Modern education systems fail to train individuals how to understand their minds. This means that homo-sapiens live in continual association with thought, symbols and language. The association with certain thought patterns and sensations can drive individual suffering for years without being able to locate and observe bodily suffering. Mindfulness Meditation trains the individual to recognise the way thoughts and sensations arise, capture the attention and then vanish.
Yuval Harari describes the practise of mindfulness meditation quoting the Vipassana instructor S.N. Goenka: ‘Don’t try to control the breath or to breathe in any particular way. Just observe the reality of the present moment, whatever it may be. When the breath comes in, you are just aware – now the breath is coming in. When the breath goes out, you are just aware – now the breath is going out. And when you lose your focus and your mind starts wandering in memories and fantasies, you are just aware – now my mind has wandered away from the breath’.
The two most valuable gifts I have learned from this practice are as follows:
- Firstly, the ability to effectively recognise thoughts and emotions that cause suffering or unnecessary harm.
- Secondly, the ability to listen to my senses.
Homo sapiens have evolved to reproduce and enable survival within hunter gatherer communities. Our physiology is therefore hardwired towards ancient activities that are incompatible with the realities of our day to day experience. The best example is flight or fight response enabled to allow the individual to escape from predators or fight rivals. These functions may continue to have relevance in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but they are less useful when giving a work presentation. Aldous Huxley describes the mind evolved for biological survival as a ‘measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet’. The default mind is disposed to suffer. Depression can leave life feeling ‘weary, stale, flat and unprofitable’. Anger has the power to poison whole nations with hatred, revenge and prejudice. Despite these psychological malpractices, modern education systems fail to provide individuals with ways of conditioning the mind beyond the prescriptions of exercise and ‘talking to someone’. Mindfulness meditation equips the individual with tools to actively recognise sensations and thoughts. In regard to emotions like anger, instead of being obsessed with the object of anger, you can observe the sensation in the body and recognise the subsequent thought patterns. As described by Sam Harris, the ability to recognise these thoughts and sensations massively reduces the half-life of negative emotions. In the face of destabilising emotions, mindfulness meditation gives the individual control. The ability to confront suffering makes the individual resilient and confident to achieving accomplishments and solve problems.
Mindfulness meditation strengthens the perception of the senses and allows the individual to unhook from thought, thus enhancing the faculties of sight, sensation, sound and experience. Huxley argued that the ‘universe of reduced awareness, (is) expressed and, as it were petrified by language’. Consistently language constricts the data of experience distorting our insights from moment to moment. When staring at a view of great beauty I would often wonder how to best enjoy it. The activities that came to mind where adventure, painting, words, or most commonly, taking underwhelming pictures with a smart phone. Beyond enhancing all these options, the richest way of enjoying experiences is to actively connect with the perceptions sight and light, the sensations of pressure and temperature and, the sound of birds, water and wind. Instead of continually failing to replicate what Don Draper or James Bond would do in a certain situation, experiencing my body process sensual data is a form of divinity that I have readily available through the joy of consciousness.
I consider the inability to teach individuals how to understand the mind and consciousness as the grossest level of modern incompetence. Amidst a global pandemic, the fourth industrial revolution, the decline of western hegemony and encroaching climate disaster, stability is not something we should expect. Mindfulness meditation provides the ideal tool to strengthen individual resolve and enhance the glory of consciousness.