It is a common misconception that the object of mindful meditation, especially that in the Vipassana tradition, is to drift into some blissful state of unawareness. How aggravated or frustrated we sometimes get, when our precious space is intruded upon by unwanted, random thoughts.
Vipassana, often translated as insight, is a meditative technique that with practice allows us to see things as they really are, a way of self-transformation through self-observation.
It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced by bringing focussed awareness to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, allowing us to continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.
At times, all this can sound a bit heady, but it is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body, that allows us a more objective perspective on the merry-go-round of our thought processes.
This can result in an open more balanced mind which is predisposed to kindness and compassion.
It’s important to reiterate that letting go of our thoughts does not mean suppressing them.
Many people understand it this way and make the mistake of thinking that meditation requires them to shut off their thinking or their feelings.
They somehow get the idea, that if they are thinking, that is “bad,” and that a “good meditation”, is one in which there is little or no thought process.
Mindful meditation does not involve pushing your thoughts away or walling yourself off from them to quiet your mind. We are not trying to stop our thoughts or inhibit critical thinking.
However, it is important to be aware that during the early stages of our practice, there is a need to learn to remain in the present moment by trying not to be carried away or distracted by the habitual whirl of our thoughts.
This is why we use the breath as an anchor, a safety line that stops us from being swept away by our thoughts and imaginings.
Once this focus has been achieved, at least to some degree, mindfulness of the present moment can coexist with thinking activity.
In other words, the main concern of directing mindfulness to the present moment, is neither to discourage nor to encourage critical thinking, but to train in the continuity of mindfulness. That is, living as best we can, within and mindful of the moment.
Such continuity in turn enables the freedom to decide whether or not to engage in reflection, rather than just being overwhelmed by thinking.
The observing, monitoring function of mindfulness can steer critical reflection and thereby enhance its potential, just as it can signal when the mind is getting carried away by irrelevant thoughts.
To do this however, mindfulness needs to be anchored in the present moment and retain a quality of uninvolved observation. A watcher from the centre, devoid of fear or favour, without judgement, just being.
Non-judgmental does not mean to imply that there is some ideal state in which judgments no longer arise.
Rather, it points out that we do not have to judge or evaluate or react to any of what arises.
Please be aware that this is not complacency or a lack of empathy, feeling or compassion, but rather the ability to perceive things, as best we can, without becoming entangled and attached and therefore with more clarity.
This can lead naturally to the directly experienced discovery that we have the choice in any moment, either to cling and self-identify, or not. To respond or to blindly react
Choice is always available, always an option.