There are some long held Buddhist traditions in Myanmar that I highly value, particularly that which is not quite apparent in the yogic philosophical teachings.
Specifically, as a practitioner who teaches from the Theravada tradition, I truly value a traditional form of mindfulness – vipassana or insight that can be applied to every element of life. This form of mindfulness stems from the traditional teachings of Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama ) – and while it can be seen as similar, yet not quite the same as, the yogic counterpart, the explicit technique I speak of here was developed by the influential Burmese Buddhist monk Mahasi Sayadaw (1904 – 1982).
It is believed to be the form of meditation practice taught by the Buddha himself, and although the specific form of the practice may vary, it is the basis of all traditions of Buddhist meditation. (source)
This method, which is known as the Mahasi technique and is the predominant form of vipassana insight meditation, has three main characteristics that allows it to be not only a form of meditation, but a way of life that is incorporated into our daily lives. These three characteristics are:
- observing the breath at the abdomen
- noting, and
- going very slowly.
As stated, this mindfulness is a way of life and extends to all we do; walking, lying, sitting, eating, and, for the adept yogi, these three characteristics can be brought into asana practice, allowing a yogi to cultivate a deeper practice.
In fact, as this can be applied to every aspect of life, when visiting a Mahasi Meditation Centre or Monastery, one could be practicing for 13 to 15 hours a day – not an easy accomplishment and indeed one of the most difficult techniques taught in Myanmar today.
The Mahasi Technique
Mahasi Sayadaw helped to revive the tradition of Mindfulness in Myanmar, his influence now stemming throughout the world and is seen in the philosophies and practices of renown modern day Buddhist meditators such as Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. I am drawn to this technique because – as I was taught some time ago by one of Mahasi’s main disciples, Sayadaw U Pandita – it has the capacity to cultivate a depth in all that I do: these teachings work hand in hand amongst the other trainings I learned from the many teachers outside of Myanmar who I acknowledge, respect and admire.
Mindfulness in everything is seemingly such a simple technique, yet in reality a hard technique to continually bring to daily life.
The key truly is attentive ease, an un-complicatedness in everything and to everything: to be mindful of all that you say and do.