I remember early on in my meditation practice I would solely focus on my breath, in the now. I remember finding stillness in my mind and body and feeling great and ‘blissed out’ as they say. By concentrating on my breath I was cultivating samadhi (sanskrit for onepointedness) and I loved the feeling that arose! It was a great way to ready the mind for a yoga practice… But at the same time I never found that it brought me any great insights or deeper knowing about myself. I told myself that I shouldn’t have expectations and to allow the meditation practice to grow as it may, allowing myself to end up where I end up.
Recently I was reading ‘Wherever You Go There You Are’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn and he was talking about concentration as it relates to a mindfulness meditation practice. He says that even though a concentration practice, such as the one I was doing by focussing solely on my breath in the present moment, creates profound calmness and is essential in deepening a mindfulness practice, if done by itself, can be limiting. The practice can bring you to such a pleasant state that, if not accompanied by a mindfulness practice, you can almost become numb to the external world, blocking out the full spectrum of the human experience. One may find oneself seeking refuge in the stillness, not wanting to deal with and fully experience the ups and downs of life.
These words resonated with me deeply as this had been my experience.
“But concentration practice, however strong and satisfying, is incomplete without mindfulness to complement and deepen it. By itself, it resembles a state of withdrawal from the world. Its characteristic energy is closed rather than open, absorbed rather than available, trancelike rather than fully awake. What is missing is the energy of curiosity, inquiry, investigation, openness, availability, engagement with the full range of phenomena experienced by human beings.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, ‘Wherever You Go There You Are’
Reading this made full sense to me and was the answer to my inquiry about my own mediation practice. It was never something that I worried about, but it is always great to find something that can help deepen and enrich my practice. And honestly this insight into the difference between stillness and mindfulness has come to me at just the right time in my life and practice. I am ready to go deeper.
Now, it’s time to sit on my mat and experiment with true mindfulness meditation. Cultivating samadhi as the foundation to then go deeper into the mindfulness practice, allowing for a full experience!