The Foundations of Mindfulness

Reference: The 12 Aspects of Mindfulness

Buddha says in Satipatthana Sutta: The Foundations of Mindfulness

“This is the only way, monks, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the four foundations of mindfulness. What are the four?
“Herein (in this teaching) a monk lives contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating feelings in feelings, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating consciousness in consciousness, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief; he lives contemplating mental objects in mental objects, ardent, clearly comprehending and mindful, having overcome, in this world, covetousness and grief.

Here Buddha outlines the four foundations of mindfulness as follows:

  1. The body in the body
  2. Feelings in feelings
  3. Consciousness in consciousness
  4. Mental objects in mental objects

The prerequisite to mindfulness is the overcoming of covetousness and grief.

Through the above use of language, the Buddha implies the need to be totally immersed in the object one is observing and contemplating upon.

In other words, there should be no resistance to sensations, feelings, consciousness, ideas, thoughts, etc., that flow through the self, as one observes and contemplates.

Also see points 6, 7, and 8 of The 12 Aspects of Mindfulness.


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  • Chris Thompson  On July 6, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    I do this differently.

    I consider that the mental preoccupation that you describe is a chemical reaction which is occurring on slightly or more than slightly runaway basis. This “runaway reaction” is being fed by the attention which is fixated by myself on myself. Another way that I would describe this is introversion. My attention has all been used up and is analogous to running out of RAM memory in my personal computer.

    You are right that in this state, a person needs sleep and to be deprived of the rest that I need seems harmful and counterproductive to me. But how do I do this? I particularly CEASE LOOKING at the things preoccupying me and I do this by putting my attention elsewhere, anywhere except on what it is currently fixated on. I do this by playing the guitar, going for a walk or swim, or even laying down with eyes closed and listening to the drone of boring TV, or pulling out that physics book which is giving me the fits, etc.,. This process only takes me a couple minutes to begin relaxing and yawning and feeling the desire to become horizontal and sleep comes within a minute.

    What occurs with the applications that were running and consuming all my attention? I’m not sure – what occurs is that at the moment that I stop feeding them with attention (by turning my attention elsewhere) these applications seem to begin instantly to wind down and stop running.

    Alternately, the benefit is that after a night of proper rest, I normally wake relaxed and with solutions to those things which formerly were so very preoccupying without resolution. I normally wake with resolutions to mental problems with no effort on my part.

    I hope this counterpoint is useful to someone.

  • vinaire  On July 6, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    It is quite an ability to detach oneself from stimuli at will.


    • Chris Thompson  On July 7, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      Well, what I am describing is more of a “device” that I use for directing my attention which has become obsessively focused in an unhealthy way. Why this works for me is that I don’t seem able to multi-task. My multi-tasking amounts to serial tasking then changing very quickly from one to another – a little like we used to do with DOS programs. I seem only able to focus on one thing at a time.

  • vinaire  On July 6, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Mental preoccupation seems to be there because of some unsolved problem that is overwhelming to the person. It is very important to the person, therefore it is absorbing most of his attention.


    • Chris Thompson  On July 7, 2012 at 6:34 PM

      Yes, and as you pointed out, the solution is a good night’s sleep… but how to get it? In severe cases of this, I would resort to drugs up to a point. But when I am wound as tightly as you describe, something has to give.

  • vinaire  On July 6, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Attention can be freed up through the practice of looking, because it provides a much clearer picture of the problem and its elements.


    • Chris Thompson  On July 7, 2012 at 6:36 PM

      Well as I described, looking takes attention. If one is obsessively “looking” or maybe rather than looking, obsessing over some unresolving issue, then what I do is look at something else.

      I also handle my tinnitus problem in this way. Works great, I just don’t listen to it.

  • vinaire  On July 7, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    Check out the next issue MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING. That might help resolve the case of “obsessive looking”.

    I am recommending that as the first exercise of KHTK. I had fantastic result from that on myself.


  • vinaire  On August 3, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    It is interesting to see that Buddha tackles ‘mental objects’ last. Other therapies, like Scientology, try to tackle ‘mental objects’ first.


  • vinaire  On August 3, 2012 at 6:16 PM

    Buddhist exercise to do with the body may be compared to Objective Processes in Scientology.

    However, Buddhist exercises seem to retain their objective approach throughout because of the mindfulness it employs.


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