Three approaches to mindful attention, on and off the cushion



There are many forms of meditation. In this article you will find a list of ways to meditate in order to develop the ability to fully attend, to mindfully do whatever you do with your family, your friends, your colleagues, your children and yourself.

I.  Zazen

Zazen is the study of the self. Master Dogen said, “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened. Upon his own enlightenment, the Buddha was in seated meditation.

Zen practice returns to the same seated meditation again and again. For two thousand five hundred years that meditation has continued, from generation to generation; it’s the most important thing that has been passed on.”

I find the best way to forget my self is to be fully attentive to the person I am with or the task I am doing–whether it be baking bread, washing dishes, writing articles or giving online counseling. It is a wonderful feeling to forget my self and really tune into others.

II.  Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is about learning to experience life fully as it unfolds, moment by moment, an invitation to wake up, to experience the fullness of life, and to transform your relationship with problems, fears, pain and stress so that you improve the quality of your life, your creativity and your mental states.

Mindfulness, off the cushion, is about being fully present to your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. It has been said that being mindful is easy, remembering to be mindful is what is difficult.

I find associating mindfulness with checking the time is a good way to remember to be mindful. Other associations can work too — each time you have a cup of coffee or tea, or setting the alarm on your watch to go off each hour are ways to remember mindfulness. You can even download a mindfulness bell on your computer to remind you to be mindful as you are working.

Through the practice of mindfulness, you can learn to develop greater calmness, clarity and insight in facing and embracing all your experiences, even life’s trials, and turn them into occasions for learning, growing and deepening your own strength and wisdom.

III.  Dzogchen

The practice of Dzogchen is to remember that our ultimate nature is pure, primordial awareness. Our nature becomes a mirror that reflects with complete openness but is not affected by the reflections, or like a crystal ball that takes on the colour of the material on which it is placed without itself being changed.

In the practice of Dzogchen we are not distracted by (do not follow) thoughts – we allow awareness to effortlessly emanate. This pristine awareness is what Tibetans refer to as rigpa, or “ground luminosity”.

This state is very helpful when we are listening to others. Rather than judging or comparing or offering advice, we see the pureness of the person who is talking, the pureness in us meets the pureness in others.

So, bring what you learn in your sitting meditation “off the cushion” into your daily life and you will be meditating, mindful and attentive.

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