Breath is an ever-present aspect of life, which is part of the reason why "mindfulness of breathing," or ānāpānasati in Pāli, is probably the most common form (object) of meditation. Typically, the practice involves focusing attention on the physical sensations caused by the movement of the breath, the in-breaths and the out-breaths. Mindfulness of breathing is a feeling practice, not a thinking practice. It's so profoundly simple that we can do it at any time, whether seated in meditation, holding a yoga posture, or picking up after the dog.
Yogis, meditators, mindfulness coaches, Christians, and countless other spiritual seekers commonly employ the metaphor of the garden to represent stewardship. To view the mind as a garden is to view it as a place with potential value and commit to cultivating it. One must locate the space and make effort, which can take a variety of forms. One can tend to the garden of the mind while doing yoga, meditation, or any other activity in life.
Mindfulness as a general awareness of the present moment receives a lot of attention these days. This kind of awareness is sometimes labeled "bare attention" or "present moment awareness." Some, however, teach mindfulness as one aspect of a practice that aims to do more. In certain yoga traditions, for instance, the ultimate goal is to still the fluctuations of the mind. Paradoxically, the most effective way to still the mind often requires more than just sitting still, and finding out what methods work requires experimentation. This article explores one method that many people find useful to cultivate mindfulness: the simile of the gatekeeper.
Over the past few decades, Ajahn Sumedho has said much about "intuitive awareness." Most often the Pāli word sampajañña is translated as "clear comprehension," but Ajahn Sumedho prefers to foreground the notion of "intuitive awareness" as a way to extend and elaborate how we understand this important meditation concept.
In a Dhamma talk yesterday, Ajahn Amaro mentioned the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran, who wrote about parenting in his 1923 book, The Prophet. Gibran's words seem to uncomplicate the complicated. He claims that we parents need to do little more than offer children our love, and that we can't control them. They are not ours to control. Should we believe him?
Yesterday, I spent much of the day working on a deck project in my backyard. Activities such as housework and home improvement projects offer good opportunities to watch the mind. On meditation retreats, these activities get labels such as "working meditation" or "yogi jobs." The common wisdom seems to hold that we should perform these activities in silence, paying full attention to the task at hand. Over the past few years, I have been investigating the validity of this claim.
Yogis around the world regard Patañjali's Yoga Sūtras as a foundational text. Patañjali offers helpful advice on a wide variety of topics, but this article will focus on just one: loving-kindness.