This is part of The Daily Meditation Experiment, where I am practicing one school of meditation per week to understand the overall structure & effects of each.
Meditation Method: Mindfulness (Vipassana)
I sit on a cushion, eyes closed, for 20 minutes, listening to theta wave binaural beats.
I breathe deeply & naturally, focusing on my breath and on allowing my thoughts to pass through me without capturing me.
When thoughts do capture me, and I notice them, I label the thought broadly (e.g. plan, worry, memory), and return to my breath.
If I am able to achieve total empty mind, never for more than the space of a few breaths, I feel my mind open and relax, while I notice my breaths & the total emptiness of thought between them.
I practiced mindfulness meditation from May 25th to May 31st, 2015. I meditated a total of 6 times in 7 days & missed two days (one day had two meditations).
This definitely feels like training for the brain. While it produces a feeling of relaxedness post-meditation, and for short periods during meditation, it is far from a relaxing practice. The minds chatter is near-constant & surprisingly insidious in it’s ability to remain unnoticed until it has hold of your attention. It never stays quiet for more than a few seconds unless it is trained to.
That said, the feeling of no thoughts, just light emptiness between breaths, is incredibly relaxing & enjoyable. I can see how mindfulness meditation could be very relaxing once one has mastered the ability to more effectively & quickly quiet one’s mind.
Also, a deluge of ideas & plans come to me during this meditation. Most are forgotten by the end of the meditation. However, those that persist throughout are often quite good, and I’ve learned to have a notebook handy to jot down anything useful immediately after meditating.
Besides remembering how easily you forget all these “important” things, and thereby realizing that they are not that important (the truly important one’s will persist), there are two techniques I found of great use to quieting the mind and attaining no thoughts.
- Broad Labelling. When a thought or thing pulls you away label it broadly for what it is and forget it. For example, it is a memory, sound, plan, idea, smell, etc. For some reason I do not understand, this broad label makes it surprisingly simple to let go of the thought and allow it to drift off. Thanks to Giovanni from Live & Dare for this tip.
- Why are you here? Remembering that you have devoted this time to one thing and one thing only helps you remember what is truly important this very instant. Not your thoughts, plans, or ideas. They are not the reason you are here, they distract from the reason. The reason you are here is to attain no thoughts. If you achieve that, this time was well spent.
- Slightly increased ability to notice my emotions and calm them.
- Feeling of relaxation and centeredness after meditation. A clearer focus on what matters. Lasts from 1 minute to multiple hours.
- Slightly increased consciousness of the meaninglessness of most of my thoughts.
- Slightly increased ability to stoically do what I have devoted a given time to, even if it is not enjoyable.
A week is definitely not enough time to get significant benefits from mindfulness meditation. It clearly requires serious discipline & dedication over a good amount of time.
I can see the benefits to focus and self-control here to be potentially huge. I’m quite sure I’ll come back to mindfulness as part of my regular practice after the Meditation Experiment is over.