Mindfulness is not simply an idea. Let's take a moment to feel our way into this intimate and immediate capacity we have to be present with experience.
Unit 2: Mindfulness
In this unit, we will:
- clarify what mindfulness is and what it offers.
- illuminate the various aspects of mindfulness as a relaxed presence, gatekeeper, choice point, restraint, protective awareness, and more.
- understand the role of mindfulness as an awakening factor.
- learn how to establish mindfulness.
- listen to classical similes that illustrate the various aspects of mindfulness.
- receive guidance for formal practice, inquiry, and mindfulness in daily life.
But before we talk about what mindfulness is conceptually, let's tune in to the felt sense of mindfulness, here and now, in our experience, with a brief meditation.
The Felt Sense of Mindfulness
Welcome to this session, where we'll be beginning to investigate the first of the factors of awakening: the quality of sati, mindfulness. Let's begin by taking some moments to arrive and to invite this quality of mindfulness into our experience, just beginning by noticing what's present in awareness itself.
What are you aware of in this moment? What is it that the mind is noticing? It might be the sound of my voice, the touch of your body on your seat, the sounds around you in your space. It might be helpful for a moment to just allow your eyes to close so you can bring a little more attention inwards, noticing the sensations of sitting. Rather than thinking about it, taste experience as it's actually being felt and sensed in this moment. How is it that you know the body is sitting? What are the sensations that you describe as "the body sitting"? What are the sensations that we call "breath"?
Coming up close to the immediacy of your experience, bringing some attention to the experience of hearing and noticing whatever sounds are around you in your environment. Can you allow the sounds to be received as just sound before any story about them arises, knowing hearing simply as hearing?
What else is present in awareness? Maybe there are currents of thought passing through the mind. You might be aware of a particular mood or mind state. You might be feeling peaceful or interested, expectant, restless—all these different facets of experience that can be known directly by this quality of mindfulness.
Notice how this changes. Attention moves from one thing to another, and we can be aware in any moment of what our attention is noticing and then we can choose to direct that attention. So if I say, "Notice the sensations in your hand," it's almost just an effortless movement of the attention toward the hands, and we start to receive the sensations there. Mindfulness requires very little effort. Just this intention to be aware: the directing of our interest somewhere starts to reveal an experience to us, simply knowing what we're experiencing as we're experiencing it.
In a moment, I'll ring the bell, and you can allow yourself to just receive the sound of the bell and see whether it's possible for the attention to stay with the sound. Just notice that moment at which the sound fades completely out of earshot, and then take in the sights around you.
The written content of this unit is available as a PDF download, below.