The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.
What are the five healing qualities, characteristics and benefits of mindfulness meditation as told in the great wisdom traditions of our species?
1) Deep innermost peace as healing body-mind relaxation. A good night’s sleep.
2) Deep appreciation of the great gift of your life, just as it is now; acceptance of
yourself and whatever arises for you now, pleasant or painful.
3) Non-conceptuality; freedom from obsessive ego thinking and ruminating.
4) Clarity, vividness, mental-perceptual acuity, your natural wakefulness.
5) Wisdom Mind Presence as Happiness Itself: bliss/joy; a profound feeling of well-being, of the inherently selfless interconnectedness and interdependence of you with everything else. Wisdom Mind is “Big Mind” ultimate perfection of your arising realities in this very moment, here and now; although to the “Small Mind” of relative conventional self-ego-I it doesn’t always seem so.
Refuge. These qualities of the practice of mindful breathing are naturally already present within you. No need to fabricate, or seek, or expect them. They arise effortlessly and spontaneously upon the breath. You’ll feel this one, or that one when you stop seeking some wondrous result.
Remain close to the breath. Open your heart and mind and enter in as you will. You will come to trust the process. Choose to take refuge often in this natural, spacious, awake and peaceful “innermost secret” place of the mind; Wisdom Mind, “innate intrinsic awareness” Presence of the very Nature of Mind, “primordially pure” pristine mind nature; never defiled by fabricated bias of conceptual thinking and belief. Thus do we awaken now—step by step—to our innermost Heart’s desire; Happiness Itself. Not seeing and accepting this state of grace is called ignorance: avidya, hamartia-sin.
Jesus told, “That which you seek (the Kingdom of God) is already present within you…and it is spread upon the face of the earth, but you do not see it” (Luke 17).
Said Paul in his sublime Epistle to the Ephesians, “Awaken thou that sleepeth, and Christ shall shine upon thee”.
For Buddha, “Wonder of wonders, all beings are Buddha”. Perhaps we are not fully awakened Buddhas, but as we awaken to Presence of our indwelling Christ-Buddha nature, the light of our innate primordial Wisdom Mind outshines from within us for the benefit of all beings in our sphere. Ordinary natural mind upon the breath. Great bliss being here. Wu shin. Nothing special. Always already present, here and now, before we think about it.
Because these five inherent qualities of mindfulness are already present now—”just sit” quietly and breathe mindfully for a few moments. See what arises for you.
Longer sessions are useful for yogis and yoginis. As beginning meditation practitioners 15 to 30 minutes twice a day is ideal.
But the main point is this: “Brief moments many times.” Thirty-six seconds to 108 seconds—nine mindful breaths, several times a day. Let each one of the relentless distractions return you to your mindful breath. The touchstone and antidote to distraction and the instant connection to your innate innermost Wisdom Mind Presence? OM AH HUM, quietly upon your breath. Say it three times, right now!
The Challenge of Pride. It’s a touchy subject. Not for the ego insecure. No-self help, including contemplative meditative practice can become quite narcissistic. Our old fashioned habitual self-absorption remains, but is transferred to the wonderful mindful practice of, guess who?—I, me, mine. Precious bodhicitta—thought, intention action/conduct for the benefit of other beings arising upon the OM AH HUM mantra prayer—is the powerful antidote. But here’s the rub.
As we “gain” a bit of mindful control and stabilization of our egoic “monkey mind”, and with that, some personal power, we become more wise and appealing. Too often subtle “spiritual pride” installs itself somewhere in the temple of our new wise and wonderfully giving personality. Spiritual pride—the spiritualized ego—is truly one of the nastiest entities in the entire galaxy. And it is pure heck to recognize; and worse to cure.
Egoic pride—of any brand—is said to be the subtlest and thus the most destructive of the afflictive self-ego-I negative emotions. It’s devilishly difficult to recognize in oneself. Even the radical skepticism as to your own belief systems is of little use here. You just won’t see the ugliness of “your” pride. It’s too painful, not to mention mortifying. As you begin to get glimpses of it, you may react with anger and negative projection—toward self, and others. Anger and ego-defensiveness is your red flag. See it. But it’s not the real you! It’s just the adventitious subtle pride of self-ego-I. First recognize it in yourself without egoic intellectualization, denial and projection onto others. Now we finally make some of our prodigious ego defense mechanisms conscious. The spiritual irony here is as thick as it gets. It takes a strong flexible self-ego-I to begin the difficult yogic practice of deconstructing itself. If ego-I is ultimately an illusion, it most certainly is relatively, conventionally all too real. But now we know what to do about it—upon each mindful breath. OM AH HUM.
So, should you take your personal transformation through mindfulness practice seriously, and make it through the beautiful beginning chaos, keep a wary eye out for even a little bit of pride. What’s the antidote? Once again, it’s non-judgmental, kind, loving, compassionate thought, intention and action toward yourself, and then toward others. How? Shall I say it again? Breathe mindfully for a minute.
Thus we shall not permit our mindfulness practice to be tainted and derailed with narcissism. We must unpack our powerful nondual contemplative experience of Wisdom Mind Presence with a bit of penetrating wisdom insight (vipashyana)—analytic meditation—in order to unify such profound subjective innermost experience with the post-subjective, proto-conceptual voice of our innermost human wisdom cognition. We need a bit of deep, penetrating meta-cognitive analysis to balance and reveal our less than conscious emotional processes. Mindfulness of breathing (shamatha) and insight meditation (vipashyana) together accomplish this.
For example, briefly meditate upon your self-ego-I. Ask, not why, but where is it? Is it in the brain? The gut? The flesh? The eyes? You cannot find it anywhere. It’s merely a diaphanous mental/conceptual fabrication; is it not? Albeit a persuasive one.
In other words, we study and intellectually understand just what it is that we are learning through our mindfulness practice. We come to understand the way things actually are, and who it is that “I” actually am through subjective surrender of self-ego-I to heartmind intrinsic awareness of always present indwelling Wisdom Mind; nondual trans-conceptual Presence of That. Presence is a “felt sense”, not a concept. It is experienced as feeling, emotion and devotion—quite beyond our conceptual “web of belief”.
The precious “three jewels” of the path—the teacher, the teaching and the spiritual community—are necessary to accomplish this aspect of the path. Take refuge in that! Plug your practice into that.
In due course and by grace, conscious mindful breathing becomes a flow of intrinsic wakefulness, a natural continuity of your own always present enlightened awareness that arises in the vast innate awareness-consciousness of the primordial ground itself, by whatever name or concept. That is Happiness Itself; is it not? That is the “I Am Presence” of Hindus, Buddhists, of Moses and the Prophets, of Jesus the Christ, of Taoists, of Islam, and of the Shaman. Who am I? That is, after all, the ultimate “supreme identity” of the human being here in relative space and time—without a single exception. So, please remain open to the possibility of a qualified teacher who can lead you to an authentic meditation master. The benefit is immeasurable.