The overall point, for Salzberg, is taking meditation out of the realm of colorful pillows and flowing clothing, and putting it squarely into the middle of the working day as a vital and practical tool.
“If you’re at work and there’s a contentious meeting going on and tempers are starting to flare, you don’t have to open up the closet and pull out all this equipment, sit down cross-legged, light the incense and look weird,”
she reassures leery business owners.
“You just need to settle your attention on your breath. No one even knows you’re doing it, so it’s very personal. It’s very independent.”
With every act of breathing, the abdomen rises and falls, which movement is always evident. This is the material quality known as vayodhatu (the element of motion). One should begin by noting this movement, which may be done by the mind intently observing the abdomen. You will find the abdomen rising when you breathe in, and falling when you breathe out. The rising should be noted mentally as `rising’, and the falling as `falling’. If the movement is not evident by just noting it mentally, keep touching the abdomen with the palm of your hand. Do not alter the manner of your breathing. Neither slow it down, nor make it faster. Do not breathe too vigorously, either. You will tire if you change the manner of your breathing. Breathe steadily as usual and note the rising and falling of the abdomen as they occur. Note it mentally, not verbally.
… We don’t practice mindfulness for the sake of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t an end in itself. It’s a tool. There are a few times we want to be open to everything that’s arising — for example in meditation — but that’s quite rare, and done as a form of training. Generally, you need to bear in mind what you’re actually doing (this is called sampajañña) and then pay attention to a set of experiences connected with that task (this is called sati).
This task was not small. Every place has a deep-seated culture as to how things are done. ‘Culture is the sum total of shared habits and expectations,’ [Bill] Thomas told me. As he saw it, habits and expectations had made institutional routines and safety greater priorities than living a good life, and had prevented the nursing home from successfully bringing in even one dog to live with the residents. He wanted to bring in enough animals, plants and children to make them a regular part of every nursing home resident’s life. Inevitably the settled routines of the staff would be disrupted, but then wasn’t that part of the aim?
‘Culture has tremendous inertia,’ he said. ‘That’s why it’s culture. It works because it lasts. Culture strangles innovation in the crib.’
To combat the inertia, he decided they should go up against the resistance directly – ‘hit it hard,’ Thomas said. He called it the Big Bang. They wouldn’t bring a dog or a cat or a bird and wait to see how everyone responded. They’d bring all the animals in more or less at once.
Emotions too have grooves. As with mental grooves, emotional ones are also like well-worn paths. We cycle the same emotions over and over. We’re on a hamster wheel of thoughts. Thoughts and emotions feed each other.
We live within stories we’ve created and some we’ve inherited. Stories are important. They give us a sense of place, belonging and continuity. They can also restrict and limit.
But before that’s possible emotions have to be understood. First, they have a magnetic quality which means similar emotions clump together. Emotions can self-attract within a person or from person to person. That’s why a family, group of people, a community or a habitat can have certain emotional tones.
You should not take personally things that actually aren’t personal.
It turns out when you start to really dig down underneath it, there’s very little that’s personal.
Taking things personally is a prescription for infinite suffering.
Jon Kabat Zinn
Existentialism may provide a viewpoint for some people that amounts to an advance, a deepening or broadening; but for others it may amount to limitation and error. When viewpoints are released, the wisdom that is unveiled is much more profound and much more responsive than any philosophy. Ultimately, viewpoints and ‘isms’ have to be let go of completely.
The meditative worldview is not cobbled together with ideas and arguments, but is seen directly, or rather reflected directly with the clear mind — the mind that is free from dependency on any view, any concept.
If you are studying within a tradition, and that tradition provides a view, you should strive to fulfill that view. But ultimately you shouldn’t hold or make anything. Even just saying ‘universe’ is a mistake.
Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life.
Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is.