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Sunday, 10 January 2016

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Benefits of Long-term Mindfulness:

A special way of seeing

One of the recent researches involving long term Mindfulness practitioners studied practitioners from a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar. Writing about it in an article published online in December 2015, the investigators said the practice of Vipassana meditation reduced depressive moods, anger, hostility, fatigue and increased vigour among the practitioners. They had also found that if Mindfulness practice was continued daily for more than one year, the psychological flexibility of the practitioners was enhanced.

The psychological flexibility is defined as the ability to contact the present moment more fully as a conscious human being, and to change or persist in behaviour when doing so serves valued ends.

Psychological flexibility could vary according to the number of years of practice. In addition, it will result in the development of wholesome qualities in the practitioners. Such a development is actually a secondary result of a greater overall spiritual development among the long term practitioners of Mindfulness.

As we did during last week, this could best be explained using an actual life example of a long term practitioner who has practiced Mindfulness for decades. We will continue on the same episode we gave last week. In that we described a male practitioner who stopped at a restaurant in Kurunegala on his way back to Colombo from Anuradhapura.

A special way of seeing and relating

Practitioners have a special way of seeing and relating to events, themselves and the external world at certain times. It doesn't happen due to deductive thinking or careful reasoning but rather due to their spiritual development.

'After the meal he felt the need to use the washroom of the restaurant. He walked mindfully towards the washroom and was aware of the pressure of the floor against the soles of his feet while he walked.

The washroom was common for both males and females.

He noticed that the door of the washroom was slightly ajar and heard the voice of a male coming from within. After about a minute, a male came out clutching a mobile phone in one hand and attending to his trouser with the other.

All the time he was speaking to another person on his mobile phone.

Our long-term practitioner of Mindfulness first put his mobile phone on silent mode before entering the washroom. He consciously felt the touch of the door as he opened and locked it behind after entering. As he approached the toilet, he noticed that the commode seat had freshly spilled urine in yellow patches all over it. He felt repulsive - and observed that feeling neutrally without adding or getting carried away by that.

He started to observe both the object of repulsiveness and the observer, from moment to moment almost as if he was observing a different person from above. He soon got deeply absorbed in the rapidly arising and dissolving chain of phenomenon.

He first washed the toilet seat using the hand bidet and thoroughly wiped it using toilet paper.

As he washed the seat, he noted the rapidly vanishing stains and the smell of urine. Along with that change, he also noted how the feelings within his own mind changed to satisfaction and then to that of neutrality.

Both the observed and the observer continued to change rapidly without leaving a space to take hold of as an identity.

He lifted the freshly cleaned seat before using the toilet. He mindfully left the washroom after adjusting his clothing, washing his hands and switching off the silent mode of his mobile phone.

He didn't feel any animosity towards the previous user of the washroom. He also didn't feel any elation due to his own act of cleaning the washroom. To him there was no person at the time of that action as he consciously entered the very rapidly changing rise and disappearance of mind and matter.'

The Western teachers try to explain this using a parable. They say the same person cannot enter a rapid river twice because the person will be entering a different river next time due to its flowing. The Eastern teachers of Mindfulness take the same parable and go further. They say both the river and the person entering that are not the same as both are changing very rapidly - and as such there is no specific river or a specific person.

Aruna Manathunge has practiced Mindfulness for over 42 years. During the past 7 years he has closely followed the development of Mind Science in the Western world. He has had a long career as the Country Head of Sri Lanka and the Head of the Indian Sub-Continent of an American Pharmaceutical Multinational company. Presently Aruna conducts Coaching in Mindfulness to Schools and Companies. Aruna can be contacted at [email protected]
 

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