Mindfulness of Mind? Yes, it’s a thing!
Mindfulness of Mind sounds like a funny phrase, doesn’t it? As we dive into the Four Foundations of Mindfulness this month, we look at the third foundation, which is Mindfulness of Mind or Consciousness. Previously we talked about the first two foundations, Mindfulness of Body and Feelings. Now we take it a step further and develop an awareness of our minds. Have you ever found yourself zoned out or being unaware of what’s going on in your mind? We can easily go through our actions of daily life without an awareness of our minds. This is where Vipassana meditation can help as we practice observing our mental states.
Let’s begin by clarifying what we mean by the word, “mind.” Our minds are non-physical forms that identify, react, label, and experience the world around us. You could also say that our minds hold our consciousness. Our minds can be peaceful, positive, and even tumultuous places depending on the mental states we hold. Our minds guide our actions, which ultimately guide the outcomes of our lives, so it’s important that we take the time to tune into our minds.
The first step is to look at our minds and see what’s happening there. Think of it as a mental weather forecast. The next step is to acknowledge the mental state we are in, paying special attention to avoid labeling that state of mind as bad or good. Once we see and accept our mental states while knowing they are temporary and not ultimate or eternal truths, their power over us dissipates.
We can experience countless mental states within a short period of time: contentment, greed, anger, joy, excitement, dissatisfaction, and more. It’s fascinating to watch the movies that play in our minds. Usually we see every genre all within a day. Through Vipassana meditation we gain awareness of these movies or mental states. Rather than zoning out or grasping on to them, we can learn to relax and observe our mental states, almost like we are watching a movie. And like movies, mental states change and eventually end. We understand that our mental state is not the state we will always be in, nor is it who we are. We can sit back and let the stories pass by, knowing that our current mental state will not define us forever.
Take some quiet time and observe your mind from the perspective of a person going to a movie. What mental states tend to find you? It’s okay and normal to find yourself in unpleasant mental states from time to time. It might be helpful to give yourself reminders that you’re not defined by your mental states. Repeat: “I am not my mental state, I am not my mental state, I am not my mental state…”
Through Vipassana and gaining awareness of our mental states, we can learn to be at ease in any mental state. This can lead us to being more present in our lives, interactions, and relationships. Who doesn’t want that?!