The Fourth Noble Truth: Insight 2 The Eightfold Path Step 7 Skillful Mindfulness

Dancing with Life (DWL) Chapter 20; Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness:  Step Seven (pp. 193-222); Mindfulness:  A Practical Guide to Awakening (pp. 396-7)

“And what is right mindfulness? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… the mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness…” The Buddha

Skillful Mindfulness

Mindfulness is paying attention moment to moment to what is.

Without mindfulness, our thought patterns have several characteristics: limited, habitual and conditioned by delusions.  The mind wants three things: certainty, lasting satisfaction, self-nature (control).  Our perception and mental conceptualization of reality is scattered and confused.  The mind puts “spin” on reality and we believe the mind.  For example, we hear a sound and put meaning on it such as labeling it as “unpleasant dog barking.”  It is just a sound.

Compare mindfulness to a mirror that reflects without distortion.  In order to be like that mirror, we must understand the nature of reality.  It is constantly changing.  As Bhante G put it:” a dynamic flow of incessant change.” P. 196

Practicing mindfulness confers several benefits:

  • It prevents us from being caught up in or reacting to our thoughts and sensations. It gives us the time we need to practice Skillful Effort.
  • It leads to insights, the “inner seeing” of how things really are. Through these insights, we find happiness and peace.
  • It purifies the mind burning away the obstructions of greed, hatred, and delusion and leading to happiness and peace.
  • It brings wisdom through knowing the three characteristics of impermanence, dissatisfaction, selfless nature.

In summary, mindfulness is:

  • Paying Attention: we are listening to life instead of letting the mind do all the talking.
  • Moment to moment: We are always in the present, not letting our mind dwell on the past and the future
  • To what is: we see how things really are:  impermanent, unable to provide lasting satisfaction, selfless.

Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be practiced to become more skillful at it.  Also when suffering arises, mindfulness along with skillful effort and skillful concentration can be of great benefit.

The Buddha described techniques for practicing mindfulness in one of his most famous teachings:  The Satipatthana Sutra.  Each of the four foundations can be used for reflection and meditation.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are:

  • Mindfulness of the body
  • Mindfulness of feelings
  • Mindfulness of the mind
  • Mindfulness of mental objects.

The Foundations are described in more detail on our website.

The reminder for using mindfulness is when we notice that we are suffering and/or reacting..  This is the opportunity to see how things really are by penetrating the delusions that cause suffering and reactions.  As noted before, mindfulness should be combined with skillful effort (sixth step of the eightfold path) and concentration practice (eighth step).

Reflection

  • Reread this talk and reflect on it.  Learn to practice mindfulness when suffering arises.  How does this affect your experience?

Meditation

  • “Skillful mindfulness is the incorporation of our whole life into meditative practice.” P. 197
  • Meditate as usual in your daily practice being mindful of what arises and falls away and how all have the same characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness.

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