Lately I’ve been getting into various mindfulness practices to some effect, but am extremely cautious of many of the claims made about them.
There are things it just can’t do, but mindfulness is useful because of those things it can do.
What I seek is a little more equanimity during rough times, a bit more balance, clearer mental focus, a deeper sense of my link to the world, better awareness of the present moment…. perhaps a little more compassion and less dickishness than I’ve perhaps had the previous day.
These practices have yielded valuable understanding of the fleeting contents of the three-pound lump of convoluted tissue in my skull; my private thoughts, feelings, a better awareness of my motives, errors in reasoning that prior to beginning the practice I hadn’t noticed myself committing.
They also help with my…. psychology…. With less than a minute of breath awareness, I may calm my somewhat raucous inner narrative after stressful moments and regain a level of clarity that would otherwise take an hour to achieve.
With a body scan — attending to subtle physical sensations from toes to head — I may relax and achieve a decent night’s REM sleep within moments.
Extending the practice to the act of walking, or eating, or creating fractals, or listening to an ocean of sound around me as though at a concert, in both formal and informal practice, it becomes easier to attend to the moment in a variety of situations.
Better yet, with practice and experience it becomes possible to create and adapt new exercises to new situations and circumstances.
This is a definite win/win situation for me.
Meditation can focus the mind and render profound insight, but it cannot work feats of magic or suspend the laws of reality.
It may only show us those things within or about ourselves we hadn’t seen before, hadn’t noticed, and often haven’t even looked for, surprising us when they appear before our inward gaze for the first time.
Even those things we might not like when we find them. Caution and a light step are important. It can help one attend, but one must be careful what to attend to, particularly with issues like mine.
I’ve no intent to seek enlightenment, become a sage, realign my chakras, redirect my flow of qi, nor achieve other alleged supernormal powers.
My goals are instead to strengthen my connection to the world, to affirm rather than deny it, to live in it more fully and to experience each moment as though it were precious. It’s to enhance my observational awareness as a form of cross-training for bettering and for clarifying my thinking.
What about transcendent experiences? It’s possible with enough practice over time, I suppose. But that’s not big on my list of things to do, though it would be interesting if it happened. Not my cup of chai.
Rather than doing this for some lofty spiritual goal, nor to seek power, I’ll just keep at this for purely practical reasons, while at once being careful what to practice….
.…and what to avoid for the dangers it may present to my mental health. I won’t engage in anything that fuzzes the edges of my reason. That goes for recreational pharmaceuticals as well.
Otherwise, I may as just turn in my skeptic card, and I simply don’t see that happening.