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Bernie Schreck

Does your mind need a hug?

When was the last time you gave your mind a good hug? My mind loves being hugged and I love hugging my mind! Unfortunately I often forget to do it. Too many distractions!

The good news is that it is actually very easy and doesn’t take a lot of time. Here is how one of my teachers Tsoknyi Rinpocheexplains how to find and hug your mind. Warning: you might fall in love with your mind and get addicted to hugging it! ... but I think, if that were to happen, that would not be such a bad thing!

 

You guessed right, finding and hugging your mind has to do with meditation, actually to be precise with mindfulness, which is an aspect of meditation. Mindfulness is a term we hear again and again in the teachings on meditation. I had a really hard time understanding what mindfulness really is because usually the term is not explained in detail.  I wasn’t fully satisfied with the vague idea that mindfulness is about not being distracted and paying attention to what I am doing.  I often felt I didn’t fully understand what it really means to be mindful and  how to train in it. In 2003 I had the opportunity to receive a complete teaching on meditation from Tsoknyi Rinpoche and I have recently been going over this teaching again. It really helped me to understand more deeply what mindfulness is and how to train in it in my meditation practice.

 

In this teaching Tsoknyi Rinpoche explained the difference between mind and mindfulness. He defined mind as “what is conscious, cognizant and aware” and mindfulness as “what is aware of being aware”. It took me quite a while to understand this, because initially I misunderstood. I heard this statement as meaning “simply being aware of whatever you are aware of”. I though it meant just to be aware of whatever came into my mind. This didn’t seem like a big deal, and was not terribly helpful. It took quite a few years but at some point the penny dropped. What is really meant is that mindfulness is about being aware of being aware. Duuh! That was exactly what Rinpoche had said all along! I just hadn’t listened properly to what he really said and went with an assumption that I had in my mind. It is amazing how my mind does that all the time, isn’t it?

To take this out of the realm of the intellectual let me give a practical example. The most basic instructions on mindfulness of the breath are:

"When you are breathing in know that you are breathing in.

When you are breathing out know that you are breathing out."

(By the way, the method of watching the breath is introduced in Step 6 of the "Dare to Meditate" 10 Step guide to meditation.)

When we practice being mindful of the breath we turn our attention to the breath. We become aware of the breath. But actually that is not all. When we are mindful we also become aware of being aware. We are not only aware of breathing, but we are aware of being aware of the breathing. We know that we are breathing and that we are aware of breathing.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche compared this feeling of knowing of being aware to finding your mind. We become aware of being aware.  However, reading or thinking about finding your mind is not enough. We need to actually do it. After reading this post, I invite you to take five minutes to sit down and watch your breath. Especially enjoy the aspect of knowing that you are aware of the breath. Enjoy experiencing being aware. Discover your mind, your basic awareness. If you do that your mind will feel lovingly hugged. And you will feel you are hugging your beautiful mind. There will be a sense of warmth, peace, and knowing yourself. I also invite you to let us know how it went by either making a comment or going to the community forum. 

At the end of this wonderful teaching Tsoknyi Rinpoche warned that sometimes people mistake finding their mind and experiencing being aware as the ultimate goal of meditation, maybe even enlightenment. He cautioned that while finding your mind is very good and wonderful, that it is actually just the beginning of meditation. It simply means we became aware of our mind, that we found our mind. We haven’t yet fully recognized the nature of this awareness. Enlightenment would be the direct and complete realization of the Nature of Mind.

Even on the level of shamatha, the basic level of meditation, mindfulness is necessary to meditate. But in itself it is not yet sufficient to develop true stability in the mind and bring the mind to the state of calm abiding. Maybe I will write about this more in another post. If you want to learn more about how we can discover our awareness in meditation, have a look at this recent posts on The Real Essence of Meditation.