Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 206-208)

Mindfulness of the Body is the First Foundation of Mindfulness.  There are several parts.  Three are:

Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body

Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body allows you to eliminate any misconceptions you might have about the body and see it as it really is.

We may be attached to beliefs about our body and the bodies of others.  When we get attached to those beliefs, we make judgments based on misconceptions.  The mind wants certainty such as having our bodies stay the same (being well or attractive to others) forever. This leads to suffering because we are not seeing things as they really are.

Focusing attention on the various body parts allows you to see:

Impermanence – For example, your hair changes over time in color and amount.  No part of the body is permanent.

Dissatisfaction – all of the parts of the body disintegrate over time – you become weaker, less attractive, and diseased.

Selfless Nature – One of the ten fetters is conceit in the existence of a permanent self.   Any conceit about being your body is misplaced.

Equanimity – you can see that all beings’ bodies act in similar ways:  function, grow, age, fall sick, decay, die, and decompose.  “In this respect, you and others are not different at all.  This insight helps you to cultivate equanimity and to treat all living being with compassion and loving kindness.”  This includes having compassion and living kindness for yourself.”

The Buddha noted 32 parts (20 solid and 12 liquid) of the body for mindfulness practice

Solid

  1. Head hair
  2. Body hair
  3. Nails
  4. Teeth
  5. Skin
  6. Flesh
  7. Sinews
  8. Bones
  9. Marrow
  10. Kidneys
  11. Heart
  12. Liver
  13. Diaphragm
  14. Spleen
  15. Lungs
  16. Intestines
  17. Bowels
  18. Undigested food
  19. Feces
  20. Brain

Liquid

  1. Bile
  2. Phlegm
  3. Pus
  4. Blood
  5. Sweat
  6. Fat
  7. Tears
  8. Grease
  9. Saliva
  10. Mucus
  11. Oil of the joints (synovial fluid)
  12. Urine

Practicing Mindfulness of the Parts of the Body

Adapted from The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante G:

  • Begin meditating by cultivating loving kindness toward all beings
  • Remind yourself that your intention in meditating on the parts of the body is to overcome pride and self-hatred for your own body and lust and loathing for the bodies of others.
  • Meditate mindfully on one part of the body at a time.  Notice the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and selfless nature of each part.

“When meditating on the body, you need not contemplate all its thirty-two parts.  If you concentrate on one and see it as it is – impermanent, unsatisfactory, empty, unclean – you will see that your body and the bodies of others are like this.  If there are thirty-two ice cubes, you need only touch one to know the coldness of all.”  –Ajahn Chah, A Still Forest Pool, p 88.

Reflection

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

Meditation

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

Next: Skillful Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Feelings I
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