Mindfulness – What and How – Part 2

Mindfulness – What and How – Part 2

In our previous post we saw how Gautama Buddha set up the simple structure and theory of Mindfulness. In this post on Mindfulness we will look at the Stage One practice procedure. We will start with an outline and then proceed in stages so that it might be possible to apply the discipline with or without the assistance of a teacher.

If you have not read the previous Part 1 of this blog, it would assist you to do that. We will not repeat its contents here, and it will be assumed the reader understands that this Part 2 as being built upon Part 1.

First, let us see the summary of the Four Stages of Practice, then we will look more deeply into Stage One.

The Buddha taught the techniques of the practice of “Establishment of Awareness” or as has been translated “Mindfulness”, in the following order of Stages:-

 

Stage 1. Awareness on the Physical Body

  1. Body
  2. Breathing
  3. Postures
  4. Clear Understanding
  5. Impurities
  6. Elements
  7. Nine Stages of the Corpse

Stage 2. Awareness on Feelings – like/dislike

 

Stage 3. Awareness on the Mind Content & Mind Space

 

Stage 4. Awareness on Modifications of the Mind

  1. The Hindrances
  2. The Aggregates
  3. The Sense Bases
  4. The Enlightenment Factors
  5. The Noble Truths
    • The Noble Truth of Pain
    • The Cause of Pain
    • The Cessation of Pain
    • The Path Leading to the Cessation of Pain

Motive

Our Motive is ‘ESTABLISHMENT of AWARENESS’ here and now

‘By seeing what is’,

we are able to ‘see what is for what it is’,

rather than ‘seeing and reacting in modification to, and being modified by, what is’.

 

Let us begin.

The Practice:-

I. Awareness on the Physical Body

Aware of the fact that only the body exists – not a soul, a self or I-dentity, just a phenomenon, a modification of Awareness.

a. Body – form

  • sit down
  • keeping the body erect
  • direct awareness to the body

b. Breathing – function

  • breathe in and out with keen awareness
  • breathe in long, breath out a long
  • breathe in short, breath out short
  • aware of whole breath body breathe in, aware of whole breath body breathe out
  • calm breath in, calm breath out
  • aware of the body as just a body in this place – not mine, not I, not self, just a phenomenon, a modification of awareness
  • aware of the body as just a body in other places
  • aware of the body as just a body in both this place, and in other places
  • aware of the cause of appearance of the body – desire for body
  • aware of the actual appearing of the body – feel the body presence
  • aware of the cause of dissolution of the body – dissolving of body
  • aware of the actual dissolution of the body – let go of the body presence
  • aware of both the actual appearing and dissolution of the body with their causes. – desire, presence of body, aversion, dissolving the body, all four states simultaneously

… to be continued

For individuals who wish to be assisted in the procedure by an experienced teacher, it is advised to book an appointment. Book appointment with Teacher >

Mindfulness – What and How – Part 1

Mindfulness – What and How – Part 1

In this post we will look into one of the original teachings of Gautama Buddha on the topic of “Mindfulness”.

Initially, we might ask what is the main purpose for taking up the practice of Mindfulness? Gautama Buddha gives a brief answer: “for the development of true happiness”. The context of the statement at the time, and how it might be interpreted in today’s world, would depend on what is meant by “true happiness”. But without looking into this question presently, let us continue.

Today in the mainstream media & popular discussion ‘Mindfulness’ has become the poster child of psychology, therapy, and a whole range of new age supplications to overcoming life stress. Always there is a failure to acknowledge, or an outright denial, that Mindfulness has any religious or philosophic background or origin. Why the pundits deny the origin of Mindfulness is known perhaps only to them, however because today religion has been pilloried as archaic and anachronistic, it is expedient (to the pundits) to disband with something that is not understood, and for which time and effort would be required to make it understood.

For purposes here we will say that Religion is to do with ‘feeling’ and ‘faith’, and Philosophy is to do with ‘clear logical thought’ and the ‘systems which derive’. Although clear logical thought can be packaged up into what is called ‘reason’ for which there are some mind focussed adherents, ‘faith’ and ‘feeling’ are ontologically non-definitional, and in fact produce no ‘hard’ scientific evidence, and as such are not meant to be hard and scientific We will write more about the context of Religion & Philosophy elsewhere, but it is a truism that today ‘Science’ is the method of the present, the Religion and Philosophy of our Time, and to many Philosophy and Religion per se do not currently belong, despite the fact that they were all anciently combined into Natural Philosophy as one ‘complete discipline’.

Let us see if we can give a brief summary to the process of Mindfulness as given by Gautama Buddha without too much oversimplification.

Gautama Buddha’s teaching on Mindfulness comes from the Satipatthana Sutta and is translated from the Pali into English as sati ‘attentiveness’ and upatthana (not patthana as is usually translated) ‘establishment’. Sutta is a sutra, a thread of information which may be explicated into a practice. In our present analysis we can come to a useful interpretation by saying that what is translated as Mindfulness is ‘establishment of attentiveness’. Of course, because Buddhism is a ‘rationalisation’ or ‘mind’ tradition, the term attentiveness is often translated into the term mindfulness, like when we say “mind your step” as a warning not to trip or fall when walking on an unever surface. Attentiveness is a process of ‘stretching, bending or tying of awareness’ (awareness essentially being in-finite & disbursed) into a defined zone. We can then say that when this defined zone has no objective content it is called the ‘mind space’, outside of which is merely ‘space’.

Let us illustrate this geometrically to make it a little clearer.
Imagine a sphere or a large ball.
Inside the sphere is called ‘mind space’.
Outside of the sphere is called ‘space’, or ‘in-finite space’.
The mind space may have objective content, or
it may be empty & without content.
When the mind space has objective content, let us say a cube suspended inside the sphere, inside the ball, we now say that “awareness has something in mind”; something is in the mind space.
Then when the mind space has become established (‘to make firm’) as ‘full’ of content we may use the term ‘mindfulness’.

When Satipatthana is translated as ‘establishment of attention’, we are saying it is a process of ‘confining attention within the particular zone of space’ which space is called the Mind.
By extension we may say attention, awareness is confined to the contents, to particular objects, things, events & relations within the mind space.
So ‘Mindfulness’ is a kind of ‘concentration’ process upon contents within the mind space.

Now let us see what Gautama Buddha says in his teaching, his approach and procedure, and later perhaps reconsider what has been outlined above if required.

The following is a skeleton summary of the teaching only, and requires many practical exercises before an individual may arrive at ‘establishment of attentiveness’.

Mindfulness means the ability to tie awareness to ‘something’ in the mind space. This is established in three ways:

  1. Being alert, aware, conscious.
  2. Observing whatever things, events, and relationships that arise in the mind space.
  3. Knowing how to take up, establish, maintain & improve concentrated attention, and dialectically how to break identification with whatever causes loss of attention.

There are four purposes for establishing awareness, and four stages to ‘establishing awareness’ in the present moment of the mind space.

Buddha is speaking to some monks and says in outline here…

The Purpose of the teaching is for the development of true happiness by means of:

  1. purification of the mind and mental modifications in order to attain mental clarity
  2. overcoming emotional states of the psyche
  3. relieving pain and resistance in the physical body
  4. breaking identification with, and letting go of, limitations and modifications of awareness (physical, emotional, mental) in order to attain Nirvana.

The process proceeds in Stages & is attained by ‘focus of attention’, by ‘establishment of attentiveness’, upon: –

  1. the physical body and its functions
  2. emotional states and modifications of feeling
  3. the mind and the mind’s content of ideas and things
  4. the mental modifications – events and relationships within the mind

In practice, establishment of attentiveness is by means of seeing (bringing awareness to) what is; in body, in emotion, in the mind.
It goes further and says that awareness is increased by breaking identification with things, events, and relationships within the mind.
There is a sequence of stages and a logical differentiation to the practice.
In outline it is as follows.

Establishment of Awareness of: –

  1. Physical Body – form (objective physical body and components), function (breathing), force (activity)
  2. Emotional and Feeling states – pleasure or pain in varying degree
  3. Mind – aspects of the ideas, forms, shapes, and objects of the mind
  4. Mind Modifications – logical differentiation of the internal functions: where Logic says there is A, Not A, Neither A or Not A, & Not Neither A nor Not A.

As a first-time observer and practitioner in the process of “Mindfulness” we might give our motivation to be that
‘by seeing what is’ we are able to ‘see what is for what it is’.
But let us see how Gautama Buddha differentiates the different levels and what is required to be seen.

For more on the next stage of Mindfulness go to Blog post Part 2 >

Science, Meditation & Mindfulness

Science, Meditation & Mindfulness

Science

The term ‘science’ comes from a Latin root scire meaning ‘to know’, which derives from another root scindere ‘to split’. If we wish to gain knowledge of something we might split it or cut it away from something else in order to examine it in isolation or to examine one of its components separate from others. We see the root again in the word scissors from -cidere ‘to cut’, or later in words like schism & schist from a root meaning ‘to split, tear, rent’. Obviously, often when we split or cut something we are able to see parts.

Meditation

Our short definition for Meditation is ‘Integration of the Mind’. To integrate the mind is to bring its function into ‘organised harmony’. The mind when integrated runs ‘cool & quiet’ like a super-efficient machine. Meditation proceeds in stages. We first need to differentiate contents, functions & impulses within the mind; then compare, contrast & sort; reintegrate; and finally discover a pattern. The scientific act is part of this process.

Separate & Reintegrate

From the Mind & Meditation viewpoint, where we are dealing with internal processes & aiming at wholeness, integration, we have to split components apart and then put them back together. In the psychological sense putting the Mind and its components back together after a split as in schizophrenia where thoughts, feelings, actions and motivations are separated out, reintegration is significantly more difficult. Much of modern mental illness and malfunction comes from our deep scientific motive. In the gaining of knowledge we split, and then we have to integrate. It is the process of ‘integration’, and gaining ‘wholeness’, which is one of the principal purposes of Meditation.

BIG Science definition

So, to be more succinct [oh!, there are some of those ‘sci’ letters again], we can gird up our definition in relation to Meditation and give ourselves a nice BIG Science definition as;

 

“Science is the analytical and synthesising process whereby we become con­scious of the separate elements of reality (motion-patterns) and of their relations with each other in the infinite continuum of motion-power.”

Science & Consciousness

Today as in the past, Scientific research in the field of Meditation is not only difficult and precariously unreliable, as we have discovered, but as quantum science has discovered, the focus of consciousness upon an experiment has a catalytic change effect upon the experiments’ results. How strange but true.

In summary we may say that so-called ‘scientific research’ into Meditation requires the individual to do the Meditation experiment and to examine in consciousness what happens in the mind as the experiment is taking place. Then because of ‘catalytic consciousness’ the experiment will never give replicable results. Next time we do the Meditation exercise the outcome will not be the same as previously. Some of our deeper thinking scientists know this and are not surprised that research results are constantly changing and are very rarely replicated in Meditation trials. Of course this is known to the experienced Meditation practitioner, and in fact is often the spur to continue practice because of this very changeability, from an ‘interest’ viewpoint. Even at the most subtle levels of the Mind and Consciousness, “variety is the spice of life.”

All the way down to the No-Mind

So really, rather than giving up Meditation after falsely trying to suppress the Mind’s annoyances, we strive more intently to discover more subtle and refined aspects of the Mind, all the way down to the No-Mind, the Mind that doesn’t think.

In view of the above we might enquire carefully next time we see the claim ‘scientifically proven meditation’, as to exactly what is the ‘science’ in the (proven) claim, and what is the ‘meditation’ in the claim.

~~~

Our next post will be on the topic of Mindfulness, a form of ‘concentration’ where awareness is ‘present’ in time. It is one of many preparatory stages in Meditation procedure. Check back here soon & meanwhile, keep up your practice!