Mediation is good for the soul. This is a statement many of us heard before. However, did you know that meditation can be good, even excellent to the body as well? This technique can actually have stunning results after a while of having been practised regularly and could have effects on the immune system.
Recently, more and more studies have proven that meditation, notably in the form of mindfulness, can have an impact on DNA and the immune system. Let us first take a look at what mindfulness exactly is. Mindfulness implies to experience every moment during a given time, to fully embrace what is happening at the level of our thoughts, feelings, sensations in our bodies and what is happening in our environment. The things that happen during those moments should be accepted without judgment. Nothing is right or wrong; we are just tuning in to the present moment and experiencing what it is offering to us. Things should not be put in perspective in comparison to the past, or to what we expect to happen in the future.
At first, mindfulness finds its roots in Buddhism. There, it serves three distinct purposes: knowing the mind, training the mind and freeing the mind. With the usual speed of time in our daily lives, we easily get lost and end up having trouble identifying what is really motivating us, what is the nature of our feelings and reactions. It has become hard to be fully aware of the mechanisms that operate us, deep within. Mindfulness will help us in the process of discovery, as the latter emerges better in stillness. When we stand still, it instantaneously becomes easier to notice what is going on both around us and within us. It becomes clear whether your mind is agitated and thoughts are rushing in at a crazy pace. The difficulty here will be to look at your thoughts without judging them, just taking note of what they are. What emotions are present? What is the mind? What thoughts and beliefs am I experiencing? These are the kind of questions you should be asking yourself when practising mindfulness. When you learn that way, the benefits are doubled. Not only do you know something new, but you also know that you know, you are aware of this newly acquired knowledge. When you are learning just for the sake of knowing, you will not try to change things. You will only see them and notice that they happen.
Still, the mind is something that can be shaped. It is not set in stone, static, but is instead malleable. In that regard, the mind needs to be trained, as if we cannot take responsibility for it, some external forces will. Those can be the media, advertisement and other people, may they want the best or the worst for us. Taking responsibility for your own mind is an important part of the Buddhist practice. So now, how do you train your mind? For many, a good starting point can be found in kindness and compassion. Indeed, when experiencing mindfulness, you will soon find yourself surrounded by conflict in the form of aversion, anger, despair or confusion. Of course, the solution is not to answer with more conflict. As you will have guessed, one of the solutions is to answer with kindness and compassion. Training our minds to be kinder and more forgiving with ourselves will help with being more at ease with how things are. Day after day, what will happen is that we will not try to change the world, to swim desperately against the current anymore but we will accept what is happening. This is the first step in being able to make the best out of our situation. Once your mind is properly trained, you will be more relaxed and take things coming at you more easily. This will trigger more and more success as you will not rush into things with a blind eye anymore. One of the most efficient ways of reaching that stage is to focus on one quality at a time. We can take as examples here courage, ethical virtue, concentration or the capacity to release clinging.
Once the mind is known and has been trained, it is time for it to be freed. All the previous steps are meant to lead to this final one/ knowing your mind will help you realize and accept that you are clinging to certain things in your life, and training your mind will help you release the clinging. Ultimately, when you free your mind, your heart so that there are no barriers left to its freedom. When the heart and the mind are freed, they are at peace. Complete freedom though is hard to reach. A lot of learning and training will be required. The freeing of the mind can only be accomplished by taking small steps, by not rushing in.
To stay that way, the mind will have to be taken care of regularly. The training has to be constant. If you follow these simple steps of mindfulness, you will soon get free of all suffering. Take a deep breath and jump in!