Some years ago I would constantly wake up with a stiff neck, tension in the upper back and shoulders and a general feel of un-ease. This would make me feel un-rested even though I had slept reasonably well. I soon realized that my body mirrors the sub-conscious stress I experienced even during the sleep. I was looking for a cure… and not being one who pop pills I was searching for an alternative. Something kept urging me to look for relief in mindfulness practice.
As I began my meditation routine, sitting quietly, watching the breadth and merely seeing my abdomen rise and fall, my body relaxed. I began to notice that the tension eased and my mind became more calm and still. I began to observe this experience without any judgment of the pain in the neck and shoulders. This practice of observation alone helped me understand how fleeting all physical sensation and essentially all material phenomena really is. More importantly, I understood that meditation is not about making your mind blank but instead learning to see things as they truly are and freeing the mind of thought.
As I look closely at our current lifestyles, I can’t help noticing where we spend most of our energy. We are constantly engaged in doing things, then we fall into bed, exhausted, wake up and start the incessant doing again. Very often we’re cut off from our experience and feelings. We are driven by the belief system of the mind, by expectations, by fear, or by wanting to get some place else then we’re not actually where we are, are we?
Stress has become a way of life for most of us. Actually, it’s not so much the stress that’s the problem, it’s how we cope with it. This actually depends on how we see it, or if we see at all! Quite often when I ask people if they feel stress they deny it, as though it’s a disease we don’t want to acknowledge . Our denials make us live mechanically, on automatic pilot. Hence the mind is constantly agitated and is either in the past or the future but rarely in the present…. and this is where mindfulness exists.
The Buddha gives us a simple yet profound message that the true path does not have to be elaborate, that there is power in simplicity and that mindfulness is the cornerstone of meditative practice. When done with sincerity and commitment, in sometime it becomes a way of life; we learn to pay attention; to become mindful; to tune in. When this manifests as our experience we learn to take better care of ourselves; which really means learning to live more skillfully and move towards greater health and well being.
And so it is…