Meditation, Mindfulness, and Letting Go: What Do They Mean?
Meditation and mindfulness have become buzz words in mainstream culture as profound practices that accelerate psychological and spiritual growth. But what exactly do they mean and how do they accomplish this? Following are my thoughts as a retired psychologist who has been meditating for over 45 years in the US, India, and Thailand.*
What is mindfulness? It is intentionally giving full attention to present moment experience, to experiencing the continuously changing now moment-by-moment. While this may sound simple, it is quite difficult to remain mindful of only one intended object or subject for very long, simply because the mind so readily reacts to and is distracted by the multitude of ever-changing external and internal stimuli: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile touch and temperature, and the mental thoughts, feelings, and images triggered by previous experiences.
What is meditation? While there are many types of meditation, what I call basic meditation - one that minimizes rather than utilizes cognitive processes - is a fundamental practice that cultivates the skill and trains the mind to be more relaxed and mindful and, perhaps most importantly, to recognize and let go of the distractions and conditioned response patterns that impede the ability to sustain mindfulness and remain calm and relaxed. To repeat: Meditation trains the mind to sustain mindfulness and equanimity by learning to recognize and let go of distractions.