A Glimpse into Mindfulness Meditation

by Leza Lowitz

Mindfulness is often defined as present-moment awareness of thoughts, emotions, body sensations and surroundings through a gentle lens.

The practice of mindfulness is paying attention to thoughts, feelings and physical sensations without judgement—without labelling them “right” or “wrong.” Tuning into the present moment just as it is; not rehashing the past or fantasizing about the future. Just being here and now.

We practice mindfulness to hold all that is arising in a loving awareness that nurtures and allows. In this way, mindfulness becomes heartfulness, and we become more friendly with the inner world and less reactive to the outer world. We can reduce stress and, according to neuroscience, amplify a sense of contentment and happiness.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a mental training that awakens us beyond the conditioned mind and habitual thought patterns, ultimately revealing the true nature of reality. According to Tara Brach, “The process and the fruit of meditation practice is understood as Natural Presence. Presence is a mindful, clear recognition of what is happening—here, now—and the open, allowing space that includes all experience.”

There are many techniques (called “skillful means”) that facilitate deepening of presence. Brach states: “The art of practice is to employ these strategies with curiosity, kindness and a light touch. The wisdom of practice is remembering that Natural Presence is always and already here. It is the loving awareness that is our essence.

Insight (Vipassana) Meditation

Insight meditation is at the heart of the teachings of awakening. Its purpose is to strengthen our capacity to experience “things as they are” directly, without the filter of discursive thinking, evaluation or habitual reactivity. It consists of bringing a natural and clear attention to whatever is happening in the present moment.

As we learn to be alertly and calmly present in our meditation, we experience a deeper intimacy with ourselves and with the world. As we cultivate our ability to remain mindful without interfering, judging, avoiding, or clinging to our direct experience, insight and wisdom have a chance to surface. We see the ever-changing, impersonal, ungraspable nature of all things. Wisdom arises. We might come to the happy realization that our unobstructed awareness of this very moment is freedom. mindfulness becomes both the means and the end of insight.

There are many forms of Vipassana. Each style focuses on some aspect of the ever- changing experience of body and mind. Some forms, like that of Goenka, focus primarily on bodily sensations. Some focus on mind directly. There are many approaches.

Cultivating Mind States

There are many types of meditation that help us cultivate, or recall, states of being. such as loving awareness and compassion.

The Lovingkindness Meditation, or Metta Bhavana, was created by Buddha to help us develop a state of inner harmony so that we can have less conflict in our lives. In Pali, Metta means “love” or “lovingkindness” and bhavana means “cultivation.” This practice is a cornerstone of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, in which we cultivate compassion & love for self & others. This heart-centered meditation practice allows us to send ourselves positive energy and love. We can send others love and forgiveness. We can thus heal our pains and bring balance to our relationships with others. The more we do that, the more harmonious our lives will be. Practice this meditation 5 minutes daily and notice more harmony in your life.

Tonglen Meditation

In Tibetan, tong means “giving or sending,” and len means “receiving or taking.” Tonglen meditation is known as “exchanging self with others.”

Tonglen practice, also referred to as “taking and giving,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking self-pleasure. In Tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with our in-breath, and sending whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. Author Pema Chodron notes that in the process of practicing this meditation, we become liberated from age-old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others. She states: “Tonglen awakens our compassion and introduces us to a far bigger view of reality. It intro- duces us to the unlimited spaciousness of shunyata (emptiness). By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being.”

September 14 – October 19, 2022

5:30 – 8 pm PDT // 8:30 – 11 pm EDT // 9:30 – 12 pm in Japan

Leza Lowitz, M.A. is the founder and sole proprietor of Sun and Moon Yoga, Tokyo, which she established in 2003. She has been practicing mindfulness and meditation for forty years, and has had a regular daily practice that entire time. She completed a 7-year intensive Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhist Meditation program in 2012, including many long-term silent retreats. She is a graduate of the 2-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification program at the Awareness Training Institute and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Main teachers: Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach.

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