In our daily life, most of the time we are immersed in thoughts about the past or the future or in fantasies. These often contribute to stress, fear and suffering.
Mindfulness practice shows us how to overcome this pre-occupation so we can see clearly what is happening right here and now, in the present moment, by cultivating clear, stable and non-judgmental awareness.
It develops the ability to pay attention to immediate experience
Awareness by itself does not judge, resist, or cling to anything. By focusing on simply being aware, we learn how to liberate ourselves from our habitual reactions and begin to have a friendlier and more compassionate relationship with our experience, with ourselves and with others.
Mindfulness starts here and now.
Main tools along the path are the body, the breath and the mind.
There is no need to go some place else to be mindful. You already have all you need to live your fullest potential as a human being. Daily life events – sitting, standing, working, resting – are an excellent ground for practice.
Sure, from time to time it is beneficial to fully retreat and to dedicate ourselves exclusively to the practice of meditation and yoga. However, the purpose of such intense periods of practice is to nourish and strengthen our practice in daily life.
(read more about different forms of meditation here).
Mindfulness as Buddhist practice
In the last decade or so we are witnessing a huge growth of the ‘mindfulness movement’ which focuses on mindfulness practices as a secular method for relieving stress and improving health and productivity. This movement has fueled intensive scientific research about the benefits of mindfulness for dealing with the challenges of daily life. Many people are benefiting for such practice.
However, roots of mindfulness practice are old, reaching back into the early teaching of Buddha. Mindfulness is a part of the Noble Eightfold Path, a foundational Buddhist teaching that includes practice of ethics and wisdom, and leads to the development of our innate wisdom and compassion.
Buddha first explained the Noble Eightfold Path in his sermon The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma, or Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta in Pali language.
The stages of the path are not to be taken in order, but rather support and reinforce each other. Each helps the cultivation of the others.
The Noble Eightfold Path
- Right understanding
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood belong to the field of ethical conduct – Sila.
Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration belong to the field of meditation – Samadhi.
Right Understanding and Right Intention belong to the field of wisdom – Prajna.
The Noble Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way – freedom from attachment to the far ends, as well as attachment to the center. This is an inner path, a way of life to be practiced and developed. It has nothing to do with belief, prayer, worship or ceremony.
In that sense, there is nothing on the path that could be called ‘religious’.