Friday, March 4, 2011

The One Source For Mindfulness

Gil's talk this week got me interested again in the Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha's primary discourse of The Foundations of Mindfulness. If you are going to read only one sutta, this is probably the one, as far as mindfulness practice is concerned. Gil focused on the introductory paragraphs, and will cover the rest of the discourse over the next few weeks. Here is the original text:
This is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realization of Nibbana - namely the four foundations of mindfulness.
What are the four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
Satipatthana Sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness (The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, Bhikkhu Nanamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi translation) ~ 
My notes from Gil's talk:
There may be many paths to the alleviation of suffering, but this path  is the shortest one.
This is not about paying attention to everything. Instead, we are to focus on four things: 1) body, 2) feelings, 3) mind (mind states), and 4) mind-objects. Advantage of focusing in the body is that it is always in the present moment.
Before we pay attention to any of those four areas, we first turn our interest away from the object  we are covetous or distressed about, and we focus instead on our subjective experience of the wanting or distress, as manifested in body, feelings, our mind states, etc. 
There is a difference between mindfulness and mindfulness practice. The latter is a combination of mindfulness with other factors. Different teachers emphasize different factors. Mindfulness in the traditional sense of sati means to hold something in one's mind. 
We practice being, 1) mindful: holding in attention the four areas of body, feelings, mind states and mind objects, 2) fully aware: having a clear comprehension of what we are doing, 3) ardent: being full of resolve, dedication and enthusiasm.
This understanding is of utmost importance to practice, and I am very grateful to Gil for his clarifications, particularly regarding the four areas of focus for the attention (not all is to be paid attention to, only these four), and also the turning away from the object of our wanting or distress, towards the experience of wanting or suffering itself. 

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful advice here Marguerite. I would say that my daily practice is focused mainly..well primarily..on mindfulness of the breath. That is, one pointed attention on the breach. Naturally breathing, feeling the breath leaving the body, letting go, repeat.

    The one thing I haven't done much of is contemplation...just a little here and there on contentment that I learned at the Shambhala center, but not much beyond that.

    How have you incorporated this into your practice? Kind of curious.

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  2. Thank you Nate!

    Not sure what you mean by contemplation on contentment practice, as I am not familiar with teachings at Shambhala. What I have found is that gratitude is a natural outcome of continued mindfulness practice. Working at Zen Hospice and with persons living with forgetfulness has also been incredibly beneficial in terms of making me appreciate what I would normally take for granted . . .

    Metta,

    marguerite

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