Mindfulnessmeditation has been described ‘as the awareness that comes from paying attentionto the present moment experience in a purposeful and non-judgmental manner’ (Bishop et al., 2004 cited in Brown, Bravo, Roos,& Pearson, 2014 p.
1020). Pearson, Brown, Bravo and Witkiewitz (2015) suggestthere are five important features of mindfulness when practising such asfocussing one’s attention to the present and avoiding distractions,non-judgmentally experiencing thoughts, non-reactivity to thoughts, labellingexperiences and simply observing thoughts/feelings. Integrated with theliterature, this portfolio will contain description of my experience withmindfulness meditation technique resulted from guided exercises from RobNairn’s book ‘Diamond Mind’ (Nairn, 2001) and guided mindfulness sessions fromthe UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Centre.
Specifically, I will focus onexperiences related to focussing one’s attention to the meditation object andlabelling experiences, although there are further issues which could be raised.Whenbeginning to meditate, using the breathing meditation technique, at first it waschallenging to direct attention away from the thoughts that appeared, ‘just being in the moment'(Nairn, 2001, p. ),non-judgmentally allowing these thoughts to arise without reacting to them andletting them pass. However, directing attention to the breath, as an anchor,was beneficial, although at times it was quite distressing reliving thoughtsabout the past or worrying about the future. Culadasa,Immergut and Graves (2017) suggest that the meditation object issomething that one chooses to focus their attention to throughout the practise.For example, this may be the breath as it allows one to passively observeinternal sensations as they arise. In order to obtain this vivid mindfulness,one must try to fully zone in to the meditation object, such as the breath,’experiencing the whole body with the breath.’ As suggested in the literature,I tried to direct my attention back to the anchor when my mind wandered.
(p.84ref) suggests that being able to direct and redirect one’s mind back to themeditation object is an essential part of training, leading to ‘stableattention.’ Thus, rather than forcefully directing one’s attention back to thebreath, one must gradually acknowledge that the mind has wandered and gentlybring awareness back to the meditation object.
Over time, these intentionalattempts to bring awareness back to the present will gradually become automaticor spontaneous, leading to enhanced introspective awareness (Nairn, 2001) (define this). Although,an individual’s attention can be easily distracted leading to mind wandering,one must focus on the present and the ‘here and now.’ (p. 9/10 ref) Anindividual must try in meditation practise to ‘subdue subtle distractions’ to try to achieveexclusive attention to achieve metacognitive awareness. Rather than ‘lettinggo’ of these thoughts that came to conscious awareness, I was instead makingto-do lists, planning and ruminating about the past. I felt numerous timesduring the tasks quite difficult to fully ‘zone out,’ fully relax and ‘be inthe moment.’ This led to further feelings of anxiousness as I became awareabout my own thought-patterns both positive and negative – factors whichessentially drive stressors. During meditation practise, I found that frequentthoughts kept reoccurring such thoughts about upcoming deadlines or othercommitments, which sometimes led me to stop meditating altogether.
This wasespecially made difficult by the number of individuals in the session and howdiscomforting I felt sitting still for long periods of time. Bamber andSchneider (2016) suggests that a core feature of mindfulness is non-judgementalawareness. In mindfulness, this involves paying direct attention to the presentmoment and allowing thoughts to pass, without reacting to them (Shipherd &Fordiani, 2015).
However, I was emotionallygetting involved with these thoughts, allowing them to deviate me frompractise. Culadasa, Immergut and Graves (2017)suggests one way to combat this is to give a neutral ‘label’ to thoughts asthey arise in consciousness. This involves identifying the times when one getsdistracted due to thoughts and practising to ‘identify the types of thoughtswhich lead to mind wandering.’ For example, a thought which kept appearing duringpractice was that I ‘felt fatigued.’ In the process of labelling, during thepractice one would just acknowledge the thought and give this a label such as’thinking’ and then bring the attention back to the breath.
Therefore, continualpractice of labelling will allow one to identify which thoughts lead to mindwandering, increasing introspective awareness.