There are Four Foundations of Mindfulness practice which we will briefly explore below. If you have made the decision to begin a mindfulness practice it is helpful to learn about some of the dimensions of both informal and formal practice. Practice is essential. I meet many people who want to reduce stress and better their lives but they don’t want to put in the effort. Practicing will help you create greater self awareness of the mind, body, spirit to better understand ourselves and how we relate to people in our lives and the world we live in.
Mindfulness of the Body– beginning by bringing awareness to the breath, linking mind and body together, and calming them, and noticing how bodily sensations arise, linger, and pass away if we let them (referring to the universal law of impermanence). It can be helpful to explore these physical sensations in a detailed but kind and curious manner. For example if you feel anxious before an important examination or game, noticing where in the body you may feel some tension or pressure and describing it. Is it a small baseball sized pit in the stomach, or butterflies that flutter about different areas in the abdomen. Are the sensations intense, mild, or barely noticeable. Do they pulsate or are they static? When you feel joy, love, or happiness do you feel warmth all over the skin, or maybe the heart, or something else? Ask yourself the question of what it is you notice in any moment, for physical sensations sometimes referred to as “felt sense” is one way information is passed through to our consciousness.
Mindfulness of Feelings– not emotions, but rather immediate pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral reactions before emotions and attitudes come into play. This is an immediate reaction that typically takes place, they might be pleasant when your dog greets you happily when you get home from work, or your child or partner gives you a big hug and a warm kiss, you get a raise you weren’t expecting. Or more unpleasant reactions when you hear the sound of your boss’s voice asking about a TPS report, someone cutting you off in traffic, or losing your keys when you are late for a Zoom meeting. Neutral reactions may seem obvious but when you start to pay attention you may start to find that things you didn’t think bothered you do affect you, or perhaps that there is a positive charge to something small that you didn’t think mattered at all, just a thought… The practice is to be open with a Beginner’s Mind to see what is actually taking place rather than what you think.
Mindfulness of Mind– awareness of mind, dispositions, distraction, concentration, or possibly the roots of suffering, hatred, desire, and delusion, noticing how they arise, linger, and pass away. Our mind entertains up to 70,000 thoughts per day. Many of these thoughts occur while our mind wanders and tend to skew negative. As we delve deeper in practice mindfulness will begin to reveal patterns of thinking we maintain in our heads that we start to uncover, or memories, stories we tell ourselves that impact our attitudes, pain, stress, and can hinder our growth and well being. In silence and stillness there is wisdom to be discovered in practice. But you have to practice whether it is formal or informal, for your experience is your best learning tool. Be patient and kind to yourself, it takes time to develop a practice.
Mindfulness of Mind & Objects– bringing awareness of all the mind encounters within and without. Nearly fifty percent of the time our mind wanders. It is not easy to pay attention. We are not being judgmental but bringing awareness to this mental process. Imagine observing the mind as though you are in a movie theater watching a movie, and sitting in your seat watching everything unfold in real time from that vantage point. As mindfulness originates from a contemplative tradition bringing a kind awareness to how we relate to the inner and external world in any moment. For life is a series of moments that continues to unfold with every breath that we are grateful to experience. Hence, as a wise teacher reminded me recently every moment is a moment to practice being mindful.