“Leave alone whatever rises in the mind. Do not seek to change or alter anything. It is all perfect as it stands.” -Flight of the Garuda

I’m going to cheat today.

I am speaking to a class of graduate students about mindfulness and meditation tonight, so today seems like a good day to run through a quick primer on this topic. It will help me get organized for this evening, and it is pretty useful stuff too. No matter how often I go back to basics I find there are things I have forgotten.

What exactly is mindfulness?

There are all sorts of definitions, I prefer to see it as a nonjudgmental observation of what is most present in your awareness. This can be anything:

Noticing where I bit my nail too close, observing the sensation of discomfort.

Hearing the music coming from the television.

Noticing the anxiety about speaking tonight, where it sits in my chest and stomach, observing the thoughts that emerge to explain it.

A note of frustration arises as I think about what I need to do today, then a hint of self-judgment. Allowing myself to observe these things instead of feeding them or rejecting them allows them to drift by without sticking.

The key is to allow yourself to notice without judgment.

To allow things to exist exactly as they are. To allow all thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, noises and distractions to be exactly as they are.

It’s not something we are necessarily wired to think about, but why do we instinctively like or dislike some emotions?

There is no answer to this other than the fact that they are unpleasant, but what really makes them so?

What happens when we can just allow everything to be there, exactly as it is, without necessarily believing or investing in it?