I don't know much, if anything, about Buddhism outside of what I've read on Wikipedia, but a friend of mine who went on a Vipassana retreat got me into meditating with him a few weeks ago. I have found the experience of meditating with him to be extremely calming and peaceful overall.
I have pretty awful social anxiety which has had a terrible impact on my life. But I've noticed that when I'm meditating it feels like I'm sort of laying down my burdens for a little while. Instead of getting wrapped up in cycles of self-doubt (and at my worst, self-loathing), it feels like a huge wave of pure relief to spend even a small amount of time doing something simple, just observing the breath at the point of my nostrils and the way that feels, instead of obsessing about me, me, me, how I talk, how I look, etc.
Anyway, I've started reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana on the recommendation of someone online, and I love how clear and straightforward it is compared to Wikipedia explanations which provide no examples or elucidation. Still, there are bits that I could use some help with, if someone would be kind enough to help. In the book, he says:
Mindfulness is present time awareness. It takes place in the here and now. It is the observance of what is happening right now, in the present moment. It stays forever in the present, surging perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wave of passing time. If you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is mindfulness. If you then conceptualize the process and say to yourself, "Oh, I am remembering", that is thinking.
Mindfulness is non-egoistic alertness. It takes place without reference to self. With Mindfulness one sees all phenomena without references to concepts like 'me', 'my' or 'mine'. For example, suppose there is pain in your left leg. Ordinary consciousness would say, "I have a pain." Using Mindfulness, one would simply note the sensation as a sensation. One would not tack on that extra concept 'I'. Mindfulness stops one from adding anything to perception, or subtracting anything from it. One does not enhance anything. One does not emphasize anything. One just observes exactly what is there - without distortion.
This was really important to me, because before this whenever I came across the whole notion of the present-time awareness thing, I was confused about how you could maintain that state while at the same time using memories or planning - stuff you obviously need to do in life.
The thing I'm struggling with is the last sentence of the first paragraph. Is he saying that that mode of thinking is something to be avoided in mindfulness meditation? And if so, why is it incorrect? Is it because of the "I" part involves egotistic alertness he warns against in the second paragraph? Or is it because you're saying something to yourself internally instead of just observing the remembering?
Thank you for reading!