Lots of research has been carried out over the last few decades in the field of neuroscience using state of the art sophisticated technology to verify the positive effects that meditation has to the health and well-being of human beings. Meditation has been scientifically proven to change the physical structure of the brain, and the way in which it functions. By practicing meditation every day we are able to change the way we perceive and respond to things, which has a positive affect on the way we interact with ourselves, and everyone and everything around us. This changes the way we in which we approach and apply ourselves to the wide variety of situations we will most definitely experience throughout duration of our lifetimes. This results in a fundamental change to our well-being, manifesting itself in a profoundly positive way.
Imagine you have to take a regular route through an extremely dense jungle that is very dangerous, but it’s the only way you know, so you keep on using it. Things have got so bad using this route every day that you can no longer bare it. Despite the commitment that is necessary, you decide to start work on a new pathway through the dense jungle. The more you walk the new and safe path through the jungle, the more established and easier it becomes to use. While you are focusing on walking along the new path every day, the old path begins to grow over, and slowly fades away over time. Eventually, if you keep maintaining this new path every day and refrain from go back to the old one, the old path will cease to exist permanently, with out trace, as if it was never there in the first place. This is exactly what happens when you commit to practicing mindfulness meditation every day. It actually re-routes the neural pathways in the brain, altering how signals are produced, sent, and received, allowing you to break old habits, thinking patterns and reflex reactions, so you can think clearly, and respond more appropriately to any kind of situation that may arise; providing you with a calm, happy, peaceful and safe journey through the jungle of life.
Mindfulness is the development of momentary awareness by actively paying attention to one's perceptive experience. In the observation of arising phenomena without casting opinion; in a state of neutrality, one is less likely to fall prey to impulse or reflex reaction by breaking the the neural
circuitry of the habitual thinking patterns that are so well embedded within the organ of the mind.
Through the development of self observation and compassion in meditation, the opportunity arises to gain insight into the mechanisms of one's cognitive processing. From the viewpoint of neutrality, the snare of the emotions can be avoided by remotely reviewing the nature of the thoughts as they simultaneously arise along side the sensations and feelings, perpetuating the chain link reactive process that leads one down the path of impulsive and un-beneficial ways of being.
The current understanding came about via a misinterpretation of the word that Mindfulness was
originally translated from. But never the less, the cultivation of the above skills are a significant factor in the ultimate quest for liberation.
The word that Mindfulness was mistranslated from is Sati (Pali) and Smriti (Sanskrit). Pali is an ancient Indian language the spoken words of Gotama (Buddha) were recorded in. Many of the mindfulness meditation courses around today were conceived via the misinterpretation of the Pali word Satipatthana; the title of a sermon given by Gotama during his era.
Sati or Smriti means: to recollect, to recall, or in this case, to remember who we really are, because we are suffering from amnesia. Satipatthana correctly translates as, The Establishment of Anamneses, meaning: to recollect a state, prior to that of arising phenomena; Blesses is He Who Is - before everything comes into being. [42.40 Christ Sutras] resting in the awareness of Spirit - beyond the mundane levels of consciousness. What arises at one moment in time, must cease to be in another, Everything that is born will perish...Everything that has a beginning has an end. [42.43 Christ Sutras] constituting the very nature of suffering. The (illusionary) pleasures and comforts of life, and even life itself, are of a temporary nature. So the intention of this practice is to realise our True Nature; beyond the realms of time, or birth and death. He Who Is, is immortal and eternal, having never been born. [42.43 Christ Sutras]
The 'ignorance' the ancient sages and mystics sages spoke of, was seeing Self in that which is not Self;
identifying with the empirical and temporary being one sees as his reflection, along with all the emotional states that accompany it, he believes this to be him Self or his own. They are beguiled by the beauty of their body, as if it would not perish, and they are frenetic. Their thought is occupied with their deeds, and thought is the fire that burns them. [42.10 Christ Sutras]
This is where the practice of Mindfulness is essential. We no longer fall prey to the turbulent events of life by disassociating or dis-identifying with the emotions of the psychological/physical being we perceive ourselves to be, and develop the ability to remain at peace in the eye of the storm, while the unstable nature of life reeks havoc around us.
If we are unable to liberate the mind from the temperamental nature of perpetual thinking and emotional states, we will forever be enslaved by the storms of life, having no control over the direction in which we wish to travel. Subsequently rendering ourselves incapable of achieving the actuality or realisation of true free will.
Although the objective of Mindfulness is based on the observation of our empirical nature: this very nature is in fact - to be transcended, not anchored upon, but to be used as a medium for ascension. Just as you would not continue to carry the raft on your back once you had crossed the river; you would no longer continue to focus your practice upon the empirical nature of human consciousness; eventually letting go, as will continue to weigh you down.
I am a qualified Mindfulness Instructor with qualifications recognised by the UK Mindfulness Network, and I also received a government recognised qualification with Distinction in Meditation Teaching. This is not important as qualifications are generally not based on facts, but the reason I mention it is because of a quote I came across in the MBCT training that stayed with me. Breath is life. You can think of the breath as being like a thread or a chain that links and connects all the events of your life from birth, the beginning, to death, the end. Except, that thread precedes this existence, traveling back indefinitely.
Attan (Pali) or Atman (Sanskrit) translating as (true) Self, Soul, Spirit, or the Breath of Life; that which animates the 'individual' being and the entire universe, giving life; breathing life into the universe.
In the Pali Suttas (the recordings of Gotama Buddha's sermons) the practitioner recollects past lives prior to the realisation of what lies beyond the arising of phenomenal existence. And in the Satipatthana Sutta translated straight from the Pali language Gotama (Buddha) instructs 'the establishment of anamnesis' via the breath. So satova assasati, sato passasati. - He is anamnestic as he breathes in, just so, he is anamnestic as he breathes out. (M.J.Armstrong)
If I were to say to you: as you are walking, I would like you to focus on anamnesis every time you put one foot in front of the other: would you perceive the intention of the practice to be walking? No. But this seems to be the case with the misunderstanding of breathing meditation or mindfulness of breath. The breath is to be used as the rhythm or wave in which to rest upon in establishing the state of anamnesis.
And this Anamnesis is: to simply pass beyond the mundane experience of everyday sensual consciousness, to rest in the bliss of our True Nature; abiding at peace, beyond the fluctuations of thought, feelings, doubt, worry, regret, and all the other psychological manifestations we are bombarded with on a momentary basis.