Different forms of mindfulness

Mindfulness has often been classified according to the object of its awareness eg: mindfulness of breathing, mindful walking, mindful eating, and so on. Often there’s little mentioned about different ways in which mindfulness can be utilized eg: mindfulness of specific objects, mindfulness of behaviours, mindfulness of biofeedback (‘body hacking’) and mindfulness of behavioral patterns over time.

Mindfulness about specific objects means awareness of the breath, body, feelings etc. They are happening in the present moments, under our very eyes. It is a straightforward to be mindful of these phenomena. A more subtle focus, is to be aware of behaviors in order to change them to be more desirable ones. If there are moral behaviours that aren’t desirable, the Buddha mentioned being aware of that they occured after it occurred, and while it is occurring and even more, before it occurs, helps in modification of that behaviour. Mindfulness arising in threatening situations is another form of mindfulness, that most complex creatures are likely to have: it provides us with a survival mechanism, apart from the learning function, which is also helpful in surviving, mentioned above. Mindfulness which is involved in biofeedback is helpful when we want to know how the body is reacting to a given stimuli: if we want to go on a diet, can we ignore hunger pangs to safely skip a meal or if we exercise will we feel better afterwards or being aware of social conventions so that we fit into society. Mindfulness of behaviours, over a long period of time involve becoming aware of dysregulated patterns of behaviours, such as catastrophic thinking as a response to everything, or being attracted to people who abuse others.

Mindfulness of mindfulness

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In some far eastern traditions mindfulness of the mindfulness, or awareness of awareness itself, is deemed a deep significance. Its supposed to signify a deep level of insight, akin to enlightenment itself. It may have connections to a thoughtless or ‘no-mind’ scenario. Koans are said to lead to such a state of awareness. ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping’, and the student is unable to give rise to such a thought, to visualize that sound.

However I often felt that this pointed to an absence of material phenomena, a form of emptiness -it cannot be said to be an absence of mind as the mind is present. It’s formless nature could be the start of the ‘base of emptiness’ or the ‘base of consciousness’. These are states of formless absorptions, as mentioned in the Pali texts, not enlightenment itself.

Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of secular mindfulness has defined mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.

This is correct, of course in the context of therapeutic secular mindfulness practices. In contrast the Buddha defined mindfulness by the objects one is mindful of, ie in the context of a recipe, flour has a place and a purpose, but is meaningful if defined in how it will be eventually used, and at what point, to deliver what, in the end eg: its use in baking a cake. Defining flour as white and edible if cooked, is correct but it might be more useful to say it’s an ingredient in cakes, pastries, wraps etc.

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Awareness of mental objectification

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2600 years ago, in the Honeyball Sutra, the Buddha talks about how the mind creates reality. It talks of how the mind perceives raw phenomena and how it objectifies them. For example vague and fuzzy images of a flower can be reified into a solid flower, by the processing power of the mind. The mind ‘creates’ the world we live in, despite only ever knowing electrical impulses it receives via the sense organs. This process of objectification can be senses through a subtle act, of mindfulness..

Teaching mindfulness.

Mindfulness began in the 80’s as a new wave, but perhaps it was imported in the ’70’s. It has now become a emergent phenomenon in the West. Its’ popularity and demand outstripping the evidence and the supply, it would seem. It’s no wonder in this connected world with IT communication at its’ peak, that this would happen. Mindfulness doesn’t require a ‘guru’ around whom it’s only situated, but is decentralized. Pretty much anyone trained appropriately can teach it. When it first started in the East certain bhikkhus (monks) who were advanced in their own training, were able to teach it to others. The idea that after 10 years of practice, one could be advanced enough to teach it to another was prevalent, and termed ‘upasampada‘. No such time requirement exists in the West, and the quality of the teachers might suffer, as a result.

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POEM: The Door of Nevermore — the !n(tro)verted yogi

This morning, walking, I saw a new door. I’ve walked that stretch a million times, or more, and that door has never been there before. You probably think they just cut the ivy, or that my imagination ‘s lively. But, this evening, that door was no more.

POEM: The Door of Nevermore — the !n(tro)verted yogi

THis has been shared from a blog post by !n(tro)verted Yogi.