Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Feelings I

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 208-215)

Mindfulness of Feelings

Mindfulness of feelings is the second foundation of mindfulness.

Feelings are the quality of emotions or physical sensations.  Feelings can arise from the body (sensations) or the mind.  As with all phenomena, feelings are impermanent, unsatisfactory and have selfless nature.  You are not your feelings!  By experiencing feelings mindfully, you can see them for what they are.

Observing the quality of emotions is often not done because we take for granted that a certain emotion such as anger or a sensation such as a painful cut is negative or painful.  By looking at the quality first, we can see the universal nature of feelings.

“Once we see the true nature of feelings, we become more detached and less reactive to whatever feelings arise.  It is an exercise in letting go….” page 208

There are two broad categories of feelings:  worldly (mundane) and unworldly (which arise in the pursuit of the spiritual path of liberation). We will discuss unworldly feelings in the next talk.

There are three types of worldly feelings that arise:

  • Pleasant
  • Painful
  • Neutral

All three types of worldly feelings can cause suffering.

Pleasant feelings (either physical or mental) are associated with greed (wanting more enjoyment and desire).

Unpleasant feelings are associated with aversion, pain, or anything that you want to resist or get rid of.

Neutral feelings are neither pleasant nor painful.  Neutral feelings have the tendency to allow delusion (confusion) to emerge.  This is because the mind may either be ignoring or not aware of feelings.

You can observe your own feelings (direct insight) and you can compare your feelings with those of others (inferential understanding).

“When we remember that all living beings have feelings, that they all experience emotional and physical pain, suffer from cold and hunger, and feel sad and lonely, we become less selfish and less inclined to defend our own feelings as right.  We can listen patiently to complaints of pain without complaining.  When we are mindful that all beings have the same feelings as we do, how can we say or do something to hurt someone else?” page 209 

Practicing Mindfulness of Feelings

Meditation – We can examine our feelings just as we do our thoughts.  On or off the cushion, when a feeling is strong enough to come to our attention, we can examine it through mindfulness.  What is really going on here?  You can mindfully watch the feeling until it passes.


  • Each day, re-read this talk and reflect on it.
  • Practice mindfulness of feelings.  What do you observe?


  • Take time to meditate each day if only for a little while.

Next: Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Feelings II
: Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body