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MIDL Mindfulness meditation leads to a better quality of life – a relaxed life, free from anxiety. It is founded on a methodical process of self investigation which develops deeper understanding about our self and offers a complete meditation system, with a clear path of training for establishing Mindfulness meditation within our daily life. It requires no special props, postures or conditions and can be done within the distractions of our home, work or recreation.
First let’s understand the name MIDL.
MIDL stands for Mindfulness in Daily Life; this points towards its goal of making the observation of our relationship to our daily life our meditation practice. Also the letters MIDL sound like the word ‘Middle’, when pronounced. This is not an accident but is intentionally done to point towards the meditation path.
The ‘middle’ in MIDL means the Middle Path or Middle Way which is mentioned in the first talk given by the Buddha on Satipatthana Vipassana practice or what is more commonly known today as Mindfulness meditation.
MIDL seeks to find the Middle Path, the Middle Way, within Mindfulness meditation practice. The Middle Way in MIDL is the practice of neither running towards nor running away from any experience that arises within our life. It is found by learning how to deeply relax our relationship of attraction or aversion to experience by refining the MIDL Softening Into skill.
The MIDL Softening Into skill is based on the understanding that we are all driven by a protective anxiety against experiencing unpleasantness within our life. This protective anxiety gives rise to all our defensive and addictive emotional responses and personality traits; those responses that ‘push away’ or 'cling onto'. Literally, who we are now is a creation of our relationship towards pleasure and pain throughout our life.
MIDL meditation can be separated into two practices:
Formal Seated Mindfulness Meditation.
Mindfulness of our Everyday Activities.
When practicing MIDL meditation it is important to understand that:
Formal Seated Mindfulness Meditation is training for Mindfulness in Everyday Activities.
In essence the practice is the same whether we are sitting still or engaged in our everyday activities. The main difference is that when we intentionally sit down to meditate we are, to a certain degree, creating a more controllable environment in which to cultivate the Three Main Mental Factors of Investigation, Mindfulness & Concentration.
When practicing this style of Mindfulness Meditation we systematically train our attention so that there is no difference between sitting in formal seated meditation and everything else. It comes with the understanding that meditation is a posture of the mind and heart; not a posture of the body.
With MIDL meditation training we are able to meditate throughout the day regardless of what posture our body is in and experience the benefits within our life. What is important in this practice is developing a clear awareness of our relationship to whatever we are experiencing; ‘now’.
It is within our relationship to what we are experiencing ‘now’ that happiness and peace can be found or lost. If we are unaware of how we are relating to what is being experienced within our life, the survival / habitual part of our mind will do it for us. It will habitually react with aversion towards unpleasantness and with longing towards pleasantness, embedding you in an addictive cycle of attraction and aversion.
The development of MIDL practice sits on the basis of Three Pillars.
1. Flexible Attention Training
2. Softening Into Training
3. Allowing Stillness Training
The first two Pillars of Flexible Attention Training and Softening Into Training, create the foundation so that our meditation practice transfers into our daily life. It also gives us the ability to work with, to be with, any difficult emotions, thoughts or reactions that arise within our life.
To develop the First Pillar, of Flexible Attention, we need to structure our awareness in very specific ways. During our MIDL training we learn how to ground our awareness or make it soft and relaxed or large and open or completely focussed on one experience. Developing this skill of becoming comfortable with the changing focus of awareness, dependant on the situation that is being experienced is part of the MIDL Pillar of Flexible Attention.
During our training we also cultivate accuracy of attention by observing how our mind moves, how attention moves during our meditation practice. With this approach distraction during our meditation practice is not our enemy, it is our friend; actually distraction is needed for MIDL meditation practice to develop.
This is why MIDL guided meditations contain periods of silence within them, the meditation practice and training does not occur while my voice is speaking but rather during the periods of silence. These silent gaps are put there so that you - will become distracted - so that your mind will wander off. These wanderings of mind are necessary for us to develop the factor of Mindfulness in MIDL. The very act of observing when our attention has wandered and where it’s wandered to - is what strengthens the Mindfulness factor.
As our practice develops we also learn the skill of observing the processes of our mind and its interaction with our body and emotional hearts centre. As this ability deepens we are able to observe the contact with our five senses – eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and the sixth sense, our mind, as it interprets them all. It is the training of this flexibility of attention and the ability to stay with our mind when its moves, that allows us to transfer this practice into our daily life.
When the practice first transfers it will be for short periods at first – and these periods of Mindfulness of course will collapse – that is what they do. Our task is to encourage these periods of Mindfulness to continue and grow. When these periods of continuous Mindfulness establish, it is no longer necessary to cultivate Flexibility of Attention in seated practice. This is not needed because formal training has fulfilled its purpose, and continues to develop in daily life.
The Second Pillar – the Skill of Softening Into gives us the ability to deeply relax both physically and mentally into responses of the heart and mind. This is an important part of MIDL practice, it is coming with the understanding that the base way that our mind gets us to do anything in life, is by producing a Vedana: Pleasant or unpleasant feeling.
Our mind produces a pleasant feeling and releases it within our body, if it wants to attract us towards an experience. Our mind produces an unpleasant feeling within our body, if it wants us to push an experience away. It is these two feelings that we react to throughout our life. It is our relationship to these feelings that give rise to all likes, dislikes, opinions and views. It is our relationship to these two feeling that creates our emotional responses and also the characteristics of our personality.
Our relationship of dislike of unpleasant feeling in particular gives rise to all defensive emotional reactions and defensive personality traits.
Since pleasantness and unpleasantness demand our response, the skill of Softening Into allows us to deeply relax into that response, deeply relax into our attraction or aversion. This allows us to be with these feelings without responding, cutting off the process of reaction and response.
The MIDL skill of Softening Into is cultivated in four main stages.
1. Retraining complete, deep diaphragm breathing.
2. Learning disengaged physical relaxation with the deflation of the breath.
3. Learning to deeply mentally feel the relaxation with your body.
4. Softening Into unpleasant feeling triggered by thoughts / memories.
The Softening Into skill once developed and refined, combined with the first pillar of Flexible Attention, allows us throughout the day to be with difficult responses within our life. These responses then become our teacher - our friend. Through being aware of how we are relating and responding to things within our life, and deeply Softening Into our response, we have the ability to decondition the process so that it is no longer part of our personality or life.
The Third Pillar - Allowing Stillness is developed once the first Two Pillars of MIDL transfer into our daily life. Once these first Two Pillars transfer, the flexible, formal attention training is no longer needed. At this stage our formal seated meditation training swaps to the Third Pillar of Allowing Stillness.
Allowing Stillness is a meditation practice that is literally not meditating. Allowing Stillness is sitting still, not moving, not doing anything; it is literally the skill of ‘not doing’. Through not doing anything our mind naturally returns to our emotional hearts centre.
Normally this is the very place that our mind does not want to be – it does not want to experience the emotional pain within. It separates from our hearts centre to the fantasy world of thinking within our head. It does this in an attempt to escape from emotional pain that has not been accepted throughout our life.
Our only task during this practice is to be, to allow our self to be still, regardless of what arises – within our body or mind - to teach our mind that our hearts centre is safe. This is our purpose. Just to allowing our body, mind and heart to settle – to reunite as one. We may find that as we do this at first our body will start to relax deeply, becoming very, very heavy – very relaxed. Yet our mind may produce anxiousness, restlessness and thinking – bringing us out of the deep relaxation.
This is perfectly normal and exactly what is meant to happen. This bouncing of deep relaxation is just our mind trying to protect us – to relax deeply is to lower its defences. Our mind does not want to lower its defences. Our task is just to keep relaxing deeply, allowing everything to be, first physically and then mentally – stripping back our minds armour – teaching it that ‘now’ is ‘safe’.
The skill of Allowing Stillness temporarily removes our armour and allows our mind to access a deep level of rest, in this deep level of non-activity - of 'not doing', our mind can rest and repair itself. One thing we need to remember when resting our mind: "It doesn't need our help", we just have to get out of the way.
When our mind 'sinks' below it normal, habitual functions it will naturally start to heal, to repair itself. Also as it learns to sink more deeply, to let go, its defence mechanisms based on fear weaken - we experience a Softening of our personality.
Through training these Three Pillars we start to experience periods of Equanimity during our day. When Equanimity arises all our likes and dislikes dissolve, life feels effortless and perfect within its essence. It is experienced as a deep contentment – nothing could be added to ‘this’ to make it any better then how it is ‘now’. There is an arising of subtle pleasure and the feeling of peace.
Our task is to continue to Soften Into everything.
At first these periods of Equanimity are short, and of course, they collapse. But this is ok, at this stage we understand that everything flows and changes, nothing is permanent. Through further refining of these skills, in particular Softening Into our attraction and aversion to what we are experiencing within our daily life and the deepening of our seated Allowing Stillness meditation these periods of Equanimity become more frequent and establish into our life.
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This article was written by Stephen Procter, Meditation Instructor from Meditation in The Shire, Kirrawee NSW, Australia. If you wish to post this article on another website or in a publication please respect the author and reference / link back to this website, thank you