“If we want to be happy all the time and to be free from problems, we must develop and maintain a peaceful mind.” – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, How to Transform Your Life
In Buddhism, the term mindfulness is interchangeable with meditation.
Mindfulness is that part of the mind we need to cultivate in order to practice meditation. Mindfulness technically means to remember, to be mindful. We already have mindfulness, the problem is we have mindfulness of the wrong things. For example, if we have a tendency towards anxiety we’ve already mastered mindfulness of remembering all the things that might go wrong.
That’s why we need to train in mindfulness of the right things, to train ourselves to focus on those aspects of our mind that produce what we actually want – peace, happiness and an expansive and open heart.
We can think of meditation as focusing the mind on the internal causes of peace and happiness. The beautiful thing is we carry these internal causes with us everywhere we go. While we all already have them, we need to learn how to recognize them. Once we can recognize our internal causes of peace and happiness. we then train in remaining mindful of them.
This is essentially what the practice of meditation is all about, and how it can be used to completely eradicate all suffering, including the suffering of anxiety.
On the Northside of Williamsburg, inside one of the many new towers that have arisen, sits Kadampa Meditation Center — a cozy, peaceful space with bright walls, golden Buddhas and very chill teachers. In this busy town, coming back to ourselves for simple, quiet reflection is increasingly difficult. Even in this space of North Brooklyn that boasts apothecaries, yoga studios, and new age classes, we can struggle to find that which we are all searching for: Peace and Happiness.
Dear Flannery, I’m looking to escape the city and have a weekend (or more) of wellness. Do you recommend any yoga retreats that are easily accessible by train (amtrak/metronorth/etc.?) Thanks!
Dear “Yoga Escape”,
Take 10 days off and head up to the Berkshires for a FREE Vipassana Yoga experience. Food and lodging are free, paid for by unsolicited donations by students who have participated. Volunteers feed you and silently help you around. See, you won’t be talking. Or doing yoga, per se. Or texting or writing in your dream journal. Vipassana is a regimented practice of early rising, simple vegetarian meals, and days spent sitting, standing, and walking in silence (for more info and to sign up, visit Dhamma.org).
Full disclosure: while I have practiced the technique in shorter intervals, I have never been able to successfully schedule a retreat. Best to do so 6 months in advance, particularly if you’re a woman. Men can often get a reservation with shorter notice. There are Vipassana locations worldwide offering the same 10 day format. After participating once, you can attend again as a participant or a volunteer, cooking meals, attending to students and chatting. Eventually you can build to 30 day practices.