The Practice Is To Notice

Even after years of practice, I needed to be reminded of this.

I was on a course and a teacher was doing a guided meditation. My meditation felt heavy and oppressive. I was noticing my ongoing symptoms of brain fog, and feeling quite frustrated that it was there again, changing how my practice felt. I started pushing against the experience rather than settling into the meditation.

Then the teacher reminded us that the intention is to notice what’s happening.

This non-fixing is what Mark Williams calls the being mode, as opposed to the doing mode. We can notice when we are getting caught up, trying to make things different.

Doing mode is one in which we try to close the gap between the way things are and the way we think they should be. We respond to what we hear as a call to action – and it can make us feel worse.

“Another mode of mind is required when it comes to dealing with unhappiness. Evolution has bequeathed us with an alternative to critical thinking. … It is called awareness.”

Mark Williams, The Mindful Way Through Depression. Audiobook.

Kindness Adds Direction To Mindfulness Practice

It’s often assumed that mindfulness has kindness built-in. I don’t think this is true. A counter-example is the way that some beginner meditators criticise themselves for not being mindful enough. It’s an act of unkindness towards one’s self.

Mindfulness needs to be deliberately filled with the quality of goodwill.

As well as making a healthy static meditation practice, kindness can also be used to give a sense of direction to the practice. It’s the first signpost that we are moving along in the direction of less suffering.

Mindfulness without kindness is like standing on one leg. It won’t get us very far along the path.