The word 'mindfulness,' coined by Jon Kabat Zinn has become so ubiquitous as to be lampooned "McMindfulness". The buzzword refers to any practice aimed at "Being Here Now" (Ram Dass 1971).
Mindfulness exercises merely put the mind to work trying to watch itself.
But achieving deep serenity requires something more dynamic than
tedious thought-monitoring: it requires transcending thought altogether. Which we can't will ourselves to do: a specific technique is required. Trying to focus on observing our breath or our thoughts may calm us down by a degree or two, but can't take us deep into our mind's innermost, silent depths.
The profoundly effective method I learned as a teenager remains unsurpassed by any offered today. Rooted in ancient Vedic philosophy, it utilizes a simple word (mantra), repeated silently between and alongside thoughts. The mantra's value lies in its inner perceived sound, not in any semantic meaning. It fosters a resonance within the mind and body, leading gently to a state of exquisite inner stillness.
The experience is always variable: There can be moments of perfect stillness, or what seem to be constant streams of thought. Yet we still feel "deep," even with many thoughts going on. One feels distinctly "at home" in mind and body.
It's been mystifying all these years, to witness the proliferation of complicated approaches to meditation. It's our left-brain tendency to make simple things difficult, but the good news is that it isn't difficult at all.
Joanie Higgs is a life-long seeker, scholar and teacher whose spiritual compass was set in her teens when the Beatles' guru came to town. Much later, after homeschooling her daughter she obtained a BA and an MA in social anthropology, winning an award for her thesis on reproductive medical ethics. She dwells on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.