The word 'mindfulness' (coined by Jon Kabat Zinn in the 70s) has come to be lampooned "McMindfulness," due to its ubiquitous presence in our socio-cultural marketplace. The buzzword refers to any practice aimed at becoming aware of your thoughts and "being here now" (Ram Dass 1971).
Merely monitoring every passing thought makes for a tedious and inadequate meditation method, because it puts the mind to work trying to watch itself. But the desired outcome of non-attachment requires something more dynamic than monitoring: transcendence. And we can't will ourselves to transcend what goes on in our minds.
While we can of course observe our own breathing, or take notice of our thought processes for a few moments here or there, neither takes us deep into our thought processes. What's required is a vehicle that intervenes to gently transport the mind to its innermost, silent depths. A technology of transcendence, if you will.
The good news is that such a technology exists. It is ridiculously simple, and profoundly effective: EDM (effortless deep meditation). It is the technique that I learned as a teenager, then became an instructor but eventually left that organization, for reasons mentioned in my book.
If you want to learn TM™ nowadays, it costs in the neighbourhood of $1500, and you'll be steered towards so-called "advanced techniques" such as the siddhis (falsely promising actual levitation). I have streamlined the instructional process and freed the method from unnecessary religiosity.
This technique is timelessly rooted in ancient Vedic philosophy. It utilizes a simple word called a mantra, which is repeated silently both between and alongside thoughts. The mantra's value lies in its inner perceived sound, not in any semantic meaning. It fosters resonance within the mind and body, leading gently, steadily to a state of exquisite subtlety and stillness.
And here's the thing: the experience of it is always variable: There can be moments of perfect stillness but also moments when we're aware of constant streams of thought. Yet we can still feel "deep," even with many thoughts going on. Always, though, there's a distinct sense of "at homeness" in your mind and body, afterwards if not exactly during the sitting. Post-meditation is a delicious feeling, no matter the perceived quality of the session itself.
It's weird and wonderful. It goes far beyond "mindfulness-based stress reduction" (MBSR). And it's why I've stayed with effortless deep meditation (EDM) for 50 years and counting.
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.