Mindfulness & Awareness

Mindfulness Meditation is all the rage today – and for good reason.  Mindfulness has been attributed to improved mental focus and clarity , to development of emotional maturity and intelligence, and to foster general well-being.  Mindfulness is loosely translated from the Pali word “sati” and incorporates many of the practices that the Buddha taught as a path to awakening.

Mindfulness has grown out of what is called Vipassana (or Insight Meditation) a meditative practice that is intended to develop insight and widsom. The goal is total release from stress, to awaken to our true nature, enlightenment.  This practice was taught as a skill, like any skill that can be developed.

The Buddha said he taught only thing – suffering and the release of suffering. This path is intended to release us from our suffering, to have practical benefit to us as go about our lives.  Is this not the goal of recovery?

All of the Buddha’s teachings stem out from there. The goal of Marin Mindful Recovery is to share these teachings with those who identify as recovering individuals or anyone who is suffering.

The basic practice that the buddha taught comes from two teachings that are related to one and the other, The Satipatthana Sutta ( The Foundations of Mindfulness) and the Anapansati Sutta (Mindfulness of Breathing).   The Satipatthana Sutta describes the basic ingredients of mindfulness practice. It is defined as the direct path for purification, for overcoming stress and regret, for removing stress and unsatisfactoryness, for developing the true path, and for the realization of  true freedom. It defines the four mindfulness practices that one is to develop.  These are:

  1. Mindfulness of the Body.
  2. Mindfulness of Feeling.
  3. Mindfulness of Mind.
  4. Mindfulness of Dhamma (aspects of experience)

He further delineates our approach.  We are to comtemplate any or all of these practices while being “ardent, clearly knowing, and mindful, free from desires and discontent in regard to the world.”  The sutta further expands how we look at each one of these areas to be mindful of.

MIndfulness of the Body includes the basic instruction of meditation itself. In his world this meant to go “to the forest, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut”, but this can be anyplace where we can focus on being mindful easily.  Once we find the place from there we are to sit down, cross our legs, set our bodies erect and to establish mindfulness in front of us.  We are to get the body in position to meditiate.  It is not meant cause us discomfort (although it still may). We set ourselves erect so that we stay both relaxed but alert.  It is not for relaxation directly but can be one of the benefits we obtain.

The most basic way of experiencing the body is to become aware of our breathing.  This is the first thing the buddha lists in the Satipatthana Sutta when being mindful of the body.  He further expands upon this teaching in the Anapanasati Sutta (“Mindfulness of Breathing”) as a series of 16 steps steps that further breaks down what we are to be mindful of.  These additional mindful aspects introduce other aspect of buddhist practice for contemplation, aspects that we come to understand, purify and perfect our understanding.These skills can be applied to any subject that we contemplate with our awareness, although a list of 40 subjects of meditation or places of work (see Kammaṭṭhāna) have been compiled over years.

As taught today, Mindfulness practice incorporates all of these teachings under one umbrella.  Western teachers, psychologists, and researchers have further clarified and expanded upon this to include aspects that touch all areas of our lives.  It is being applied by therapists and educators, business persons and everyday folks to apply to anything we experience.  This awareness of being aware frees us from unskillful behaviors and ways of thinking.  It provides us with a refuge, a foothold into the experience of being human.




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