What Is Mindfulness?
June 14, 2023
This is video #1 of 5: the 7 stages of meditation. Mindfulness in its basic simplicity of watching the thoughts is an excellent beginning. It is observing the influence of the subconscious mind upon the conscious mind.
Hello friends, Nayaswami Hriman here.
I'd like to share with you, and it might be several of these videos, the stages of meditation. We hear a lot about, and meditation is very often described as being a technique of mindfulness. And that is certainly true. But what is mindfulness?
In this and perhaps one or two other videos to follow, I'd like to outline seven stages. I'm just going to make up the names. They have other names on various traditions, but the first stage is mindfulness. The second stage I'm going to call focused concentration. Then, after that comes inner silence. After that, stage four, inner experiences. Then absorption.
And then stages six and seven are the highest stages of meditation as taught in the Yoga Sutras, and so on. And we'll talk only briefly about those, because of those I can't tell you from firsthand experience. And so, let's begin.
In a way, the first three stages could be akin to the three stages of mind, which is to say, the subconscious, conscious, and what Yogananda termed the superconscious mind. In any case, I don't want to get stuck in terminology. But the first stage, which I aligned more with the subconscious mind, is the most popular form of meditation, or at least the most talked about, which is using, in fact, that term mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
So, if you sit, perhaps you close your eyes, and the goal is to observe the flow of your thoughts. Well, and that's a very good thing, particularly for a beginning meditator, whereby we begin to become more aware of the kind of thoughts do we have. Are there negative, repetitive thoughts? And keep in mind, be mindful of the fact that any daily meditation practice will develop anew the habit of being more mindful and self-aware during activity, the things you say, the feelings you have.
So, meditation opens you up beyond just a few minutes or so that you meditate. But for the sake of these videos, I'm going to do on the subject of the stages of meditation, I just want to talk about that meditation itself. So you know, when we first said, and, we're being mindful of the thoughts going, you know, there are people who teach to worry about your thoughts.
People will ask commonly, "Oh! Am I supposed to not have thoughts?" Well, my goodness! What a battle that is, isn't it, the monkey mind?! If, if you're just trying to force yourself not to think, that's an oxymoron, I think. Anyway, it's difficult, no matter what you call it.
And so, some people will say, "Well, don't worry about it. You're not supposed to control your thoughts." Well, there's some truth to that, because that's not how we go beyond thoughts—by trying to control them with willpower. But we'll come back to that.
What Happens in the First Stage of Mindfulness Meditation?
In any case, this first stage of meditation is when we become increasingly aware by closing our eyes, sitting up straight, and entering into a state of meditative awareness. We become aware of what goes on in our minds. We could say we are during the day, but no sooner does a thought come then it's gone.
Whereas in meditation, when we just focus on our thoughts, then we can become more, more deeply aware, more, more look is simply more aware of our thoughts. And that's really the first stage. It doesn't take us beyond those thoughts. But becoming aware of them is the first step to being able to change them, if you feel that your pattern of thinking is something that doesn't suit you, doesn't help you, and so on.
So, I'm going to leave this stage as part of this first video. And then we're going to move on to the second stage, whereby we focus and concentrate the mind in a positive direction, typically with a meditation technique that's more will-engaging rather than the more passive activity of simply observing your thoughts.
What Are the Challenges with Mindfulness Meditations and What to Do About It?
But before I do that, the big issue with watching your thoughts, even if you might do something else, some techniques will teach you to do an affirmation or notice the breath and so on. And again, we can talk about that later.
But the problem is, when you try to watch your thoughts, you go beyond—that you get engaged with your thoughts, and you even add thoughts to your thoughts and so far from being a witness, an observer of what goes on through your mind, you're not really mindful; you're simply thinking, and that thinking is an interchange, like a dialogue between your subconscious thoughts that pop up and your reaction and response to those thoughts, which then lead to other pop-up thoughts.
That's the problem with mindfulness, particularly when you're starting, when you begin your meditation, you're starting out, you're not really used to observing your thoughts. You're used to engaging with your thoughts and being caught up in them.
So that's why we need something more positive more, that engages the willpower in a different direction. So, for that, watch the next video. Okay, see you very soon.