[Mechanism of Mindfulness
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Calm and Refreshing…an understatement for Mindfulness
Did you ever wonder – what am I really doing as Meditation. The results are obvious. A great relaxation, heightened awareness… But what do I really do as meditation.
In plain English I would say I Focus my attention to something like Breath. Movement etc. There is a deeper explanation of the mechanics of Mindfulness in some ancient text.
Mindfulness is a special tool to develop intellect. It can grasp the reality beyond present human perception. Yet it’s known by most as a calm and refreshing experience. By all means it is so, yet so much more in it. Mindfulness can bring about order and control to a mind and life not second to a bull in the china shop.
Some simple questions are fathoms deeper and much more rewarding if answered compared to most of the questions we have, in the likes of – When did the universe begin or how can I make a few thousand more.
How Can I be free, Be free of What..?
What Binds me ..To what?
Why do I get victimized by anger and discontent every now and then ?
What would really make me happy?
What would really make me Unhappy?
With all that laughter, friends and good times…Can I call myself a happy person?
What’s that never fulfilled part in me?
The answers to these simple questions can reward you with the most valuable substance you could ever get hold of. Freedom and Happiness. The answers cannot be taken off a text book. Answers can be discovered. Mindfulness can be used to feel the answers.
May be religious may be not, a skeptic or an ardent practitioner…if one can conquer the two extremes of the denial of the Holy and being blindfolded by beliefs of a preferred doctrine or practice, there is no stopping him or her from freedom and Happiness.
Buddha, a unique source of Mindfulness
Do I have to be a pilot to be a passenger using the flight? Will I be called a farmer if I buy his vegetables?
I can use the purpose built techniques of a Buddha without being called anybody else than who I am now. A Buddhist, A Western Buddhist, A mediator – I can practice even without giving myself more and more identities to create a heavier ego.
A deeper aspect of mindfulness seemed to be explained in the Buddha’s teaching for one’s essential comprehension. Comprehension seems to be the core purpose of his meditation.
Buddha, a person with great virtue and courage seem to have grasped a never seen dimension of the world and reality. He reveals a practice and a few realities to grasp, by way of developing yourself. Nothing is reassuring as the reality.
In the simple act of being mindful one could use it’s awesome calm to get striking revelations of reality if directed so. One could use it’s stability to break the gruesome mechanisms that take place within ourselves, seemingly beyond our control.
The physical, verbal or mental acts of retaliation when provoked are seen fulfilling and rewarding to the raw undeveloped mind. With directed mindfulness, one could perceive that the provocation comes from an entirely unsuspecting element than what we retaliated against. Our natural retaliations are like slapping our own faces for a fault of someone else whom we have never seen yet!
Guidelines of a Buddha help take the mindfulness beyond the cushion or the meditation session into real life where incidents take place. It offers pristine clarity of events that dominate our lives. As well, mindfulness can offer an unshakable anchor so that the powerful storms of events don’t dominate us.
In his teachings of 37 factors of enlightenment, the first 4 factors are the base for mindfulness in Buddhist meditation.
Then he teaches 8 means to put the mindfulness to great use. What’s the use of a great fast car if you just keep it parked in a locked garage? Having mindfulness itself makes you happy. Try driving it around. The Buddha teaches 8 uses your mindfulness can be put on to.
The next 5 factors are to experience and perceive ones Mind. This experience of “The five faculties of Mind” leads to a unique understanding of your “Self”. The nonsense of “No self” taught in Buddhism start to make sense when you have an idea of the mind, the non physical function.
Up to this point ,17 of the Buddha’s 37 enlightenment factors are covered. That’s 4 bases of mindfulness + 8 uses for mindfulness + 5 faculties of mind.
We can be mindful, what is mind?
Mindfulness, it’s obviously an exercise with the Mind. Meditation is something we do with the mind. What really is Mind? And what are we doing to it in meditation?
Some describe the mind as Consciousness. Some try to explain mind as
Consciousness and sub-Consciousness. When it comes to a matter like Mind, words can be deceiving. Words are generally for things that we have come to know before.
When somebody says mind is Consciousness we are naturally inclined to feel that we know what consciousness or mind really is. In reality, the word consciousness leaves a very vague impression in our comprehension as it relate to the entity we call Mind. Just do a quick reflection and see how much you know of the Mind. Don’t be surprised how vague the norm is.
To develop mindfulness along the lines of a Buddha, let’s make an effort to understand the mind as taught by a Buddha. Many general philosophical ideas of mind explains it as a process that helps in reasoning, thinking, making decisions and judgments and what start an intention.
Buddha too teaches it as a process rather than an object. He goes much further with his characteristic simplicity. His explanations of Mind dose not further complicate our understanding of it. His explanation of Mind helps us perceive the non-matter entity in pristine clarity instead of a vague idea or imagination we may have now.
Three specific characteristics of mind as taught by the Buddha can ignite an understanding of ourselves and the mind like never before.
Mind, a process of five independently functioning attributes.
The Buddhist meditation is referred to as sathi-patthana, a term in Pali language as in recorded Buddhism. Sathi-patthana means awareness (Sathi) + focused (Patthana). Focused Awareness.
The Buddha explains the mind as having five independently functioning attributes or forces. Gravity can be observed by what it does. The non physical attributes of mind can be seen from what they do. The physical living body has five faculties – Tong for taste, Nose for smell, Ears for hearing, Eyes for sight and Skin to feel the touch sensations. These faculties have nothing in common. The spectrum and nature of Sight is entirely different from the spectrum of hearing. All are a unique spectrum working in perfect coordination.
Similarly the Buddha teaches the Mind has five independent unique “faculties”. This five can be experienced and perceived for a deeper realization of the non physical process we call the mind.
This is the mind’s attribute that makes Decisions. How many decisions dose your mind make? Just Two. Yes or No. This is what the “Will” dose. If you care to notice this happens every now and then in your daily routine. Once the decision is made another faculty of mind takes over. Some such Yes or No decisions are much stronger and intense than the average yes or no decisions. Such strong Yes or No decisions can be experienced as our “Will Power”.
The Pali term for Will is “Shradha” and it’s commonly translated to English as Faith. One needs Faith, a liking and perceive something as “worth doing” to make the Will or a decision on anything. Faith is not a religious norm when explaining the mind. Faith or perceiving as really worth is the raw material for Will. If you perceive your efforts to be mindful as really worth it you have faith in the practice thus makes a strong Will. How strong the faith decides how dedicated your Mind’s effort.
– This is the attribute of mind that we focus to breath or an object to be Mindful. Awareness is brought about through an action. The action is Attention. It’s a continuous act of mind unless one is asleep. It’s like a cctv working 24×7. The only source of input to the mind. The awareness feeds data to another faculty of the mind. With “Desire” as the power source, awareness helps an enormousness amount of calculations using the memories stored in the brain.
The Attention is grasped by the most intense sensual input or memories in the brain that are made by sensual inputs. At any given time, when the sensual inputs are less intense than the memories, we experience endless thoughts arising throughout the day.
When thoughts arise they accompany emotions. The Will recognize these emotions and a Yes or No decision is made by Will to start Thinking. These are split second events. Thinking consumes energy as the Will directs physical energy toward thinking.
In meditation you would restrain the process of thinking and “observe” the process of arising Thoughts. The process of thinking outlast all other acts initiated by the Will. All that energy is spared during mediation as your process of thinking is overwhelmed by a process of Observation by attention that makes awareness. Thus meditation bring about restfulness.
When you pay attention to something, Knowing or Wisdom of that matter is created and sustained in the mind as a faculty. When attention is grasped by memories and their emotions, all sort of abstract thinking happens. Riding a flying Car, smashing someone to pieces, averting all sort of dangers, getting many things done to your liking.These silly and useless thinking and mental formations are a major part of unmindful mind. It makes you tired. These abstract thinking can aggravate anger, fancy and lust. Harmful and pretty cheap stuff, if you really examine.
One of the greatest uses of mindfulness is that you are able to direct the faculty of Attention or awareness to contemplate. Contemplation is not an abstract thinking. It involves the faculty of Wisdom in the mind. We use contemplation to solve our daily issues, how to get somewhere faster, how to carry out our office work better. We can use the contemplation to investigate the realities declared by the Buddha. We can use contemplation to eliminate anger and burning desires. Buddha equals Awareness to the eye of the mind. Awareness or the faculty of attention is the only source of Input to the mind.
– This is the stamina of mind. It keeps numerous processes alive which are initiated by the Will. Mind implements multiple Yes or No decisions at any given moment thanks to this stamina. You may be going to work, a Yes by the mind to earn and at the same time you may be carrying an umbrella with you, a No by the mind to getting wet.
In meditation, the stamina to keep the focus alive for prolonged periods is called Absorption.
– This is the attribute which create nature of “Knowing” and rationale is the result of the faculty of Wisdom. It uses all the Emotions associated with memories and data in the brain to arrive at rationale. Worth, Not worth, Good, Bad etc.
The mind is constantly fueled by Desire. Desire has negative and positive aspect which we perceive as Like and Dislike. You can perceive clearly that a like or a dislike is behind every Yes or No decision by the mind.
Our usual practice is to strive for what we like and repel what we dislike. This brings about happiness as we know. The Buddha helps us perceive there is something else that would bring about happiness. Non-engagement of mind. This is the calm you experience during meditation.
The non engaging mind is a spring of happiness. It simply does not need like or dislike.
Physical body exist in a physical environment, Mind has an environment to exist
The environment of the mind is described in Pali as “The Karma” or “Bhava” meaning Intentions. What are intentions?. I intend to go to work tomorrow, I intend to meet someone?, I intend to buy something?. This is our perception of intentions. Buddha teaches these mental commitments we feel as intentions are just secondary actions of some deeper bindings of the mind. Buddha refers to these surface actions as just mental activity or formations (sankhara). These actions we perceive as intentions has a starting point and it ends upon accomplishing the commitment.
With a bit of mindfulness, make an effort to identify some different intentions or binding commitments in you. They don’t have a starting point nor does end during your lifetime.
- You have an intention to be alive,
- You have an intention to prevent death at all times,
- You have an intention to be in good health,
- You have an intention to be young and strong,
- You have an intention to protect loved ones and be with them
- You have an intention to satisfy your senses .
These intentions don’t have a beginning or an end. These intentions are the working environment of the mind or the non physical process of the five attributes.
Your strong intention to go to work or make a living is a surface action compiled by the brain. The fueling intention behind going to work or making a living is the intention – To satisfy your senses or simply get what you like. Making a living started at one point and will end at one point in time. The environmental factor of mind, “Satisfy your senses” will not end neither it started at a particular point in your life’s time.
The mind is the source of power to the Brain. A dog may not go to work as it’s brain does not design such improvised action. But it will carry out actions to get what its senses like.
Intentions or the environment of mind creates sorrow, as Buddha perceived in his mindfulness. Your intention to live, and prevent death creates sorrow as death is not preventable. Your intention to be in good health and young and strong will create sorrow as the force of life and it’s supporting system continuously degenerate. You cannot prevent departure of loved ones. You can not satisfy your senses as senses become unsatisfied with Urge all the time. This is a reality to grasp with mindfulness.
Our general perception is we can be happy and time to time sorrow is created. Mindfulness can reveal that our existence is based on Sorrow as we can not change the minds environment. Time to time happiness is created with a great struggle. When happiness prevail grasp the impermanent state of that happiness. It always reruns to Sorrow.
So the great Buddha declares Sorrow as part of his 4 noble truths to perceive by mindfulness.
(Pali – Chethanaahung bhikkawe kammang wadaami) (Kammang keththang, vinyaanang beejang).
The Buddha equals the environment of these intentions that has no beginning nor an end to a Field where Mind makes life. The mind or Vinyaana is the seed fallen on the field of intentions to make “life”. Like biology identifies physical environmental factors to the formation of life, Buddha identifies with his mindfulness the environment needed for the mind to make life. The minds environment of intentions is not unique to a “Self” or you. It is the common atmosphere of mind for all beings. Like planet earth is the base for physical environment for all beings these environmental intentions are the non physical base for all living beings.
The environment of mind is as old as the time and will last for all time. The non physical process of mind is as old as the time and will continue for all time as perceived by Buddha’s mindfulness. We have an invitation to acquire such mindfulness.
“Life” that is created by mind is time based. You and I are time based. The physical environment is time based. The great concept of impermanence , only your mindfulness can grasp – I am, My “Life” is in transit or an impermanent state in an environment and process of mind that never ends. A life time of 100 years is a split second in the minds history.
Do I have any control of the mind’s process or it’s environment. As it is, there is absolute no control. I cannot make it happen the way I want. The most prominent feature of a Self is the Control it has over things it encounter. When no control, no self. The great concept of anaathma or No Self.
Mind is what makes life.
(Vinyaana pachchayaa naama-roopa – the verse in Pali). This description is found in his great discourse of Cause and Effect, the dependent origination as translated to English. Myself, another person , all living beings are made of Mind or consciousness and a physical body. This is different to the general understanding that all living beings have consciousness or a mind. Buddha’s version is – Consciousness or Mind makes a life. It creates Life. The process of the five faculties create life.
For a Biologist when a sperm enters the egg it is fertilized and life begins for beings conceived in a womb. Buddha says there is a third factor which can be seen through mindfulness perfected. The non physical process or a Mind has to merge with the physical matter of sperm and egg in the womb to create Life.
The combined state of Mind (Naama meaning Non Matter in Pali) and
Matter (roopa in Pali) is simply “Life” (naama-roopa) . Do some additional reading about Life as explained in Biology and general philosophy. It’s not a simple word.
The Mechanism of Self
Here is something unfamiliar and uncomfortable to accept.
You look different from another person or any living being. You may have different behavior and qualities like patience, kindness, IQ etc from another person. Yet the unique condition we call “Life” is same in you and any other person or living being. The non physical process of the five attributes which we call the Mind is the same in you and any other person or any living being.
Same Yes-No decisions by the Will based on like and dislike, Same physical energy direction , Same process of attention that creates awareness, Same stamina of mind that continues multiple yes-no decisions, and same process of rationale makes you or life in you, makes another being, another person, another animal.
The difference between you and another person or any other living being is made by the Brain, the most prominent part in the physical system. Clever, Dumb, Kind, rude, good, bad….How your brain is trained to categorize “Like” and “Dislike” compared to another, makes the differences between you and that person.
If your brain recognize being rude and nasty as something to “Like”, you would bully others and be nasty to them. If your brain recognize being rude and nasty as “dislike” you would not bully others and be nasty to them.
How can a brain recognize being rude as “Like” while another brain recognize it as “dislike”. Buddha teaches two reasons.
Yet the non physical process of mind continues and immediately begins to form another “Life” as Buddha see with his mindfulness. Thus a new being is created with the same mind that is working in you at present.
Mind does not recognize the data in our brains. It recognize the attributes and emotions like kindness, anger, amusement, Joy, Sadness etc through it’s faculty, The Wisdom or Knowing. The trend or pattern of the non physical process for these emotions continues.
If one train the mind’s process to “Like” good behavior it will continue the trend in the minds next manifestation as a being. Thus beings are born with some inherent qualities
It is said we too can develop mindfulness to perceive this phenomena. This is the development to grasp reality beyond human knowledge of science.
The Buddha says, the present “you” is one of the instances of life created by the never ending non physical process of the mind. For the time being you can call it “My” mind.
Apart from the physique, your Self is made of
- What you like, dislike
- What you Know, don’t know,
- What you have, don’t have,
- What you can, cannot.
Perceive in your mindfulness that there is no “You” beyond these Data in your brain. These data makes a difference between you and another person. With death all such data ends along with the brain that hold them. Yet your non physical process continues to make a life. Thus “No real Self” as taught by the Buddha. Yourself which now exist is highly impermanent Data which produce emotions. The non physical mind only reacts with emotions. It does not really feel any data in our Brains. For the Will to make a decision it only need like and dislike, it does not care what the data is. The data could be a flower, sex or great food. The mind’s faculty of effort will use the data of what you know to get things done as per Will. Data is communicated via the faculty of Attention.
Current you is a creation of a mind which is in existence as long as the time. Millions and Billions of years way beyond the known universe and still counting with no end. If this is reality, what a mess we make with such short lived Data. Grasp the impermanence.
Use your mindfulness to perceive the concepts of Life and Mind – Relax and settle in your preferred posture. Just pay attention to your breath as usual. Let the calm arise and prevail. Inquire and reflect on these facts.
- The Calcium in your bones and teeth are the same Calcium that makes an egg shell.
- The blood that runs in your body contains 92% water. That water is same as the water that runs in a river or the water running in the household pipe lines.
- All the physical elements in your body can be found elsewhere in the environment, Lifeless. They are just matter when in the environment.
- The same matter in the environment is within you yet they are part of a Life. The Unique state of Life is made of the same lifeless matter in the environment.
- Mind, a non physical process creates life force, it makes you.
An outline of Buddha’s practice for mindfulness
You may already be a regular user of the practice, may be not, let’s take a look at the Buddha’s guidelines.
- One could purify or get rid of negative attributes like Anger, Greed
- One could overcome grieving and weeping (Depression)
- One could stay undisturbed by physical and mental discomforts
- One could gain psychic abilities to see beyond human sciences and visible nature.
- One could liberate the mind from all engagements and break the cycle of mind’s creation of further “life” which ultimately lead to death, aging, sickness and deprivations. Attain a state we vaguely know as “Bliss” or Nirvana in Pali.
- One could focus and develop attention and awareness to the physical body and it’s functions (Kaayaanu-passanaawa – in pali)
- One could focus and develop attention and awareness to the arising of feeling, reactions of mind and body, and simply investigate the nature of feelings (vedanaanu-passanaawa – in pali)
- One could focus and develop attention and awareness to the state of mind in each continuing moment.When there is arising of aversion,craving in the mind, cessation of aversion, craving in the mind, The nature of tranquility of mind, The nature of mind when attention is focuses and when attention is not focused, (Chittanu-passanaawa – in pali)
- One could focus and develop attention and awareness to the numerous emotional states encountered by the mind. How and why craving started and settled in your mind, How and why aversion started and settled in your mind, How and why lethargy started and settled in your mind, How and why intense abstract thinking started and settled in your mind, How and why inquisitiveness started and settled in your mind.
(Aathaapi – Pali) – Contain the powerful outburst of Anger and Craving as it happens.The pali word translates to – Burn.
(Sampajanyo – pali) – To be Mindful and observing and contemplative so that realizations can be made.
(Sathimaa) – Achieve focused attention during all the time you are awake which will help above Aathaapi and Sampajanyo to materialize.
(Vineyya loke abhidya domanassannang – Pali) – Discipline the mind from clinging to “Likes” with exhilaration and rejecting the “Dislikes” with discontentment.Thus bring about the beginning of Non-engagement of mind.
Such firmly established non engaging mindfulness is now suited to fine tune to see beyond human perceptions. Such mindfulness is now fertile ground to perceive a whole new science, says the Buddha.
Long hours of concentration does not mean Development
Instead of long and prolonged times of pure concentrations, his mindfulness require a way of life to develop and for many this would be a life changing path. You can engage ,and experience a level of calm and peace still keeping your usual lifestyle. Such calm and peace would break when encountered with the raging emotions. Yet such calm and peace may give you a glimpse of “what it’s like to be unshakable” and further encourage more and more engagement in the practice. That is great.
The more frequent you experience the calm and peace, the more eager you will be to get immersed in it for good and greater depth. This will spark the commitment to the change in lifestyle.
So what’s the life style that is essential for the development of mindfulness? The Buddha lays out 6 specific requirements
Many of us consider being busy is efficient and necessary. Such people often sleep or become lethargic when there are no Tasks around. They feel utterly bored. The brain has enough data for the mind to create back to back tasks that never cease. We create an enormous amount of tasks just by being too specific (ie – I want a hot chocolate filled just above half, hot as lava and not too sweet, whenever I sit down to read) and trying to decorate our ego.(i.e – I want to do it like no one has done before). Simplicity of nature, humbleness can remedy this.
Buddha adores the simple one with little work in his hands for his mind is fertile ground to grow the seed of wisdom.
Words are one of the three outputs of the mind along with physical actions and mental intentions. Most of us have a natural tendency to talk much more than we should and need all the time or when an opportunity arises for it. For mindfulness, Silence is like water to a growing plant. Speaking is an expression and it naturally weakens observation, the base of mindfulness.
When you are a sleep you are not aware. Sleep is a powerful anti-awareness substance. Being mindful is not a boring engagement. Being mindful as taught by the Buddha is a lot of work. It involves observing, analyzing, inquiring, cultivating. Never a dull moment. One can and one should train to reduce sleep drastically. For one thing it will spare you valuable time to be mindful. What the body expect from sleep is rest. Being mindful one can provide this in abundance. Secondly you would reduce anti-mindful substance in you.
When one is alone, an untrained mind perceives it like being lonely or bored. So the mind always look for company. Solitude is an absolute essential for mindfulness to grow. Being mindful, one is never bored. Solitude does not essentially mean getting to a remote place. You can be in solitude in the middle of a busy street. When you contain the intense inquisitiveness of the mind Solitude begins to grow. To start training in solitude, a remote place can be immensely helpful. If not just get used to a priceless habit. Not to investigate the sights, sounds and bodily sensations. When you encounter them you will anyway know what they are. Just stop at that. If you just see a man walking in front of you may know him or maybe not. Don’t investigate who dose he look like or walk like?, Dose he look friendly, where could he be from?. When such unnecessary inquisitiveness of mind stops, solitude begins.
Despite the intense bitterness of Beer we acquire a taste for it. Same with solitude. When you acquire a taste for it, it becomes a favorite pastime.
The craving for favored sights and sounds, sex and simply any excitements produce a great deal of hype in the mind. The untrained mind experience Pleasures as happiness. A pleasure is an intense feeling ranked as “Like” by the brain. It’s a brain work. Some times you Like it some times you dont. That’s the nature of pleasure.
Examine with mindfulness that – When a pleasure is satisfied, meaning it is not present any longer, one feels happiness. Pleasure is not happiness. They don’t exist together. Pleasure is felt intensely and happiness is felt gently. Unfortunately the mind’s nature is to grasp the more intense object.
Ridding yourself of pleasures does not mean you will be unhappy. Just the opposite is true. It’s a reality to grasp. Only the brave will see when you let go off the dead rope of pleasure there is a solid hold in another. You will be happy only when the pleasure is satisfied and no more present . Kind of like, when you smoke you have pleasure when you quit you have happiness.
Sexuality is an intense mechanism of pleasure. The urge creates hyper activeness of mind and body just to get rid of the urge. The moment the urge disappears, extreme happiness. In the process pleasure is grasped by the brain and memories created that makes an understanding – having sex made me happy. Buddha equals it to a hungry dog relentlessly licking a blood stained bone never getting its stomach filled. Its worth considering another option after all the licking, which actually produce no taste to the tong. Tong is meant to grasp taste.
Food is a pleasure that is also a bare necessity. Thus even if one discipline oneself from pleasures he or she might fall for the necessity of food and immerse in it’s pleasure. If one want to maintain an attractive physique he or she will sacrifice the pleasure of food immensely. Likewise find out what is the minimum amount of food that will keep you going at your required phase of life efficiently. The Buddha advised the monks who followed his practice of mindfulness to completely refrain from eating after noon.
In addition to these six, he strictly advises wholesome conduct of life to develop mindfulness. Five guidelines to this -
- Refrain from killing a life, for any life is a mind and a body with identical functions as yours.
- Refrain from stealing, for improvising hides the truth and truth is what you plan to grasp being mindful.
- Refrain from adultery or better still practice abstinence for it will make you truly happy
- Refrain from lying, harsh words, useless speech, spreading disharmony among people by speech for it will make you great rest and peace of mind
- Refrain from Alcohol as it alters your awareness. Refrain from liking it as it would create a formidable craving for it.
Such lifestyle is difficult to culture. It is an up hill task. Its a swim up stream.It is the most essential part to develop mindfulness. Development of mindfulness is not a matter of how long you can sit without moving or how long you can concentrate.
The basics, that is all there to it
Buddha’s practice of mindfulness only has Basics. It does not get complicated at any level. Just simple and straightforward. This does not mean it can be developed with ease and complacency. Buddha simply explains development of the mindfulness is an upstream swim. Requires vigor, and great commitment.
The basics as he lays it for the practitioner start with the focus of awareness of the body, to be precise breath. We generally perceive the body as head, neck , chest, upper and lower abdomen and limbs. Still further we can perceive brain, heart, lung, liver, stomach etc through the “Knowledge” we have acquired as we have never seen our own internal organs before.
In mindfulness a totally different aspect of body is observed. In steps elaborated later in the chapter, the body is observed as Energy sustained in a continuous stream and a combination of three functions. The functions that make the whole body is Touch sensation, Sight and Hearing. The touch sensation includes touch as well as taste and smell as they occur with physical contact.
The common perception we have of head, neck , chest, upper and lower abdomen and limbs and brain, heart, lung, liver, stomach etc are felt as “Unique” to us. They make us different from another person or a being. Such perceptions make the unique identity of us and helps create the ego. Such perceptions of the body creates physical aspect of the Self that differs me from others.
As the perception grows that the body is continuous energy, sight, hearing and touch sensations, it unfolds a reality. Across the unique state of “Life” all beings are same, just like me. Energy and functions. This is the body that Life creates. Energy and functions. I am just one instance of Life. Once firmly established in the body , the mindfulness can explore the emotions that works the mind.
When you look through a grocery bill or a bank statement, you simply pay attention to each line to grasp the overall picture. Paying attention means Inquire, examine or observe. Attention is one of the faculties of mind. The process of attention, inquire, examine or observe finds Data. What data?. Sensual inputs and memories and associated emotions created by sensual inputs.
Paying attention is what you do in meditation. This creates mindfulness. The objects you pay attention to is few and controlled. Eventually a large, strong reserve of Mindfulness is spared or accumulated in you. This itself makes you extremely happy and relaxed. Buddha teaches guidelines to spend this reserve of accumulated strength of mindfulness.
The Energy and functions of the body is observed using Mind’s Attention. Just pay attention as per Buddha’s guidelines and it creates a stable state of Knowing. Paying attention purposefully, persistently within the objects is the act of meditation. Keep remembering the act – pay attention – throughout, every now and then.
The Buddha explains in a sermon that the mindfulness should be developed like you walk across the town holding a large bowl of oil filled to the very top of it. The slightest loss of attention to the top rim of the bowl will cause a spill. Likewise the ultimate purpose is to train to walk across the town, meaning go about places and do all your work, everywhere, all the time, with your focused attention.
Whatever you do , where ever you go, whoever you are with the breath is the same except for it’s varying length or intensity. Breath is something you can keep focus all the time. It’s your anchor of awareness. Just try paying attention to breath while driving, reading, walking.
The steps are simple but does not mean easy. One should essentially take ample time, weeks, months or even years to progress through. How much you enjoy the practice is an indication of progress than how far you’ve gone in the steps.
If you are someone engaged in a typical family – working lifestyle some how make at least half an hour in the morning and night for the practice. Ideally one hour. Get involved in retreats as time permits. As your liking to the practice grows, naturally the time invested in it will increase.
The regular half an hour or one hour of practice of seated session will help take the mindfulness to the daily life. Practice simply does not end in half an hour or one hour. Eventually you will train to be focused, every step you take. It takes time and effort to light a campfire in a remote wilderness. Once fired you could take light from it as you walk around the wilderness in the dark. The seated session is lighting the campfire.
The steps -
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place to start with. You may close the eyes in the beginning for easier focus of the attention.
- Start paying attention to the inhale and exhale as it happens without improvising it. Take time to engross in it. Try to leave out the current perception of body as head, neck etc or brain, heart etc.
- Next, purposefully keep the attention to the full length of the exhale and full length of the inhale. some exhales and inhales are short some are long. Do not bother to find the length of breath. Make sure to keep the focus of attention to the full cycle of inhale and exhale continuously. Where exhale ends inhale begins, when inhale ends exhale begins. This way attention can be trained to retain unbroken.
- Next, shift attention to the energy expended by the body for breathing . Usually when one initially focus the awareness on breath, what can be felt prominently is the “touch” sensation of the breath along the respiratory passage. When you shift your focus to the energy, the breath immediately smooth out to give what is generally known as “beautiful breath” by practitioners. Its a very important shift. Just pay attention to the energy which expands the rib cage and diaphragm to inhale and pay attention to the energy that makes the rib cage and diaphragm contract. Just try to identify the energy. When the shift is completely on energy you will hardly feel any touch sensations of breath. It’s a beautiful experience by itself.
Further identify the energy the body expend to keep the back straight. Energy is needed to make three postures of the body. Such energy for sitting, walking and standing can be identified with attention when you later change posture.
Mindfully feel that the physical “Energy” is a result of the force of life, and life is made with Mind which has energy already built into it as a faculty. Any “Effort” is Directed energy, a result of an intention made by the Will.
- Next, Keeping prominent attention to energy expended to breathing and making the posture, expand your attention to touch sensations of the body. Mindfully feel your bodily sensations. Pay attention to sensations throughout the body without emphasizing any sensation in particular. Try to be indifferent as much as possible. Feel the pressure at points where the body touches the ground, scratching, pains etc.
Your attention is now on Energy expended for breathing and to make the posture + touch sensations of the body. Just notice the reactions of mind to uncomfortable sensations as pain, scratching.
- Next, Keeping prominent attention to energy expended to breathing and to make the posture , expand your attention to sounds you can hear in addition to the bodily sensations. Don’t investigate what they are. Just let them be heard and gone. No curiosity. It could be a sound of a bird, flowing of water, a police siren, a motor vehicle, people talking. Leave out the judgment of it. Pretty, Ugly, pleasant, unpleasant. Just leave them off and let the sound be heard. Leave out the investigation of it. What caused it, why so loud, Why now..?
Your attention is now on Energy expended for breathing and to make the posture + bodily sensations + sounds you can hear. Pay attention, at times simultaneously to all and at times individually to hearing and touch and energy of breath. Shuffle the attention as you feel right yet keep the energy of breathing prominent.
- Next, Keeping prominent attention to energy expended to breath, expand your attention to sights you can see in addition to sounds and bodily sensations. When your eyes are closed, notice with your attention that shades of darkness can be “seen”. You could half open your eyes at times. As you practice for some time train to keep the eyes wide open. Don’t investigate what they are. Just let them be seen. No curiosity. No judgment.
Your attention is now on Energy expended for breathing and posture , bodily sensations, sounds you can hear and sights you can see. At times simultaneously and at times individually to hearing and touch and sight. Shuffling it as you feel right yet keeping the energy of breathing prominent
At this stage the attention is expanded to your full physical self. With prominent attention the energy expended to breathing, you can retain attention to all three sensations, sounds and sights simultaneously at times. You may pay attention to one or two of the three at times. Keep changing between the three but never let attention be lost to thinking, expression or investigation. Keep the attention firmly fixed to the physical self in complete. Prominence of attention is energy expended for breathing, everything else is in the background.
The Pali reference to this is “Sabba kaaya patisanwedi assa sissaamithi sikkhathi”, just in case if you are used to refer to Pali instructions.
- Next, start walking slowly keeping the attention on Breath and all three or shuffling it around between the three purposefully. In addition to the energy expended for breathing now a clear physical energy can be felt. The energy for bodies movements. Initially train to walk slowly in a fixed path.
Once trained you can maintain this while you walk to work, during most of the time at work, when coming back. Whenever you are silent. It’s just like you are walking across the town carrying a large bowl full of oil filled to the very top.
- Next, with mindfulness observe that the body is breathing to satisfy a strong craving. A craving for oxygen. You don’t breath purposefully but the craving is satisfied by the force of Life. Just observe the Satisfaction of each breath. Each time the body satisfy the craving for air, mind experience Happiness. Like little drops of water can make a bucketful overnight, little droplets of happiness in each breath can leave a strong impression of “What it’s like to be satisfied”
Grasp the nature and value of happiness of being satisfied. When you are satisfied you don’t engage in anything else. Your mind is non engaging.
Thoughts, Thinking and Body pains in Meditation
You may catch yourself “Thinking” on all sort of matters while meditating. Slowly bring yourself back to the focus of the breath. Find the line between Thoughts and Thinking. Thoughts just happen. They are more like a part of mind’s autonomic actions. Time to time attention is grasped by memories which contain emotions. Attention creates awareness and when grasped by a memory, awareness of that becomes prominent. Awareness gets animated by the emotion which is part of the memory and produces a thought – a short sentence in mind.
Just have focus to know a thought just arose. Thoughts spark thinking. Avoid thinking as it is a willful act. It will disturb observation.
Mind is usually intensely engrossed in Expression and Curiosity. It is the strong like you have for Expression and Curiosity that make you thinking on all sort of realistic and unrealistic matters.
Whenever you find yourself drifted to thinking, come back to breath and very leisurely recall what made you thinking. Just identify, was it a matter of Curiosity or a matter of Expression?, and leave it behind. Just reestablish yourself in the energy of breath.
You don’t have to make your practice a competition with body pains. When seated for some time the body will start aching. You don’t have to resist it to stay unmoved. However, instead of just reacting to every pain, expand attention to grasp the nature of pain in the body. As the pain increases see in your focus to perceive that at one point a Will is made in a split second to change the body’s position .Just as the Will is made The Effort follows to direct energy in the body toward accomplishing it. If you were able to perceive this you were able to see your mind. Thinking is hardly the only job of mind.
Throughout the day your mind makes physical positions of the body. Just 4 positions. Seated, standing, walking and reclining. These positions are made by the mind to accomplish an intention.
The 8 uses of Mindfulness
Mindfulness itself give enormous relief and happiness to the beholder. The Buddha directs us to use the mindfulness to some real good ends.
In the 37 enlightenment factors they are listed as the 4 noble efforts and the 4 supernatural accomplishments. Supernatural means simply opposite to the natural flow of mind.
To implement these 8 tasks well, You need to develop and strengthen some “Power Words” of your own to communicate with your mind. Any language like English is processed in the brain and it has unique words, short sentences that you use to communicate with the underlying minds’ process. Some may use a word like “wow” to communicate with mind to initiate an action “Get it at any cost”. A word like “damn it” may initiate the action – “Stop, get away fast”. The power words of your own come in quite handy in manipulation.
This can be simplified to say, Use your mindfulness to Contemplate, Cultivate, Evaluate and Eradicate.
Contemplate – Contemplate to Understand in depth. Everything you encounter in the context of how and why. How and Why I felt Anger, How and Why I felt hungry – Physical need, seeing a favorite food, just remembering good food etc. Very ordinary events in life can shed a lot of light with regard to the workings of the mind when contemplated.
Contemplate to grow. Mindfulness is needed to cultivate and make abundant valuable habits. Kindness, generosity, resistance, patience. Mindfully perceive life’s encounters where these can be cultivated and developed. Mindfully be patient when patient runs out. mindfully learn to bear pains and discomforts, cultivate generosity mindfully rather than just giving, Mindfully learn to be humble when ego runs high. Mindfully learn to be simple when society demands sophistication. Mindfully cultivate the inclination to happiness rather than pleasure. Buddha calls it Nekkhamma. The exodus from bonds of pleasure.
Contemplate to find. In the middle of a raging anger or lustful drive you may not be able to evaluate anything. During such uprising of emotions you could try to practice Aathaapi or to Contain the outburst by being mindful. That itself is a horrendous task but very achievable .Just as the outburst ease Reflect and perceive How and Why? and What it gave you. Use mindfulness to evaluate things happened in the past. Evaluate to find how emotions made a puppet of you. This evaluation will give rise to “determination”, a preset, ready to use course of action stored in the brain. Constant evaluation will make the preset course of action stronger against formidable emotions.
Contemplate to eradicate. If rage came over you in response to some insulting remarks or resentful action by another person, the first impression that may occur to you as the reason is the insulting remarks or the resentful act of the person. Cling on to your mindfulness and inquire further,
- Did I say or do anything to make that person uncomfortable. Harsh word, subtle remark,facial expression, ignore the person without any remarks, look at the person with disgust…anything at all
- Could anyone else or a thing have made that person uncomfortable?.
Now contemplate in line with Buddha’s guidelines. “Anger is a suffering to the beholder. It dose not arise due to anyone or anything else. It arise due to the person’s own craving or strong liking or desire”
Perceive in mindfulness that you have a strong liking for appreciation and praise. This is what caused the anger at insulting remarks or the resentful act. Nothing else. Perceive this again and again.
Further contemplate that when you are confronted with strong dislike and enraged in Anger, your natural reaction is to let it burst out. It’s not a planned action neither you have much control over it. You burst out because your are in pain and severe discomfort. If you burst out how can anyone else not burst out?
If a friend cry or weep in pain or discomfort would you not listen with kindness in your heart?. Contemplate and perceive at the time of resentful action of someone else – This person is in pain and scream in anger or does things in Anger. The person is in severe pain. Should I not listen it out with kindness? Should I not feel sorry for the person. Should I not let him or her burst it out?.
Eradicate anger. Use mindfulness to perceive nature of Lust, jealousy, greed. Contemplate to eradicate.
This is taking the bull by the horn. You would have accomplished a supernatural task once getting a hang of this. This involves manipulation of Like and Dislike, Effort, Motion of mind, Investigations of mind.
Remember the environment of mind, the intentions. Intention to be alive, intention to prevent death at all times, intention to be in good health, intention to be young and strong, intention to satisfy your senses .The environment itself is highly flammable. It’s sufficient for the process of mind to spark life. Once life emerge along with it’s sensing physical faculties, further active ingredient is added. Desire.
A being is born with the intention of being alive. Desires of sensual inputs add more reasons to live. It becomes a hyper action as the being progress. All environmental intentions become hyper active within the being in this manner.
Recall that the non engaging mind is a spring of happiness as you experienced in the practice of mindfulness. Relive the moment as much as possible to experience this happiness of non engaging mind.
To break this state of hyper activity of mind The Buddha devises a phenomenal tactic. Desire is the cause of hyper activity . Desire could be positive, what we feel as Like or Desire could be negative, what we feel as Dislike.
To the untrained mind, what cause the dislike is more significant.With mindfulness, examine and experience the strong nature of “Dislike” generated with an actual sensual input. Be totally mindful of this “dislike” instead of the cause of it.
Mindfully get to know that the dislike arising from having to eat distasteful food is same as dislike arising from someone slandering you or a person who you love. Intensity may vary. Find out that dislike is an internal factor. You cannot fix arising of dislike by controlling external factors.
Mindfully reaffirm to yourself – Dislike is the cause of Anger and all the disgusting nature associated with Anger. Still feeling the dislike of an event strongly, communicate with your mind with mindfulness and affirm to yourself – I don’t have to bear the brunt of dislike, I can do without this dislike. Make a mindful effort to eradicate dislike instead of what caused it. Simply reaffirm to your mind – “I now like it” or “It’s OK” to the dislike. This will dissolve the dislike with constant engagement.
You need to develop some “Power Words” of your own to communicate with your mind. When you recall a dedicated word of your own like “It’s OK”, the mind’s faculty of Wisdom has a deeper and more illustrated perception of a related action like – let go of it, Now.
If you are throwing away a useless coin, you cannot keep one side of it with you. So do the same thing mindfully for the positive desire – Like. When experiencing strong events of Like,reaffirm to yourself with mindfulness “Like cannot be sustained as I want”.
In the manner that an unfaithful partner let you high and dry, the “like” will put you high and leave you dry in a moment. This is the true nature of all Likes. They are impermanent. They require a lifetime of an effort to sustain them even for short times. Simply reaffirm to your mind – I now don’t like this like. This will dissolve the like.
May be surprising, but this way the mind can be trained to be non engaging and to be a spring of happiness. Being satisfied is the only source of happiness.
Effort (viriya in pali) is an attribute of mind which is a result of the Will, another attribute of mind. Mindfully we can restrain the effort.
Investigate what emotions are in your mindfulness. What seem to cause the emotions to arise?. One is Like or Dislike and another is Intention to have or repel. This seems to produce an emotion. When the “like” and the “intention to have it” exist and the external circumstances are favorable for it to materialize, an emotion of Joy, Excitement is produced. When the external circumstances are not favorable, sadness, fear is produced.
We cannot restrain desire or like and Dislike. We can skillfully manipulate it. Mindfully identify the Urge created by emotions. Urge is a burst of energy produced by brain functions. The urge can be restrained before the mind’s Will is made. Mindfully experience the severe discomfort of the Urge. Mindfulness will perceive that the Urge is not something that will bring happiness. Brain’s information and an untrained mind will only make effort to manipulate external circumstances to get rid of the urge. With mindfulness you can restrain the urge. With persistent restraint, the urge will not disturb the happiness established with mindfulness.
Put your mindfulness to restrain the Urge to have, the urge to consume, the urge to sleep, the urge to express, the urge to know or Investigate many useless things. It will bring about great rest and happiness.
In Pali, Vinyaana is referred to as the Mind or consciousness and Chitta is referred to as the Working state of the mind.
Keep the mindfulness observing the state of working of the five faculties. Catch yourself doing something. Mindfully trace back to find out when or what exactly is your Will behind it. You may catch yourself driving. With mindfulness you may observe that you are driving, you are going to see a friend. Wanting to see a loved one may be your Will and intention. To fulfill a social obligation may be your intention.
Find the true Will and recall how effort came about for your actions. You may have made the Will quite some time back. Observe how long the stamina of mind kept that Will alive despite not being in the perceptions of the brain. Observe your rationale, the wisdom of the act. Observe how Attention is made and sustained. Observe how information in the brain is recalled by attention and animated by desire. A constant process never seen due to loss of focused attention to “Like” and “Dislike”. This observation itself is a worthy part of the mindful manipulation.
Still further you can train the process of mind to make a Will based on a worthy attribute like kindness instead of the standard environmental intention like wanting to be with loved ones. You train to make Wills entirely based on Love and Kindness, Generosity. Love and Kindness trained to be a cause to make a Will, can create an environment unsuitable for Anger.
Mindfully observe how investigative your mind gets while walking on the street. What and where a sound come from, why this person here, why this cold, can it not be a bit less, Why is that bin not closed?. Isn’t this front yard nice, Isn’t that not kept right at all…There is a nature of Mind which is “Wants to know”.
This inquisitive nature creates “Opinions” and “Measures”. These opinions and measures are associated with very strong likes and dislikes. They benefit no one. Just see, an opinion like “that garden is not kept right”. It can only create nothing but discomfort to the beholder. An opinion like “that person is great” can hurt you severely when another person says “That person is wicked”. It will nothing but create Anger. That is a shipload of muck you can certainly do without.
Mindfully, learn to keep the mind from making opinions and measures as you encounter life. Train indifference. Contain the mind’s inquisitiveness. It can spare you a lot of restlessness and creation of absolutely useless opinions and measures.
Inquisitiveness is a form of doubt which in turn endlessly work the mind to clear the doubt. Its a constant engagement for mind. In Buddha’s teachings getting rid of doubt means getting rid of inquisitiveness of mind. It creates a ton of rest.
Contain the inquisitiveness of eye. Contain the eye from wanting to “look at” everything in its path. Learn indifference and experience a beautiful peacefulness of Eye. When the mind does not want to investigate everything the eye encounter, it’s a profound rest to the physical system. It spares a lot of energy. Start with the eye and train other inputs.
Mindful Contemplation, the source of rationale or wisdom, is not the natural flow of inquisitiveness of mind. You may use contemplation to make a cup of coffee to solve a pressing issue at the office.
Contemplation of Buddha’s guide lines to be happy is simply the most important thing you could ever do in your life. Many techniques and ways of practicing mindfulness exist. No need to find out which is right. Just find out if the practice would help you sustain the mindfulness beyond closed eyes and it gives direction to make use of the mindfulness.
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We can be mindful, what is mind? (Back to Contents) Mindfulness, it's obviously an exercise with the Mind. Meditation is something we do with the mind. What really is Mind? And what are we doing to it in meditation? Some describe the mind as Consciousness. Some try to explain mind as Consciousness and sub-Consciousness. When it comes to a matter like Mind, words can be deceiving. Words are generally for things that we have come to know before. When somebody says mind is Consciousness we are naturally inclined to feel that we know what consciousness or mind really is. In reality, the word consciousness leaves a very vague impression in our comprehension as it relate to the entity we call Mind. Just do a quick reflection and see how much you know of the Mind. Don't be surprised how vague the norm is. To develop mindfulness along the lines of a Buddha, let's make an effort to understand the mind as taught by a Buddha. Many general philosophical ideas of mind explains it as a process that helps in reasoning, thinking, making decisions and judgments and what start an intention. Buddha too teaches it as a process rather than an object. He goes much further with his characteristic simplicity. His explanations of Mind dose not further complicate our understanding of it. His explanation of Mind helps us perceive the non-matter entity in pristine clarity instead of a vague idea or imagination we may have now. Three specific characteristics of mind as taught by the Buddha can ignite an understanding of ourselves and the mind like never before.