Mindfulness is often used in a therapeutic setting, but it is not itself a therapy.
Mindfulness comes from the Buddha’s teachings about how to reduce suffering, and be happy. It is a practice that is over 2,500 years old. The Buddha didn’t teach a set of doctrines. He taught a way of being.
Buddha taught that we each have a ‘true’ self, a Buddha nature. You might also call it spirit, or awareness or consciousness – the words themselves are secondary. Whether we know it or not, it is there. But we cannot experience our Buddha nature or true nature through words. It is not an abstract concept. It is who we are.
The only way to know this is to experience it. It is a teaching that cannot be taught through words – although words can point you in the right direction. But don’t look at the finger, look to where it is pointing.
Meditation is the practice of just being
When we meditate we are learning to experience ourselves just as we are, beyond our ideas of ourselves. This helps us to reduce the suffering that comes from wanting to be someone else, or not being able to accept who we are.
When we experience ourselves as we are, we learn to appreciate the world as it is. Through meditation we can become more aware of the world beyond our ideas about the world. Beyond our ideas of right or wrong/good or bad, things are – they just are.
We experience this in meditation. Who you are, can only be experienced right here, right now and only ever right here and now. If you are looking for yourself in the past you won’t find yourself there – the past has gone – there are only memories. We may be emotionally attached to these memories (but that doesn’t make them any more real.)
Nor will you find yourself in the future because the future doesn’t exist (what exists is your thoughts about the future, and these are just thoughts). We don’t judge these thoughts because judgements are just more thoughts: they come from our beliefs about the way things are, which are not necessarily the truth.
The truth of who you are cannot be experienced through thought. The fact of our existence – our being – is not something we need to think about: we just experience it.
Mindfulness teaches us that suffering arises when we become attached to things being a certain way – to us being a certain way. When we resist what is, we suffer. When we want things to be different from the way they are, we suffer. When we cling to the idea of things being a certain way, we suffer.
Suffering comes from resistance, and the more we struggle the more we suffer.
Take anxiety as an example, or anger: the more we struggle to suppress a feeling, an emotion or a thought, the stronger it gets. Feeling anxious about feeling anxious creates more anxiety, feeling frustrated at feeling angry, makes us more angry and it can lead to feelings of powerlessness.
When we allow things to be as they we allow change to happen. This can feel uncomfortable in the short term. In the long term it is the way to peace because we stop fighting with ourselves, we stop struggling. When we can be happy just being, we can learn to be happy with whatever is going on.
To experience things as they are we need to go beyond our conditioning (our memories, our labels, our ideas of good and bad, right and wrong), because these are just thoughts. Thoughts come and go they are mental events. Not real.