Meditation practices cultivate mindfulness of this dilemma

Meditation practices are designed to bring awareness to and/or modify these default mental processes; to become mindful of them dwelling on threat-based themes and the resultant less-than-pleasant felt sense characterizing so much of life. Unsurprisingly, then, these practices usually begin with an attention- related exercise. We may, for example, be asked to direct attention to the sensations of breathing and to keep it there. But despite our resolve, we notice that within seconds it shifts to some other facet of experience; a phenomenon we refer to as a wandering mind.

Wandering is a misnomer, however, for it implies no clear destination. And if, instead of taking the wandering designation for granted, we become curious about what our “wandering” attention moves toward and what drives it to move in this automatic way, we begin to experientially understand the role this wondrous capacity plays in supporting our lives and the biological imperative that drives it. We begin to experientially recognize something of the ecology of our minds. This improved understanding allows us to be more sympathetic toward it and to work with it more skillfully, rather than regarding it as just an unfortunate obstacle we must train or in some way overcome in order to “meditate.”

However, before discussing further how meditation practices support dealing with these default processes, it would be as well to specify the way in which I am using the terms “meditation” and “practice”.

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