I am giving these series of talks to help clarify the path of MIDL.
CLICK HERE Audio Version of this Talk
MIDL is a type of Mindfulness meditation with the goal of living a better quality of life – a relaxed life, free from anxiety. It is founded on a methodical process of self investigation which will lead to you developing a deeper understanding about yourself. It offers a complete meditation system, with a clear path of training for establishing Mindfulness meditation within your daily life. It requires no special props, postures or conditions and can be done within the distractions of your 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 know 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 into our relationship of aversion to any unpleasantness that is being experienced by cultivating and 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 emotional responses and personality traits; those responses that ‘push away’. 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 your 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 you are sitting still or engaged in your everyday activities. The main difference is that when you intentionally sit down to meditate you are, to a certain degree, creating a more controllable environment in which to cultivate the Three Main Mental Factors of Investigation, Mindfulness and Concentration.
When practicing this style of Mindfulness Meditation, you systematically train your 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 you will be able to meditate throughout the day regardless of what posture your body is in and experience the benefits within your life. What is important in this practice is developing a clear awareness of your relationship to whatever you are experiencing; ‘now’. It is within your relationship to what you are experiencing ‘now’ that happiness and peace can be found or lost. If you are unaware of how you are relating to what is being experienced within your life, the survival / habitual part of your mind will do it for you. 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 your meditation practice transfers into your daily life. It also gives you the ability to work with, to be with, any difficult emotions, thoughts or reactions that arise within your life.
To develop the First Pillar, of Flexible Attention, you need to structure your awareness in very specific ways. During your MIDL training you will learn how to ground your awareness or make it soft and relaxed or large and open or completely focussed 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 your training you will also cultivate accuracy of attention by observing how your mind moves, how attention moves during your meditation practice. With this approach distraction during your meditation practice is not your enemy, it is your 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 you to develop the factor of Mindfulness in MIDL. The very act of observing when your attention has wandered and where it’s wandered to - is what strengthens the Mindfulness factor.
As your practice develops you will also learn the skill of observing the processes of your mind and its interaction with your body and emotional hearts centre. As this ability deepens you will be able to observe the contact with your five senses – eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and the sixth sense, your mind, as it interprets them all. It is the training of this flexibility of attention and the ability to stay with your mind when its moves, that will allow you to transfer this practice into your 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. Your 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 you the ability to deeply relax both physically and mentally to 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, will allow you throughout the day to be with difficult responses within your life. These responses then will become your teacher - your friend. Through being aware of how you are relating and responding to things within your life, and deeply Softening Into your response, you have the ability to decondition the process so that it is no longer part of your personality or life.
The Third Pillar - Allowing Stillness is developed once the first two pillars transfer into your daily life. Once these first two pillars transfer, the flexible formal attention training is no longer needed. At this stage your 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 your mind will naturally start to return to your 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.
Your only task during this practice is to be, to allow yourself to be still, regardless of what arises – within your body or mind - to teach your mind that your hearts centre is safe. This is your purpose. Just to allowing your body, mind and heart to settle – to reunite as one. You may find that as you do this at first your body will start to relax deeply, becoming very, very heavy – very relaxed. Yet your mind may produce anxiousness, restlessness and thinking – bringing you out of the deep relaxation.
This is perfectly normal and exactly what is meant to happen. This bouncing of deep relaxation is just your mind trying to protect you – to relax deeply is to lower your defences. Your mind does not want to lower its defences. Your task is just to keep relaxing deeply, allowing everything to be, first physically and then mentally – stripping back your minds armour – teaching it that ‘now’ is ‘safe’.
The skill of allowing stillness temporarily removes your armour and allows your mind to access a deep level of rest, in this deep level of non-activity - of 'not doing', your mind can rest and repair itself. One thing you need to remember when resting your mind: "It doesn't need your help", you just have to get out of the way.
When your 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 will weaken - you will experience a Softening of your personality.
Through training these three pillars you will start to experience periods of equanimity during your day. When equanimity arises all your likes and dislikes will dissolve, life will feel effortless and perfect within its essence. It will be experienced as a deep contentment – nothing could be added to ‘this’ to make it any better then how it is ‘now’. There will be the arising of subtle pleasure and the feeling of peace.
Your task is to continue to Soften Into everything.
At first these periods of equanimity will be short, and of course, they will collapse. But this is ok, at this stage you will understand that everything flows and changes, nothing is permanent. Through further refining of these skills, in particular Softening Into your attraction and aversion to what you are experiencing within your daily life and the deepening of your seated Allowing Stillness meditation these periods of equanimity will become more frequent and establish into your life.
© Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved
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