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Mindfulness 2

I wrote recently about mindfulness and its many benefits. A key part of mindfulness is connecting with our bodies and experience the sensations our environment offers us.  While this means exploring our senses, what we can feel or hear, it also means exploring our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Setting aside some time for mindfulness is an opportunity to stop, take stock and notice what is happening to you in that moment both physically and emotionally. Once you have done this you can analyse what you are experiencing and why. As Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer) said, “There is only one time that is important– Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”

Now, there are four foundations of mindfulness – of the body, of feelings, of the mind and of Dhamma. That last one needs some explanation. There is no direct translation into English, it is normally translated as “righteousness”, “merit” or “religious and moral duties”.

So mindfulness of the body is quite straight forward. And is what many people imagine when they hear mindfulness. Focusing on different parts of your body and how they feel. Is there tension or pain? If so, why?

Mindfulness of feelings mainly refers to how one perceives feelings as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. According to Bhikkhu Analayo (Buddhist Scholar), mindfulness of feelings “requires recognising the affective tone of present-moment experience, before the arisen feeling leads to mental reactions and elaborations.” It also requires that “one does not get carried away by the individual content of felt experience and instead directs awareness to the general character of experience”.

Mindfulness of the mind is about being aware of your emotions and how that may affect your state of mind. It is often defined as noticing the presence or absence of the three “unwholesome roots” (lust, anger, and delusion). But it is worth taking a wider view of your feelings and not just focusing on these three emotions.

Mindfulness of Dhamma is trickier to define and there is some debate amongst scholars as to how to define and translate it. But Analayo translates Dhamma as “mental factors and categories,” “classificatory schemes,” and “frameworks or points of reference to be applied during contemplation”. Broadly speaking it’s about being mindful of feelings and emotions such as desire (in all its forms), anger, sloth (torpor, mental dullness), unhappiness about past events (remorse, guilt) and doubts.  

For me mindfulness is about being aware of your environment and being aware of your thoughts and feelings. Basically, understanding why you have these feelings and analysing what makes you feel the way you do in that moment. Once you have this understanding it will provide insight, wisdom and provide ways to improve your life. It can lead to you acknowledging unwanted thoughts and sensations and dismissing them. It may reveal a way to discover and resolve unacknowledged problems and emotions.

Now all that may sound quite involved and complicated. But start small, by carving out some time to stop, relax and reflect on how you feel and build from there. If you need help or want to share your experiences then get in touch.

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