The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Mindfulness of the body
In mindful contemplation of the body the practitioner develops a continuous awareness of the bodily process. This includes a number of exercises, the most basic of which is the mindfulness of breathing.

This mindfulness can then be extended from breathing to all the aspects of bodily experience. The whole body itself becomes the object of mindfulness. Mindfulness of the body can further be applied to actions — to the different postures of the body (walking, sitting, standing and lying) and to the different activities (eating, moving about, speaking…).

Mindfulness of feeling
Here you attend to the whatever feelings arise in the moments of experience — the pleasant feelings, the painful feelings, the neutral feelings. Whatever feeling arises is attended to with bare mindfulness, without liking and disliking.  You simply become aware of whatever feeling has arisen. In this way we prevent the mind from getting sucked into the feeling, from grasping after pleasure, from running away from pain. The mind becomes able to look at all the states of experience with calm equanimity and self-possession.

Mind itself of the state of mind
The third foundation of mindfulness is the mind itself — the general state of consciousness. To practice the contemplation of the mind you have to see into the actual present state of mind clearly and precisely, to understand what kind of mental state is occurring. You have clearly reflect the state without judging, with reproaching ourselves for the unwholesome e states, without congratulating ourselves for the  wholesome states.

We just see the nature of the state of mind with detached observation. Then we have to determine the nature of that state – whether it’s a wholesome state or an unwholesome one. Then we have to see into the kind of wholesome or unwholesome state of mind, whether it’s a state that has attachment, aversion or delusion or is free from has attachment, aversion or delusion.

Whatever state of mind arises is noted just as it is and then allowed to go its own way with clinging to it.

Mindfulness of the objects of the mind
At this level of mindfulness you tune in to specific contents of the mind, rather than the general state of mind as in the third factor of mindfulness. Here the mind is dissected into its components to see what factors are at work within it, whether the defilements are present or the wholesome factors. If the defilements are present we have to investigate them to see how they arise and how they can be prevented in the future. Then when the beneficial factors leading to liberation arise, we become aware they are present, we investigate how they arise, how they be developed.

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