December 25, 2007
The term “mindfulness” by itself is something neutral. It can be put to excellent uses or bad– due to the fact that it merely means keeping something in mind. You can keep in mind the reality that you wish to put an end to suffering, or you can bear in mind a choice to rob a bank. In either case, it’s mindfulness. Mindfulness becomes right or wrong depending upon the task to which you put it– whether, from the perspective of putting an end to suffering, you’re keeping the right or the incorrect things in mind.
So as we’re practicing, we want to ensure our mindfulness is right mindfulness. There are 2 spots in the Canon where the Buddha specifies right mindfulness. The best-known definition remains in terms of the four satipatthanas: the four establishings of mindfulness. In truth there are two substantial discourses on the subject. But it’s also great to bear in mind that there’s another definition of right mindfulness that’s a lot simpler. It’s simply keeping in mind the fact that you want to develop the competent qualities of the path and to abandon their antitheses. Simply put, you bear in mind the fact that you wish to develop right view and abandon incorrect view, to develop ideal willpower and desert incorrect willpower, and so on down the line. What this suggests is that you’re not simply observing without preference whatever shows up. You’re remembering the truth that there are competent qualities you wish to establish and unskillful ones that you want to desert.
When you keep that reality in mind and after that apply it to what you’re doing, that’s best mindfulness integrated with right effort. And it is necessary to keep this context in mind. Often people interpret the mentors on the establishings of mindfulness out of context, saying that best effort and right concentration are one sort of practice, whereas right mindfulness is something else completely. But right mindfulness really results in right concentration, and it constructs on best effort: the desire and effort to establish proficient qualities of the mind and to abandon unskillful ones. You need to keep that in mind. To keep that in mind successfully, you’ve got to establish mindfulness to offer yourself a structure that will result in right concentration.
So as we’re practicing mindfulness, remember the context. We attempt to establish a competent understanding of what’s proficient in the mind and what’s not, in addition to the desire to develop what’s experienced, to desert what’s not. And now we’re going to keep that in mind. The very best method to bear in mind something is to have a great strong framework or structure, a good frame of reference, which is where the establishings of mindfulness can be found in.
Often you see these establishings listed merely as body, sensations, mind, and mental qualities. Those– when taken in and of themselves– are the frames of reference you utilize when establishing mindfulness, however the actual developing of mindfulness is far more. It’s an intricate procedure. To begin with, with the very first frame of reference, you try to remain concentrated on the body in and of itself, ardent, alert, and conscious, putting aside greed and distress with recommendation to the world: That whole procedure is the very first establishing of mindfulness, and it’s the procedure we’re working on here as we focus on the breath. It’s a process centered on the body, and it’s excellent to understand each aspect of the process.
To stay focused is described anupassana. You choose something to see and after that you persevere– in this case, the body in and of itself. Simply put, you’re not taking a look at the body as part of the world, or however it may be determined in the context of the world: whether it’s attractive or bad-looking, whether it’s strong enough to do the tasks you require to do out on the planet. You’re just with the body in and of itself by itself terms.
Ardent, alert, and conscious: Ardency is what brings the process of right effort into the practice of best mindfulness. You truly wish to do this masterfully, for you acutely understand what can take place if you don’t establish these skills. Alert means that you’re seeing what you’re doing, paying very close attention to what you’re doing and to the results you’re getting. And naturally you’re conscious, remembering to remain focused on the body.
Putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world: This implies that at any time you wish to switch your frame of reference back to the world, you try to remind yourself, No, you don’t want anything out of the world for the time being. You’re not going to let the issues of the world get you worked up. You’re going to remain right here with your original context– i.e., the body in and of itself– and then attempt to carry that context into all of your activities. Instead of leaping to other contexts, you stick with this one, with the sense of the body. As you’re sitting here seeing the breath, when you get up, when you walk around, attempt to keep the body in mind all the time. And be alert to how the breath energy feels within and around the body. As for anything else that may turn up, whether it’s an idea, a sensation, or an interaction with someone else: Attempt to see how it impacts the body, how it impacts the breath.
This is how you enhance your context and turn it into an item of concentration. When you’re talking with somebody else, discover how your body is responding during the talking. When you’re working, notice how your body is reacting, how the breath is reacting throughout the work. Always refer things back to the breath. That way your context ends up being truly developed. And you start getting insights you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. That’s due to the fact that developing the body here as your context assists to keep the mind inside rather of flowing out. Luang Puu Dune when said that the mind flowing out to its objects is suffering. So to unlearn that routine of flowing out and triggering suffering, you want to keep your awareness focused within.
Naturally, what will happen is that your awareness will keep draining, but perhaps after a time you’ll have the ability to see it flow out as you’re not streaming in addition to it. It’s as if one mental state is draining while the observer is staying right here with the body. When you don’t go out with that mindset, it stops. It goes out a little methods and just falters and passes away.
That’s a crucial insight: the awareness that you can observe mindsets without getting entangled with them.
That’s when you can start utilizing other frames of reference. Ajaan Lee makes the point that when you’re sticking with the breath, you have actually got all four frames of reference right there. You have actually got the breath, which is an aspect of the body. Then there’s the sensation associated with the breath. There’s the mind state that’s trying to preserve concentration. And then there are the various mental qualities: either the limitations that are hindering your concentration or the elements for awakening that are assisting you along. You want to make use of all 4 frames. However the body is basic. Sticking with the body assists you observe the mind, sensations, and psychological qualities without getting absorbed by them.
This is why the meditation begins with the breath. This is why, when Buddha provided instructions on how to develop concentration in a manner that brings to fulfillment all 4 establishings of mindfulness, he stated to stay with the breath. As you stay with the breath, you concentrate on the breath in ways that handle sensations, that handle the mind, that deal with psychological qualities, but you never truly leave the breath. Instead, you train yourself to observe things in conjunction with the breath.
So of all the various places you can establish mindfulness, the breath is the most important, the most important, the one that you really want to deal with the most.
There’s a passage in the texts where the Buddha says you can focus on the body internally or externally or both internally and externally. This suits a pattern we frequently see in the teachings: that when you look at yourself, you also wish to remind yourself that whatever holds true about the inner workings of your mind and body, holds true about everyone else’s body and mind. This assists put things into perspective. When you’re having problem with your barriers, remind yourself that you’re not the only one. Other people have problem with the obstacles also. When you have discomfort in the body, advise yourself that everyone else has discomforts in the body, too.
This follows the pattern on the night of the Buddha’s awakening. He began with knowledge about his own past, his own stories. And if you think you’re carrying around a lot of stories, consider someone who might keep in mind back many eons, all the stories he could have carried around. However he didn’t bring them around. He simply watched them. He observed them and created some questions: Does this fact, the reality of rebirth, apply only to me or to other individuals? What’s the principle that identifies how you go from one life to the next?
So in the second watch of the night he inclined his mind to the passing away and renewal of all beings, seeing people dying and being reborn on all the numerous levels of the universes. And seeing the bigger image in this way, he saw a larger pattern: that the nature of your actions is what identifies where you get born-again. Proficient actions done under the influence of best views result in a good renewal. Unskillful ones done under the influence of wrong views result in a bad renewal. That’s the general principle.
Notice that the Buddha started out with himself, then relocated to other beings, prior to lastly arriving at the third insight, which was to focus directly on the present moment in and of itself. Looking at the larger image prior to focusing on the present might seem like a detour but it’s required to put things into perspective. Otherwise, as you’re sitting here practicing meditation and facing your problems, it seems like you’re the just one sitting here in discomfort or interruption. It’s useful to remind yourself that everyone goes through this. No matter how bad the discomfort, there have actually been individuals who sat through even worse discomfort and yet came out on the other side. No matter how compulsive the distraction, there have been individuals who disentangled themselves from even worse distractions. So these considerations– of your body and other people’s bodies, your mind and other individuals’s minds– seem to be designed to put things into point of view, as an aid in putting aside greed and distress with referral to the world.
All of this is created to put the mind in a position where it’s prepared to calm down. The mindfulness and alertness safeguard the mind and offer an excellent foundation. The quality of ardency is what assists make it experienced. And when you reflect on the universality of suffering, it offers you the best motivation for practicing. All these qualities together get you ready to settle and stay actually solidly with the breath.
That’s what right mindfulness is all about. It’s not just a matter of observing what develops and passes away, and just letting it occur and pass away. Mindfulness is not so much about enabling as about directing the mind in a competent direction, toward ideal concentration. So when you’re observing things arising and diing– whether in body or the mind– it’s not just a matter of being a passive observer. There’s a function to your attention, so it’s not bare. You want to observe these things so that you understand them. You wish to understand them so you can gain some proficiency over them, so that you can direct the frame of minds and the problems that emerge in the body in the instructions of right concentration.
For instance, if there are pains in the body, what can you do, how can you associate with the pains so that they don’t knock the concentration off course? How do you breathe in a way that assists spread enjoyment around in the body? What attitudes can you develop towards what’s going on in the body and the mind to help get you over challenging spots? These are the things you want to keep in mind.
So best mindfulness is not simply a matter of having the right location to focus your attention; it’s also a matter of bringing the ideal mindset, keeping in mind the ideal attitude: the attitude that comes from ideal effort– the desire to do things masterfully and to let go of unskillful routines. When you have that attitude in charge, your mindfulness becomes ideal mindfulness, the type of mindfulness that brings all the aspects of the path together.