Take an expansive tour through the four foundations of mindfulness in this sweeping guided meditation with Dr. David Kittay: mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, and mental objects.
Dr. David Kittay: Hello everyone. We’re going to do a brief tour of the four mindfulnesses as prescribed by Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta and other sutras as well. And it’s about the mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, and mental objects.
It’s interesting in the Satipatthana Sutta, Buddha said, quoting now:
“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 attainment of Nirvana, namely the four foundations of mindfulness.”
We will go through these, but it’s more in the nature of a quick tour. Because we could take any of these and go and use these for concentration. But what we’ll do is we’ll go through all of them and then if you like, you can always sit with one of these and go into it more extensively.
We start out and this is all based on the breath which, in the Indo-Tibetan tradition, meditation on the breath is called the king of meditations. And so let’s breathe in and out.
We take whatever meditation position we’re most comfortable in. It could be a full lotus, which I’ve never been able to even get close to. It could be sitting in a chair. That’s fine too. Generally it’s helpful that the spine be straight but not rigid. And we relax our shoulders.
And what we’ll do is we’ll put our mindfulness now on our breath, as it goes in through the nostrils and out, we can put our attention on this region right outside of our nose. We call that traditionally the anapana spot.
So as we breathe in, we place our mind on our in-breath.
Mindfulness of Body
We know that at the top of the in-breath, there’s a little change where we go to the out-breath. And then at the bottom of the out-breath, there’s a little change also as we go to the in breath. So let’s root ourself now, as we start with the mindfulness of body, which starts with the breath, which is also part of the mindfulness of body. So let’s breathe in and out and be aware of our breath going in and out.
If our minds wander, which of course they tend to do, let’s be compassionate with ourselves and just bring our attention back to the breath.
We focus on our breath, going all the way in and all the way out.
Our subjective mind is watching our breath. That mind is mere clarity and awareness. And it’s watching our breath go in, every microsecond of the in-breath, and go out, every microsecond of the out-breath.
We can sit for as long as we want, just focusing on the breath. But today what we’ll do is we’ll go on with the mindfulness of body and we’ll use our breath as a tether for our awareness, so that as we breathe in, now, let’s be aware of our whole bodies. And as we breathe out, let’s be aware of our whole bodies from the tip of our head all the way down to the bottom of our toes.
Thank you, body, for carrying us around.
Now we’re paying attention to you.
As we breathe in and as we breathe out, every microsecond of attention is on our whole body.
Now for the last part of the mindfulness of body, as we breathe in, let’s identify any parts of our body that feel pain or tension. And as we breathe out, let’s release that pain or tension.
Mindfulness of Feelings
And now let’s go on to the mindfulness of feelings. So now again, using our breath as a tether, as a connection, as we breathe in, let’s make our minds joyful. And as we breathe out, let’s make our minds joyful. Let’s think about that person or that place or that thing we love to do, that we’re about to see or be in or engage in. We have that wonderful sense of anticipation of happiness. So as we breathe in, we make our minds joyful and as we breathe out, joy.
Now, as we breathe in, let’s make our minds happy. We’re with that person. We’re doing that thing we love to do. We’re in that place where we love to be. We smile. And that smile, this smile yoga says to our body and our mind, says everything’s okay. So as we breathe in, happiness. And as we breathe out, we’re happy.
This is watering the positive seeds in our mind streams so they can grow. And we can go here at any time. So we breathe in, we’re happy. And as we breathe out, happy.
Remember to smile.
And now, continuing with the mindfulness of feelings. As Buddha said, and he said it in this order, exactly what we’re doing, as we breathe in, let’s be aware of those other feelings, maybe not so pleasant feelings like anxiety, depression, and anger that we usually suppress. As we breathe in and as we breathe out. Hello anxiety, my old friend. You’re there now. Okay.
Let’s just be mindful of those feelings, focusing on them with our subjective awareness, which is mere clarity and awareness. And even just focusing on these feelings with our observing, subjective mind, lets us know that these feelings are separate from us. They float like clouds across our awareness. They come and go.
Hello, anger. Sometimes I get pissed off. Okay.
As we breathe in. As we breathe out.
Now, as we breathe in, let’s give those feelings, those troubling feelings, a hug, just like a mom or dad gives a crying baby a hug. This is what Thich Nhat Hanh elaborates on Buddha’s practice with, giving them a hug or imagining that the sun is shining down on the flower that is us, sending the trillions of photons through every part of us, including those feelings.
As we breathe in, give them a hug, as we breathe out.
It’s okay, anxiety, anger. It’s okay. It’s the human condition. We all feel these things. We’re giving them a hug now.
And now as we breathe in, we release those feelings. And as we breathe out, we release them.
You can go wherever you want, feelings. It’s okay. I’m just letting you go. As we breathe in, and as we breathe out.
And now we’ll go on to the mindfulness of mind.
Mindfulness of Mind
Let’s now focus with our mind, our subjective, mere clarity and awareness, on our mind, which is like clear sky.
Sometimes clouds of thoughts or feelings float across. But our mind is clear as we breathe in and as we breathe out.
With each in-breath and out-breath we focus every millisecond on mind.
Now we concentrate that mind, just like sunlight gets concentrated when it goes through a magnifying glass, or like a laser beam. That mind, that mere clarity and awareness, is focused and concentrated as we breathe in and as we breathe out.
And what it’s focused on is how everything is connected, how nothing stands apart, on the emptiness of everything and everyone from being overdone or underdone, wisdom and compassion inseparable, as we breathe in, and as we breathe out.
As I breathe in, I liberate my mind. And as I breathe out, I liberate my mind.
Mindfulness of Mental Objects
Now we’ll go to the fourth of the four mindfulnesses, as taught by Buddha, which is the mindfulness of mental objects. So as we breathe in, let’s focus on any mental object, be it a flower, a computer, table, ourselves, our loved ones. All of those mental objects as we breathe in, and as we breathe out.
And as we focus, we note as we breathe in and out, their impermanence: how each one of those, flower, table, ourselves, our loved ones, comes and goes as we breathe in and as we breathe out.
They deeply grok this impermanence.
Deeply as we breathe in, and as we breathe out.
And as we note how nothing stays around, we notice that our craving for it, our craving desire starts to lessen.
So as we breathe in, we note the disappearing of desire. And as we breathe out, we can still love, but not in that way where we want to hold on to it or chase after it. I love you just for the way you are right now.
And this disappearing of desire is a kind of cessation, also called Nirvana.
As we breathe in, and as we breathe out.
Now as we breathe in, we let go. And as we breathe out, we let go.
And now we notice that all around us are other people, animals, robots, all kinds of beings: those we love to the left of us, those we don’t know in front of us, and those who annoy us sitting to our right.
And we see above us our teacher or teachers or all those great qualities we’ve met and people of wisdom that we’ve imagined, all embodied in one being: could be Buddha, could be Jesus, could be your mom or dad, or a friend.
And as we breathe in, light from the heart of understanding of our mentor shines. It comes right down through the crown of our heads into our hearts. And our mentor, she or he, looks at us and smiles.
As we breathe in, light comes into our hearts like nectar. And as we breathe out, we send all of that light to all of those beings who are around us.
And then as we breathe in, the light and nectar from our mentor and the light and nectar also from those beings comes into our hearts. And as we breathe out, we send it to them.
Also as we breathe in, the fears and anxieties and suffering of those beings comes into our heart where it encounters all of that light and nectar, it just dissolves and transforms into the light. And we send all of that light back to those beings.
Thank you, beings. Thank you, mentor. Our mentor comes down and just dissolves into us. We give all those beings a hug.
And then we come back. We say, Thank you beings for being there. Thank you, mentor. Thank you, Buddha. Let me take any benefit from our heart, we just dedicate it to everyone else. Take it. We love you.
Now we come back. Thanks for all being together. I should tell you that the last part of Tonglen, that we call that, was not part of the Satipatthana Sutta. But the first part, the four mindfulnesses were. Thank you all, be well.
Guided meditation by Dr. David Kittay
Produced by Tara Anderson
Audio mastering by Christian Parry and Chris Boulton
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio