The attempted description of meditation’s practice rapidly becomes paradoxical, pseudo-profound and fogged in a mysteriousness that’s hard to clear. It’s perhaps inevitable when the mind refers to itself, when the act of looking is itself part of what is looked at.
This is why there’s no substitute for actual practice. It’s the difference between spending hours poring over trail maps versus the reality of walking the trails. Though useful the study of action cannot be a replacement for the action itself.
Mindful meditation stays fluid, flexible, remains lighthearted, yields sometimes to distraction. To be aware of not being aware may be the best consciousness can do at that moment, if “best” has any meaning here.
The daily practice of mindfulness digs a reservoir for calm clarity that may fill only later, perhaps much later. The time-frame is geologic by comparison with the mind’s usual hyperactivity.
A meta awareness of the moment to moment quality of awareness can be compared to theatrical irony in that it’s a larger knowledge that contains a smaller one. The practice of awareness exists on different levels and itself requires awareness.
Mindful meditation is not an end product of careful ceremony or stiff attitude but just the sometimes faltering steps toward the more objective state of being. If distraction resolves into the here and now even just a little that is mindfulness, a transition and not an ending.
We could say that meditation is the observation of the failure to meditate but as an ongoing process with no end result mindful meditation is denied failure just as much as success.
Just as healthcare is concerned with illness mindfulness is the study of its absence; the chaotic eddies of the mind’s distraction and confusion. Without the chaos they’d be no word or need for mindfulness.
Our habitually personal frame of thinking is really an incomplete awareness because to be fully here and now is to be free of the subjective past. There is a cost in sensibility and effectiveness to this subjectivity. This is more obvious during the more direct if narrow perceptions of a crisis when we’re forced to jettison our usual persona* and have to act more immediately (literally: without use of media or agency), engaging fully and urgently with a demanding situation without barriers of time or space. This is a preview of the possibilities of mindfulness.
We can look out from a past self or look through oneself into a present. This absence of time is pure being.
We have no choice but to feel from the inside but it’s possible to observe from the outside, the subjective being contained within the objective.
It may not be obvious but self-awareness and our awareness of others amounts to the same thing; it’s only our hypnotized state of being that differentiates the two.
* Amusingly “persona” comes from the ancient Greek word for the masks worn during a play.