This morning, still reading in Essential Spirituality, I encountered a passage explaining the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness Meditation.
I was enormously intrigued: I've been meditating off and on for years, using a variety of different techniques, but it never really "took" until I discovered Centering Prayer. Somehow that process, which is one of allowing thoughts and sensations to rise and just letting them go, returning always to the peaceful center, is one that works for me.
But Mindfulness Meditation seems to consist, not of letting go of the thoughts that arise, but rather paying attention to them; paying uncritical, accepting attention to the birdsongs, the dog scratching, the rise and fall of my belly, the hum of the refrigerator, and the random reflections that pop into my head and then float away.
Not that I am now going to drop my Centering Prayer practice and become a Buddhist or anything, but I do have to say that the thought of allowing and even encouraging myself to notice that which passes through my head when I sit seems kinder, somehow; less fraught with those protestant "shoulds" that have haunted me for so much of my life.
Now perhaps it is the very familiarity of those "shoulds" that has made Centering Prayer such a good choice for me; it's quite possible that I am more comfortable in a process where there is a goal, a clearly delineated way to know whether you are "getting it" or not.
But, speaking theoretically, the Mindfulness meditation sounds more compassionate -- and more compassion-producing -- to me. How much gentler and less divisive to allow everything in with equal attention and interest. And wouldn't that practice of paying attention while still translate more readily into paying attention while in motion -- i.e., into more mindfulness?
We'll see. It's possible that by accepting instead of emptying I will no longer be creating room for increased awareness of the Divine. But I won't know til I explore the possibility.
Door number 1: self-emptying.
Door number 2: self-awareness.
Is there a door number 3?
And what's the prize? Mindfulness? Compassion? A taste of the Divine? All of the above?
I don't think it's possible to lose!