it is a pervasive and enduring one. For example, we may have begun this practice to transform our addiction problem. After years of consistent practice, we may realize that not only has the addiction issue been addressed, but so have our relationship concerns. The advantages to be gained from developing concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity skills are not isolated to just one aspect of our lives.
Formally practiced over time, mindfulness reduces suffering and increases fulfillment. Mindfulness contributes to the capacity to self-reflect, thereby positively influencing behavior. When we can consciously choose our actions and reactions, we can relate more skillfully with others. A mindfulness practitioner can be of service to society, working with a spirit of love.
*Written by Wren Polansky as informed by her teacher Shinzen Young