Saturday, September 25, 2010

Building a Platform

When we practice vipassana, or mindfulness meditation, the primary object of attention is always the feeling of the breath. Since the breath and the senses are always present moment events, feeling the body breathing draws the mind into the present moment as well. When the mind is more present, it can see more clearly its own habitual tendencies toward the world it perceives.

I tend to describe this experience of paying attention to the breath as being like building a structure - a platform - from which we can see things more clearly. The more we practice, the quicker and easier it is to build the platform. Pretty soon, the structure of mindfulness is available any time we need it during our daily life. We can bring momentary awareness to a situation or event, or to a thought or feeling, and in that short time of paying attention, we become mindful. The platform is immediately built, and we can see more clearly from this new perspective.

All of this takes place in just a second, and yet that moment of reflection can make a huge difference. In that moment, we can see clearly the habitual tendency of the mind in that situation. If that tendency is potentially ineffective or even harmful, we can make another choice. The choice might be to simply continue observing the mind and any emotional reactions that may be resulting from our thoughts without taking any action. 

For me, this reflective moment has been one of the most important and useful benefits of vipassana practice. Having the ability to bring momentary awareness to a situation has prevented countless unskillful and unnecessary reactions. This has led to countless opportunities to limit or eliminate suffering, which is the ultimate aim of vipassana.


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