Through all our discussion of the hindrances, the common tool we’ve been pointing to is mindfulness. Here at the end of the year, it will be good to pause and assess how well-developed our mindfulness is. Some of us have a regular, integrated practice so that we can look back over a year (or years) and see how much less stressful and more “true” our experience seems. All of us can step back and answer for ourselves: “Are my mindfulness skills continuing to develop? Are they stagnant? Is my training not yet initiated?” Think of it as an early New Year’s resolution/question: “What can I do to establish or grow a meditation practice?”
A checklist might include:
- Keeping the precepts:  harmlessness,  taking only what’s been offered,  sensual restraint,  truthfulness, and  refraining from becoming (even mildly) intoxicated.
- Committing to a daily meditation practice (sitting, walking, chanting, or other suitable form)
- Reflecting on the Buddha’s teachings, especially the eightfold path: Wise view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, mindfulness, and concentration. (See the page listing in the right column of this web page)
There are many other ways to develop our mindfulness to the next level, but we’ve got to start where we are and choose a method or technique or course of study that we are ready and willing to undertake.
For those who have yet to establish a regular mindfulness training, I’m recommending a comprehensive guide from the NY Times:
Please read the article through to the end, coming back later to the audio parts that you are curious about. The full article gives an excellent overview of how to practice mindfulness, and will alert the reader to practical tips and common pitfalls.
The guided meditations in the article are spoken by Tara Brach, a respected teacher from the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC. Tara’s teaching has launched many people onto a path of life-changing mindfulness meditation practices. It is a realistic and supportive place to start.
Of course, if you have an opportunity to learn from and practice with a living teacher, please give it a try. As with most things, it gains power from doing it in community rather than in isolation.
Taking an 8-week, standardized Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course is another helpful way to launch a meditation practice. The context of the Buddha’s ethical and wisdom teachings is removed from this methodology, but MBSR is a way of learning that suits many people, at least to begin with.
Making mindfulness our priority can affect every part of our lives. Letting go of what we cling to is unlikely to be easy, but by training our attention in an open and serious way, wisdom will gradually blossom in us.