This section contains some written and audio instructions on how to deepen your mindfulness meditation practice by following the 52 MIDL Mindfulness Trainings.
The 52 MIDL Mindfulness Meditation Trainings can be divided into 12 areas of meditation skill that are developed in order to transfer mindfulness meditation into daily life. These 12 areas of skill each contain a series of guided mindfulness meditation exercises to help you deepen meditation.
1) CREATING YOUR FOUNDATION
MIDL Training 1 - 5
Skill 1: You begin your training in MIDL Mindfulness Meditation by creating a foundation for your meditation practice which is made up of two aspects: Grounding and Softening. Grounding means developing awareness of all the different sensations that arise as the experience of your body as it sits. These sensations create anchor point from which to observe you attention habitually move. Softening means to learn to relax, both physically and mentally, your relationship towards what you are experiencing.
Grounding: Grounding awareness within the sensate quality of your body is a reference point from which you will be able to observe when your attention habitually moves. Without a grounding point for your awareness you will easily become lost within habitual movements of your attention, particularly towards thinking, during seated meditation. This initial grounding point for your awareness is created by developing sensitivity to the sensate quality of your body. The experience of 'warmth', 'coolness', 'heaviness', 'touch' and immersing awareness within them.
Softening: This then brings you to your secondary foundation of Softening. Once you have developed the skill of observing your attention move from your 'grounding' point, you can then focus on developing the key MIDL skill of softening into your relationship towards your current experience. When your attention moves what do you do? You soften. The skill of mindful self observing and softening go hand in hand, allowing you to be with difficult experiences that arise within seated meditation and daily life.
2) CULTIVATING YOUR ATTENTION
MIDL Training 6 - 12
Skill 2: Now that you have developed initial mindfulness of your body through learning how to 'ground' your awareness. And have also learnt the skill of softening your relationship towards your present experience. It is time to deepen your meditation skill through the development and refinement of the mental factors of mindfulness and concentration.
To do this you move from mindfulness of your body, to mindfulness of the experience of breathing as it moves within it. The experience of breathing has a characteristic that makes it perfect for observing and training the habitual tendencies within your mind. Breathing can be controlled or it can happen autonomously, free from control, it is this aspect that you will be working with in this mindfulness of breathing section. The experience of breathing reflects control, allowing you to work with any tendency you may have towards controlling that which does not need to be controlled within your life.
Through observing and softening into these tendencies you will gradually be able to observe your breathing, free from control, and use it as a grounding point on which to develop mindfulness and concentration. This is part of deconditioning and reconditioning your mind. Once you can observe your breathing free from control, it will create the foundation on which you can develop continuity of mindfulness and deeper levels of concentration creating your MIDL Meditation Viewing Platform.
3) FOUR ELEMENTAL QUALITIES
MIDL Training 13 - 14
Skill 3: The previous MIDL Mindfulness Trainings have now created your viewing platform from which you can observe the habitual interaction between your mind and body. In particular what the Buddha referred to as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness: Bodily sensations, feeling tones, mind and conditional processes. These observed from your viewing platform create the foundation on which you will develop deep understanding about yourself and your relationship to the world in order to create the conditions for wisdom to arise. Your first step from your meditation viewing platform is to intentionally develop your sensitivity to the elemental qualities that appear within the experience of your mind and body.
4) OBSERVING YOUR ATTENTION
MIDL Training 15 - 18
Skill 4: The next intentional training you do from your MIDL viewing platform is the refinement of mindfulness and momentary concentration by learning the skill of observing your attention habitually move during meditation. To transfer mindfulness meditation into daily life you have to change the way that you cultivate your attention during formal seated meditation, from fixed attention to flexible attention, in order to develop momentary concentration.
This is done by changing your relationship towards your meditation object and allowing your mind to wander in order to develop the skill of observing attention move. The movement of attention itself then becomes your meditation object rather than what it is you are aware of or where your attention moves to. This is an important aspect to understand if you want your mindfulness meditation practice to transfer into daily life.
5) OBSERVING YOUR MIND
MIDL Training 19-22
Skill 5: Deep understanding into the true nature of your mind and body is the true path of MIDL mindfulness meditation that leads to the deconditioning of habitual defensive patterns of behaviour that define your life. To do this not only is the development of mindfulness and momentary concentration necessary but also the mental factor of investigation; the questioning mind. The previous mindfulness training of observing attention move now allows your attention to shift from mindfulness of your body to mindfulness of your mind.
From your MIDL viewing platform you now learn and refine the skill of observing mental proliferation by making the process of thinking itself your object of meditation in order to cultivate wisdom into its true nature.
6) DECONDITIONING HINDRANCES
MIDL Training 23 - 26
Skill 6: The development of deep understanding into the true nature of your mind and body allows you to start to bring habitual defensive patterns within your mind to an end through deconditioning. All your earlier skills come to bear at this point, in particular your development of the first two Pillars of MIDL: Flexibility of Attention and Softening. The strength of these pillars rely on the stability of your mindfulness and concentration as well as your ability to soften into your relationship towards difficult experiences.
All conditioned patterns strengthen through participation, when this participation is habitual then every time you have a lapse of mindfulness these habitual patterns of behaviour 'practice' themselves. Through a process of mindful non-participation you will be able to be with these habitual patterns without participating in them, gradually they will weaken until they no longer arise within you. Deconditioning is trained in four ways: Through mindful softening, abandoning, expanding and focusing of awareness.
7) MINDFULNESS IN MOVEMENT
MIDL Training 27 - 28
Skill 7: It is now time for you to train in mindfulness of your body within the transition of postures, abandoning attachment to the pleasure of seated meditation. Mindfulness meditation was never meant to be just practiced as a seated meditation, it was always meant to be brought into daily life.
The Buddha said in the Satipatthana Sutta: "Furthermore… when walking, the meditator knows: ‘I am walking.’ When standing, they know: ‘I am standing.’ When sitting, they know: ‘I am sitting.’ When lying down, they know: ‘I am lying down.’ Or however their body is placed, they know: ‘This is how it is’."
It is important to understand that mindfulness meditation is a posture of your mind, not a posture of your body. You develop this understanding by first training the skill of meditating in a standing position and then by maintaining continuity of mindfulness within changes of posture.
8) CULTIVATE WHOLESOME QUALITIES
MIDL Training 29 - 33
Skill 8: Once you have weakened habitual defensive patterns by deconditioning them through mindful non-participation it is now time for you to strengthen positive qualities of heart that may be weak within you. The Buddha talked of this process in the Noble Eightfold Path as: Abandoning the unwholesome / unskillful, Guarding against the arising of the unwholesome / unskillful, Cultivating the wholesome / skillful and establishing the wholesome / skillful as your natural way of being.
Like any other quality of heart and mind, positive qualities if not regularly practiced, become weak and will not spontaneously appear by them self. If your life has been defined by habitual defensive patterns, as these patterns become weaker you may still find that it is hard to feel pure love, empathy or gratitude towards yourself or others. At this stage of your mindfulness meditation training you focus on observing and cultivating any positive qualities of heart or mind that are weak within you, reconnecting with yourself and others.
9) SKILL OF SOFTENING
MIDL Training 34 - 38
Skill 9: It is now time to refine your softening skill to a high level in a very systematic way. The process of deconditioning defensive habitual patterns and cultivating wholesome / skillful qualities of mind and heart is grounded within your ability to soften into your relationship towards whatever you are experiencing 'now'.
MIDL mindfulness meditation is based on cultivating that which has the characteristic of combining; bringing together, and abandoning that which has the characteristic of separating; pushing away. Resistance expresses as the characteristic of separation, non-resistance expresses as the characteristic of combining. Since softening has the characteristic of combining, when you soften into your relationship towards your present experience you combine that which is separated and strengthen that which is already combined.
10) SKILL IN STILLNESS
MIDL Training 39 - 43
Skill 10: It is now time to focus on your ability to enter stillness through mindful non-participation. Stillness arises when all participation within the processes of the mind are abandoned. The result of skillful softening as refined in the previous training, is always the arising of stillness. The development of stillness is based on a process of systematic abandoning of effort, first physical then mental. This process of abandonment directly challenges the habitual defensive processes of mind.
Because of this it is necessary to do this training daily for a period of four weeks, lengthening the period as you gradually remove layers of defenses until your mind finds safety within the stillness of not-doing itself. Once your mind learns the pathway to stillness it will naturally enter it when you soften into mindful non-participation. Even though the depth of stillness that arises after softening is sometimes brief, the impact through creating gaps within the conditioned patterns within the mind is great and part of the process of mindful deconditioning. This cultivates into the ability to be aware of awareness itself.
11) SIX SENSE DOORS
MIDL Training 44 - 50
Skill 11: All your skills now come to maturity as your meditation practice becomes formless and transfers into daily life. Mature mindfulness meditation is established by developing sensitivity to awareness as it arises at the six sense doors. The Buddha referred to these doorways to the world in the Satipatthana Sutta as the six internal & external sense bases. This can be understood as mindfulness of: The eye, sight and the knowing of it. The ear, sound and the knowing of it. The nose, smell and the knowing of it. The tongue, taste and the knowing of it. The body, touch sensation and the knowing of it. The mind, qualities of mind and the knowing of them. These can be known as the six sense doors.
It is through the habitual relationship of the conditioned mind towards one or all of these six sense doors that all perception, feeling, likes & dislikes, attraction, aversion, mental proliferation, emotions and defensive habitual patterns come into being. The path of deconditioning arises through gradual abandonment of participation within this process, from gross to subtle, in seated meditation and daily life, that brings the mindfulness meditators practice to maturity.
12) MIDL VIEWING PLATFORM
MIDL Training 51 - 52
Skill 12: It is now time to refine all the different skills that you have learnt during the previous trainings based on softness, flexibility of attention and stillness. You do this within the formal structure of mindfulness of breathing, applying the different skills that you have learnt, dependent on what arises within your meditation practice.
You can revisit particular skills that need strengthening whenever you find any weakness in your meditation practice. As your skill in softness, flexibility of attention and stillness deepen there will be a natural appearance of them within your daily life. Your task then is to make the transition from formal seated meditation to meditation in daily life.
This is done by re-establishing awareness within the sensate quality of your body every time you remember to do so. This is your grounding point, similar to your meditation object in formal seated meditation. From this grounding point you will then be able to observe habitual movements of your attention towards or away from your six senses and soften into your relationship towards them, abandoning habitual attraction or aversion and deconditioning deep seated patterns within your mind.