Meditation and philosophy
Why do we need Philosophy in life?
People tend to regard philosophy as something aloof and mind blowing, only tackling all kinds of -ism and ideologies. Here we don't discuss this narrowly defined philosophy.
Philosophy, based on a series of beliefs, is all about the proper ways of thinking, leading to a meaningful relation between self and the world. If we have established a proper philosophical mindset, we can steer our life consciously without being affected by others' conflicting viewpoints and opinions; in other words, we gain the confidence from the deepest level.
However, it is so easy for us to get stuck in the convenient perspective, which can be re-enhanced by our problematic sense; in contrast, wisdom and philosophy are counter-intuitive and less tangible, but it is worthwhile to pursue.
Alternatively, we can say, rather than being spurred by the desire triggered by the external world in a convenient perspective, we need to create an internal cohesion from within (find a proper perspective) to guide us through life.
Why do we practice mindfulness?
It is never easy to have a proper philosophical mindset. Why is it so difficult? It is because of the beliefs, which undergird the philosophy. It is mentally challenging to have appropriate beliefs especially during the formative years when we keep receiving conflicting information and opinions. Now we are living in such a plural society, but it is more difficult than ever to define a clear framework of beliefs outside of the scope of religion. We could choose a secular way of life, but couldn't live without values/beliefs.
It is easier to recognize these values consciously but it will take a much longer time to let our unconscious mind fully accept them. Only after this full acceptable, could we live by these values. Via mindfulness, we can achieve this little by little. By working on our neurons, the mindfulness practice enable us to reprogramme our neural pattern to internalize these values.
Besides, mindfulness is a valuable and insightful practice to let us figure out the relationship between us and beliefs. Via meditation, we will be able to observe our mind activities, gain insight into ourselves and find ourselves, which means we find a framework of beliefs that can support our being coherently.
From there, we could further build up a proper philosophical mindset.
From a Buddhist point of view, the ultimate aim of mindfulness is awakening, awakening to the fact that what makes us suffer is mere mental construct and self/ego is just an illusion. It will take efforts to take this view wholeheartedly. Another aim, in my opinion, is to really understand how the mind works. "As human beings, we are physically, mentally, and emotionally the same," said Dalai Lama. After realizing how the mind works, we could develop genuine compassion for and give understanding to anyone.
Mindfulness and people with higher cognitive abilities
Many people have excellent cognitive abilities, distributed in all walk of life. Academics, programmers, CEOs, writers, artists, you name it, tend to have a high proportion of these types of people. This group of people tend to be more sensitive to internal stimulation (mind) and external stimulation (all kinds of information) and in a way more easily fall trap to the "mind pitfalls". Therefore it is imperative for them to coordinate their thought patterns in their mind and that's where mindfulness can come into play. (More description is coming)
What's the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
We cultivate mindfulness via meditation, though meditation is not the only way to achieve mindfulness. Mind you, language has its own limitation in describe mindfulness and maybe impossible to describe it adequately, that's why different people have different interpretations. But as long as we get hold of mindfulness, we will know they are the same: a mind projected to different expressions in languages.
How do we start the journey of mindfulness?
1. For beginners, the biggest task is to persuade themselves to do the meditation, to establish trust and proper expectation. It will take time, and patience and non-judgment are needed. A book is recommended here: Mindfulness in Plain English
2. This book may help improve the meditation techniques and understanding of mindfulness: The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness.
3. YouTube Videos, like from Dalai Lama, Jon Kabat-Zinn and many more.
4. Join a local group or find a well-matched meditation teacher for help.
5. Use Apps like Calm and Headspace, or anything like that.
Please bear in mind: there is no unique way of doing meditation, be open-minded to the practice.
Food for thought
Mindfulness may help us save the efforts to read 99% of the books.
Don't take advice from anyone, unless he/she is a meditation instructor.
We cannot change the world without being changed, since we are part of the world.
Any moment can be a practice of mindfulness; the mindfulness practice is life-long.
We cannot avoid any influences from anybody and anything; the only thing we can do is to steer ourselves through the influence.
We are living a life that we have to keep letting go; we usually strongly feel it every time we recover from an illness. With mindfulness, we can let go at any moment.
1. How soon can I feel the power of mindfulness?
Different people have different feelings, the experience is always subjective. Even a 10-minute meditation for a beginner can make him/her feel calm. It is best for you not to expect the benefit, just practice the mindfulness regularly, patiently and wholeheartedly (those cultivated qualities are also part of mindfulness), and things will come naturally.
2. Do I need to follow a meditation teacher?
No, you don't have to. It really depends on you. Following a meditation teacher may make things easier, since, as I imagine, the teacher can not only help you get on with the meditation techniques quickly but also share with you the philosophical views that accelerate your understanding of mindfulness and progress; however, it is never easy to find a proper teacher, who matches your situation and you can establish trust with but without attachment to. I have to apologise here if my words trigger your desire to find a teacher, but that's not my intention.
You don't have to follow a meditation teacher, it is perfect to be yourself. You are your own best teacher, via meditation, you find yourself and gain the self-knowledge only relevant to you.
3. How to find a proper meditation teacher?
It is not easy to answer. Some people claim to be certified by some programme, some people claim to have many years' meditation, these marketing strategies might be good evidence, might be not. The thought and mindset of the meditation teacher really matter, but it is never easy to learn this; all good meditation teachers may be facing the moral challenge of monetising mindfulness. If you are looking for someone, good luck!
Supplement on Apr.10 2019
This part will be reorganized in the near future.