Mindfulness is a fundamental stepping stone.
Mindfulness has been a useful stepping stone in my awakening process. I had a practice of moving my attention away from thought and into "the present moment" - this is usually called being present or mindful. I adhered to this practice fiercely for almost a year and it seemed to produce profound results. I would shift my attention away from thought and onto any sensation or perception. This is objective meditation - it is objective because we use sensation and perception to place our attention on an object, mainly our physical body. I would do this practice constantly, not only when in sitting meditation
Our internal mental dialogue, is usually about the past or future, whereas our sensations and perceptions are based in the present. I would constantly connect to presence by focusing on a bodily sensation such as my breath in my body or the sun on my skin. Or, I would connect to perception by using visualization or noticing sound such as a bird singing. This practice helped untangle my attention from my internal dialogue. Becoming untangled from internal dialogue also begins to loosen our limited identifications, which cause suffering.
By placing so much focused attention on the dialogue running through my mind, I was strengthening my identification with a thinking mind and producing a sense of self living inside this brain and body. By shifting attention away from thought again and again, my attention became more empowered and untangled itself from the limitations of identifying with a mental body.
I followed this practice fiercely because it was the first step in my awakening process. It’s like writing a paper, the first paragraph requires a certain kind of fierce focus and after that paragraph the rest of the paper has a certain flow that is easier in a way. Mindfulness is a useful stepping stone and there is so much more to spiritual awakening. A mindfulness practice does not address other deeper layers of identification and can seem to produce a new identity of someone who is being present, which contains new limitations and suffering.
When understood as a stepping stone, presence and mindfulness is a powerful exercise and I love using it to teach and guide people in my Intro to Awakening Groups.