Mindfulness Practice - Introduction

Tree in Clouds 

My mindfulness practice presently involves the practice of Buddhism and Yoga, in its broader sense. I am a certified (RYT-200) Yoga and mediation teacher. For more information about that, see my Yoga pages.  

Buddhism is many things.  To some it's a religion.  To others it's a philosophy.   To me, and to many others, it is a way of approaching life and discovering and understanding the universe.  The focus in Buddhism is on the direct experience of reality.  That needs to be contrasted with - and is very different from - intellectual investigation.  In many ways, intellectualism gets in the way of understanding, which is a concept very foreign to the way I have lived life for most of my years. It's difficult for me to explain the difference between an intellectual understanding of something and a direct perception or experience of it. But, think about it this way:  You can have an intellectual understanding that your child loves you and you can have the actual experience of a child's love. The former is a conclusion the brain forms from certain past or present conditions.  The latter is not the result of a thought process, but is instead something that is felt - without any particular reasoning. To me, the Buddhist concept of direct experience is a lot like that.

Beginning in my late teens, I read a lot about Buddhism.  That gave me some intellectual understanding of the concepts.  What it didn't give me was any experience of them.  That didn't come until I began practicing the Buddhist concepts I had been reading about - something I resisted for a long, long time.  Now I can say without any hesitation that I experience these things.  And in many ways, I don't understand them at all and I'm fine with that.  The experience has and continues to bring me great joy.  

Dharma is an interesting word in Buddhism.  It is used to refer to many things and often it seems to be used to refer to everything in Buddhism. I am using it here to refer to the classical teachings of Buddhism that are recorded in many texts that are to a greater or lesser extent the words of the Buddha, and also as the teachings that come to us from the experience of life.  With regard to the latter, our "teacher" may be a friend, a frog or a spring rain.  The key is to be open to the teachings, whatever their source.  

My understanding has evolved significantly over the relatively short time I've been engaged in this practice.  Insights I thought at one point were ultimate, turned out instead to be just a stepping stone to deeper understandings.  For example, at an early point I was awed when I perceived in meditation the interconnectedness of all things.  I visualized this somewhat like mini-wormholes between one thing and another, resulting in a connectedness of all things. Currently, that seems to me to be too narrow a perception.  Instead, today I perceive this concept as much more subtle and nuanced. Interconnectedness implies that each "thing" is a separate thing.  I don't see things that way anymore.  Today, at least at some level, I do not see any "thing" as separate from any other "thing."  Part of that perception is recognizing that if "things" aren't separate, then the concept of interconnectedness has no real meaning and no role.  There's a beautiful teaching about this often referred to as the lotus flower and the mud.  The point of the teaching is that the lotus flower is the mud from which it sprang and to which it will return and the mud is also the lotus.  Again, this seems fairly easy to understand on an intellectual level.  But, can you look at the flower and really see the mud?   If you can, you'll see that it's a completely different experience.  I'll try to explain all this in greater detail in an essay posted on the Writings page, which has links to various essays.