How does the idea of a full brain sound? Not particularly meditative perhaps...
As the term mindfulness is sounding more commonly and rousing interests amongst beginners and right through experienced meditators, the term itself isn't always seen as entirely helpful to inspire the method and effects the practice can bring.
It is a practice most famously delivered to the west by Vietnamese monk activist (and good pal of Martin Luther King), Thic Naht Hahn, via one of his students Jon Kabat Zinn who developed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Another key proponent in the west would be the Insight Meditation Society founded in 1975. They showed us a way, a practice, and its for us to DO THE WORK, before we can really understand the subtle nuances of what it actually offers.
To understand a key point on where the practice of mindfulness comes from and what is meant by 'the mind' will help to simplify it. The word mind has picked up a lot of connotations in west which aren't so common to the eastern understanding. Now there are very subtle elements which differentiate when we are operating from the brain or the mind, and it seems to me that it's not such an easy switch to recognise when we're in the midst of it.
In eastern understanding, 'mind' isn't simply the brain but consists of our gut instinct or how we can wear our heart on our sleeve. In other words, many bodily systems constitute that which is known collectively as mind in the east, such as the sensory awareness and hormones, not simply the big grey blob safely tucked up in the skull. I've been taught that traditionally in the east, individual minds exists between the belly and the chest. How to begin bringing our awareness below the neck is not so particularly well understood, however is vital for peace of mind.
So to try and grapple an intellectual understanding of what mindfulness is is automatically self defeating, because until we have experienced our mind at work to its fullest throughout our bodies, we are trying to collect water without a vessel, we can do it, but it wont be nearly as tidy.
To know that the brain is but a small portion of what mind is traditionally known as, that it actually only serves the imaginative as well as regulatory forces is what mindfulness represents to me. To know that it's not in charge and that we aren't destined to get stuck up in there. It's a truth that becomes clearer as we can learn to sidestep its constant demand to be at the centre of attention. The brain has had to be fighting for our attention for us to survive, and its our opportunity now to adapt, to speed up our evolution, that we have all these higher abilities that raise us up from animals, but we don't need to rush into totally disconnecting from our roots.
Good news, it's extremely simple to learn, it just takes a little intention, and a lifetime's practice. But just a little intention goes a long way to get back a sense of harmony, balance and depending on how much you give it; seeing every moment of life as a miracle.
I'm particularly looking forward to teaching more about this in upcoming posts as I prepare for another visit to Norway to lead class in Drobak and hold a mindful hot yoga workshop at Raw Yoga in Oslo.