What does this practice do?

ripples on waterIn the short term, the Mindfulness of Breathing practice helps us to become more calm and (rather paradoxically) to become more energized and refreshed.

In the long term, it helps us to develop more awareness so that we have more freedom to choose what our responses are going to be in any given situation. This means, for example, that we can find ourselves in a situation that would normally make us anxious, but we can choose instead to cultivate patience and calmness.

Practicing mindfulness is enormously enriching. Instead of being half-aware of what we’re doing, we can fully and richly experience every moment of our lives. The mindfulness that we develop in this practice will help us to enjoy our food more, will help us to concentrate better at work, and will help us to be more present when we’re talking to our friends. And many people who do this practice last thing at night say that it helps them to sleep and that their dreams are richer.

Mindfulness helps us develop the ability to pay sustained attention, and this is valuable in many ways. Ultimately it’s because we’re able to pay sustained attention to our experience that we’re able to gain spiritual insight. Without this ability we simply skim over the surface of our experience without really learning anything. With it we learn more and more about how to become happier and more fulfilled.

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Since I have started mindfulness meditation, when I am talking to my friends I actually find myslef a bit less present. Its sort of like I can hear the words they are saying but I can’t get adsrobed by them. Does anyone else have this? Does this mean I am doing meditation wrong? Its like I am one step removed from the conversation now…


Hi Matt,

I guess it all depends what you mean by the words “less present.” It may be that you mean you’re standing back and observing more, and that you’re less swept up by discussions. It may mean that you find some of what your friends talk about unhelpful or trivial. And all those things are quite normal and healthy. Is that what you meant? Or was it something else?


Hi Bodhipaksa,

I do find myself standing back and observing more, and while I find it positive in some respects, I also feel like it interupts the natural flow of the conversation a bit, like I am seeing myself listen to my friend speak, instead of listening to my friend speaking! Does that make sense?

I just noticed this especially since I have read that spontenaity and lively energy are a likely result of frequent mindfulness practice, wheras in this particular situation I feel a bit like it is stopping my spontaneity in the conversation, because I am seeing myself listening to my friend speaking, and then seeing myself think of what to answer, instead of letting the answers come and the conversation flow.

I think I have also noticed the positive effects that you just mentioned in your reply – especially things being unhelpful or trivial. I suppose I sort of long to be swept up in discussions in a sense – I would like the control that mindfulness offers me without it deadening the flow. I suppose to follow the analogy on your other page about trains – I enjoy that I am mindful of certain conversation “Trains” and that I can choose not to board them – but I am finding it difficult to get on trains of conversation even if I want to be! Is that being greedy to want both ways? Or is it a reasonable expectation?

Thanks again for your advice! I really appreciate that you took the time to answer all my questions!


Hi Matt,

Here’s a useful framework for thinking about the process you’re going through at the moment. It’s from learning theory:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: The individual neither understands or knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit or has a desire to address it.
  2. Conscious incompetence: Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.
  3. Conscious competence: The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.
  4. Unconscious competence: The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

You’re at stage three in many ways – conscious competence. You’re like someone who’s learned to drive a car but it’s all a bit too conscious and requires a lot of thought. As far as spontaneity goes, that comes with practice as you move into stage four: unconscious competence.

There’s probably also a certain amount of stage two present: you’d like to be more relaxed and in the flow, but don’t yet know how to get there. It’ll come in its own time as you become less self-conscious about “being mindful”!

I hope this helps.

The above information is taken from Wikipedia, by the way.


Ah… I think I was confused by the conscious/self-conscious thing. So at the moment I am too conscious of my being conscious? Eventually I will concentrate without having to concentrate on concentrating? Its starting to make a little more sense now. Thanks again :)


Yes, probably resources in your brain are tied up in the willed effort to pay attention. Once that becomes a positive habit (unconscious competence) there will be less competition in your brain for resources and you’ll be more relaxed and creative.


I can see what matt is saying Bodhipaksha, because i have experienced it also. Matt i feel that now you have choice to engage in the conversation that you wish/choose to be in. Rather than always being in a conversation despite the fact if you are forcing yourself or not. You can now choose to direct the conversation the way it would seem natural to you i think.

What do you think?


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