Mindfulness meditation is free. There are no health insurance premiums, drug costs, or expensive therapies. And it works! But first you have to understand the authentic instructions, and secondly you must practice diligently. If you do this, mental and physical problems will melt away. Try it! How can you lose?

To begin with, each of the 8 steps below may take a day, a week, a month, even a year before you are confident in your grasp of that particular step. But before you become impatient, remember that building a good foundation by not rushing from step to step will pay off big time later. If you practice only step one, fully, with confidence and awareness, it will lead to total liberation from stress, and eventual “enlightenment.”

But rushing from step to step, trying to hurry the process and get somewhere quickly, results in nothing but restlessness and boredom. There will be no internal shifts, no AHA! moments, which are those experiences that can occur in any of the steps if the step is practiced deeply enough. It’s these moments of split second insight, these experiences of ‘other worldliness’ that are so important for unshakeable faith to develop the practice. Remember; this is not a belief system, this is unquestionable personal experience.

Whatever you do, please don’t make meditation a stressful exercise. Relax in all aspects of it. If you are too tight, if you concentrate too hard trying to attain this or that, stress will develop instead of calm. Let go, let go, let go.

Conversely, if you are too lax and simply drift through your practice haphazardly and casually with only feeble attempts to concentrate and calm the mind, no penetrating wisdom will result. The depth of your mind’s concentration, sharpness, calmness and a knack for randomly seeing "what is' in each moment, are what determine the resulting quality of the mind's insight and wisdom, which then leads directly to a stress-free life.

In other words, there will be no abandonment, no disinterest, no dispassion or understanding about the things, circumstances and people that are currently the objects of your stress. Without this disenchantment and relinquishment, deeper states of meditation are not possible.

There will be no transition from the world dominated mind to the free, spiritual being because the mind is simply too entangled in the wrong ways with worldly concerns. There may be perceived spiritual progress, but only the spiritual progress that you imagine. What you do and think about constantly all day and night are the real indicators of where you are and where you are headed.

So, how do we put this all together in a practice that leads to a new understanding of life and a reduction of stress?

There are two basic meditation techniques presently practiced by most meditators. One is called concentration meditation, (jhana), and the other is called wisdom or insight meditation (vipassana), which is nowadays called ‘mindfulness meditation.’

The method described here combines both, and is based on the actual suttas of the Buddha, not the commentaries or ideas of those that followed the Buddha. It therefore combines concentration and wisdom as the Buddha laid out 2550 years ago in his Anapanasati Sutta, indicating that concentration and insight are inseparable.

This method however does not advocate practicing the methods separately - practicing one method (concentration) for awhile, and then practicing the other (insight or mindfulness meditation) for awhile, as is presently practiced by many Buddhists. The method described below practices both concentration and insight at the same time.

Therefore, your practice is balanced at all times. This not only makes the practice tranquil and non-stressful, but naturally results in eventual deep insights into the mind and body that can occur rather quickly, providing that the correct kind of effort and time is devoted to the practice.

STEP 1. Thought awareness

In order to establish a firm foundation for mindfulness meditation, it is good to practice simple "thought awareness" for awhile. You can practice this by simply visualizing yourself on a beautiful tropical island, standing on a beach watching sea animals go by in the crystal clear, blue-green tropical ocean.

The fish and creatures that swim in the water are all of your endless thoughts about the past and future. In the present, you are simply standing on the beach, watching all of this.

Be careful not to jump into the water and take a ride on a Dolphin (a thought) as it swims by. Let all the sea animals go. If you do find yourself 20 miles out in the ocean and have no idea how you got there, simply return to the beach continue to watch the fish and turtles (your thoughts) come and go.

Thoughts about what you did yesterday or last year, how much longer the meditation session will last, what you will do after meditation, or about that itch, or having to swallow all the time. All these thoughts can ambush you.

When they do steal your attention and you lose your awareness of standing n the beach, be kind to the thought - but not too kind.

While you allow each thought to have its space without angrily pushing it away, at the same time you shift your focus from the content of thought, or what you were thinking about, to the feeling of the thought. You will feel a tension in the brain when you are thinking, even thinking so called happy thoughts. It is subtle, but the tension can be discerned with some practice.

Thought is a conflict solver. When you are thinking you are naturally in conflict. Thinking how to balance your checkbook or what you have to do tomorrow, or even thinking about how you can get people to like or respect you - this is all conflict. Fear of running out of money, becoming unpopular or disrespected, getting something you crave but don‘t have, or getting rid of something you dislike - these are subjects of thought where thinking tries to resolve the fear by figuring out how to resolve a situation.

So we don’t participate any further in trying to figure things out, or indulging in the content of our thoughts regardless of how important it is that you solve whatever conflict the thought is trying to resolve, or the plans it is trying to complete.

When you continue to think, after you are mindful that you should be meditating - that is not good meditation. On the other hand, noticing thoughts, gently letting them be and returning to your breath, is good meditation. Even if you have to do it a million times.

Noticing how mind works

When you find yourself caught up in a thought and then let go of the contents of the thought, take one more step - a moment to realize how the attachment you have for this particular thought causes stress, and how the more important a thought seems, the more stress it causes.

This realization does not come about by thinking some more about the thought and our attachment to it, but by merely experiencing the feeling of stress or tension that the thought causes in our brain. Then, we experience how that tension releases when we let go of the tight grasp the mind has on that thought.

This is how you will begin to acquire wisdom about how the mind works, as well as discovering what your attachments and aversions are. In addition, you may discover how a “self” is fabricated from thought, and is therefore nothing more than a mirage. And eventually we can let go of our assumed self importance, which is the cause of most of our stress/

This is how vipassana (insight) is developed within the tranquil jhana (concentration) practice, and how mindfulness meditation develops.

So, when your mindfulness remembers that you are thinking about something instead of being aware of standing on the beach, there is a tendency to quickly push the thought away and consider it an intrusion, and then quickly jump back to your object of meditation, which is your perch on the beach.

Instead of quickly pushing the thought away, however, take a moment and apply your mindfulness to the grasping, the feeling of tightness that the thought has caused the mind. Don‘t think about the content of the thought itself, just notice the feeling in the mind that it has caused. The thought seems very important to the mind because something either has to be resolved, or we are trying to think how to position ourselves so that we are more liked, admired, respected, secure, happy, etc.

So, the mind is either trying to solve a conflict, or trying to build the idea of “me “ and “mine” - reinforcing the “I” thought. But you don’t have to think about all of this or try to figure it out. Simply notice the tension that thought creates.

Then release that tension. Release the grasp that the mind has on that particular thought. You will feel your temples and eye muscles physically relax when you do this.

Then allow the mind to expand, releasing itself from the confines of the brain. Let it expand as far as it likes, out toward unlimited space.

Now take a deep breath, and as you exhale, relax the body, let the arms fall from the shoulders, relax the face and abdomen.

Now happily notice your peaceful perch on the beach again, and stay with your trusted friend as long as you can.

So, here’s what you do when you find the mind is distracted in thought:

A. Apply your mindfulness to the grasping, the feeling of tightness
B. Then release that tension.
C. Then allow the mind to expand
D. Now take a deep breath, and as you exhale, relax the body

Insight into how the mind works is not a result of the brain trying to figure all of this out. Insight comes as a flash, after which perfect understanding prevails. No need to read books or practice anything other than keeping your mindfulness and awareness as an anchor, watching thoughts come and go. You are now an observer, not a doer. Eventually, if one wants to go deep into jhana and vipassana practice, the controller, the doer, must go.

All the wisdom of the universes and beyond is inside the mind. All you have to do is calm the mind, then direct it toward avenues other than those which you have been traveling all your life, until that innate wisdom has a chance to surface.

Practice this Step 1 until your thoughts slow down to the extent that you can catch each and every one and apply A through D:

A. Apply your mindfulness to the grasping, the feeling of tightness
B. Then release that tension.
C. Then allow the mind to expand
D. Now take a deep breath, and as you exhale, relax the body, and go back to your perch.

Now go on to Step 2. (If you are interested in steps 2 thru 8, please go to our free web site mentioned in the author section below).

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika addie) is a meditation teacher at:

http://www.dhammarocksprings.org/ and author of “A Year to Enlightenment:


His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.