Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Feelings II

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

Mindfulness of Feelings is the Second Foundation of Mindfulness.

In the previous talk, we defined feelings and their various aspects.  In this talk, we will explore worldly and unworldly feelings.

Worldly Feelings

Worldly feelings that arise (pleasant, painful, neutral) were addressed by the Buddhaexternal_link:

“In the sky, O monks, various kinds of winds are blowing: winds from the east, west, north and south, winds carrying dust and winds without dust, winds hot and cold, gentle and fierce. Similarly, monks, there arise in this body various kinds of feelings: pleasant feelings arise, painful feelings arise and neutral feelings arise.”

In another talkexternal_link, the Buddha spoke of eight worldly conditions which act like the winds he described above:

“Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain.  These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.”

In summary, the eight worldly conditions are (in pairs):

  • Gain/Loss
  • Pleasure/Pain
  • Praise/Criticism
  • Fame/Disrepute

Four of them (gain, pleasure, praise and fame) are pleasant feelings.

The other four (loss, pain, criticism and disrepute) are painful feelings.

Each time we suffer, one of these conditions is at play.  Although our “story” may be different, these conditions are at the root of our feelings whether they be pleasant, painful, or neutral.

Unworldly Feelings

Unworldly feelings arise in the pursuit of the spiritual path of liberation.  As with worldly feelings, they can be pleasant, painful or neutral.

  • Positive (pleasant) unworldly feelings such as peace and happiness arise when we let go of worldly feelings.  They can also arise during deep concentration practice or in insight (Vipassana) meditation practice.
  • Painful unworldly feelings can arise as we pursue the path of liberation and can manifest as frustration or disappointment.   This feeling is unworldly because it does not arise from greed, hatred or delusion.
  • Neutral unworldly feelings arise when you accept impermanence or the ever-changing nature of the self.  This is when you are being truly mindful and equanimous.

Practicing Mindfulness of Feelings II

When a feeling arises, investigate if it is a worldly or unworldly feeling.   Worldly feelings are to be let go of by using mindfulness.  Watch it without reacting until it goes away.  We let go knowing the impermanence of all phenomena.

When the worldly feeling subsides, we are left with the unworldly feelings of peace and happiness.  As with all phenomena, these feelings are impermanent.  Do not become attached to them.

“When we mindfully observe any feeling, it will peak and break.  That feeling is then replaced by another feeling, which also peaks and breaks. If you being with a pleasant feeling, the next feeling may be an unpleasant feeling, or a neutral feeling or another pleasant feeling.  The type of feeling you experience switches constantly. This switch from one type of feeling to another happens from one split second to the next.  Groups of feeling – predominately pleasant, predominantly unpleasant, or predominantly neutral — change from moment to moment.  Trends of feelings change from hour to hour, day to day, and so forth.  Observing any of these changes gives us insight into our true nature.”  –Bhante G, p. 215

Reflection

  • Each day, re-read this talk and reflect on it.
  • Examine your feelings.  Can you discern unworldly feeling and know when they arise? 

Meditation

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

Next: Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of the Mind
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