Loch Kelly is a meditation teacher, psychotherapist, and the founder of the Open-Hearted Awareness Institute. He is the author of the S&P Book Award-winner Shift into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness.
Kelly opens this book with an important distinction. He calls the kind of mindfulness best known in the West — taught in Buddhist centers and in treatment programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction — "deliberate mindfulness." As Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the best-known teachers of this approach, defines it, "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally."
Kelly is more interested in "effortless mindfulness," which he defines in this way: "Effortless mindfulness is letting go of thoughts, present moments, and attention — opening to a naturally compassionate, nonconceptual awake awareness that is interconnected here and Now."
This is a way of accessing the natural well-being of unconditional love in the midst of our everyday lives. He recommends it for people who may have trouble with concentration exercises and sitting meditation because an awake loving nature is already here within us. He sees the benefits of this approach as a bypass of judgmental thinking and a peep into a whole new way of seeing and believing that "relieves suffering at its root." It becomes a skillful way of connecting with ourselves and others that combines contemplation and compassionate action.
Kelly then defines awakening as a "a shift and upgrade of awareness, mind, and self" and goes on to herald it as the next natural stage of human development. In this paperback, he gives us effortless mindfulness practices to supplement classic practices associated with deliberate mindfulness, such as one-pointed focus, lovingkindness, and insight meditation.
Key to this practice is what Kelly calls the "mindful glimpse." This is a micro-meditation that invites you to shift your awareness. (See the practice for an example.) He suggests that we try them as we go through the book and then record in our own voices the ones that we are interested in continuing. They range from experimenting with dynamic stillness, focusing on the breath from within the breath, a nondual embodiment scan, and more.
In one of the most practical and healing chapters in the book, the author defines pain and then explains how effortless mindfulness, by changing how we relate to pain, enables us to be present with the unpleasant, reroute the pain, and experience it differently.
In the second half of the book, Kelly provides step-by-step instructions for practicing effortless mindfulness. You can get an inkling of what these involve from the titles: The You-Turn, Awareness Yoga, Effortless Focus, Panoramic Awareness, and Knowing from Heart-Mind. In the last chapter, Kelly brings it all back to everyday life, showing how you can weave mindful glimpses and small awakenings into your daily activities.
There is a lot to absorb in this book, and many practices to try in a wide variety of situations. Kelly even identifies some common traps and detours his students have encountered. But his main message is clear throughout. Try a few of the glimpses. Experiment. Trust your inner teacher. And you'll discover: you can do this.