Is mindfulness a yogic practice? Can I practice mindfulness along with Kriya yoga? Have Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda said something about this?
—Sukhmandeep Singh, India
Mindfulness, as defined by Yogananda in his interpretations of the yoga sutras of Patanjali (Demystifying Patanjali: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda presented by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda), is ‘retaining constantly the awareness of God’s presence.’ This definition which can be also understood as practicing the presence of God, is an important technique in the life of the devotee. In this practice we keep our awareness tuned to God in every moment of our lives as we are engaged in our daily activities. We are continuously watchful that we recognize God ‘hiding in plain sight’ in our every experience. We recognize His guidance in our every step. At the center of our being we keep a continuous connection and conversation with God, a calling out from our heart to God that He infuse our every thought, feeling and action with His vibration. This is the practice of japa, as it is known in yogic traditions. Absolutely, this practice is an essential part of the life of the Kriya Yogi, for our practice is not just in the meditation room; it is throughout our day.
Vipasana mindfulness, which we can understand as watching the contents of the mind or the fluctuations of feeling, has become a popular spiritual practice. Swami Kriyananda comments on this practice warning us that if we do our ‘watching’ not from a state of inner detachment, but from a state of intense mental involvement the process can increase our stress rather than decreasing it. “While watching your mental process, do so from above, as it were – that is to say, from a higher level of awareness. As much as possible, practice “mindfulness” from a superconscious level. For the conscious mind cannot easily achieve self-understanding. Clear insight comes from superconsciousness” (Awaken to Superconsciousness Stilling the Waves by Swami Kriyananda).
The practices in the path of Kriya Yoga are all about accessing higher states of awareness. Each of the techniques in this path is a powerful tool to help us lift our consciousness to superconsciousness from which we will have the inner detachment necessary to truly practice Vipasana mindfulness. If you feel to add Vipasana mindfulness to your practices watch your state of detachment closely that you not just become embroiled in the very state of reactivity you, as a devotee, are seeking to rise above. Truly, the fruit of deep Kriya practice is stilling the waves of feeling which leads to stilling the mind and non-attachment. I recommend diving deep into your practices in the path of Kriya Yoga and I think you will find that as a product of your practice you will achieve an increasing state of Vipasana.
Demystifying Patanjali and Awaken to Superconsciousness are both available at https://anandapublications.com/ if you are interested in reading further.