Teachings on the
FOUR FEATURES OF MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
1. KAYA NUPASSANA
2. VEDAN NUPASSANA
Feel/Framework (emotional outlook)
3. CITTA NUPASSANA
4. DHAMMA NUPASSANA
1. KAYA NUPASSANA – gaining knowledge, familiarity and insight through awareness of the physical patterns and expressions of experience whether one’s own or another’s. In formal practice ‘calming the bodily formations’ is the foundation exercise. It focuses on the physical body.
2. VEDAN NUPASSANA – gaining knowledge, familiarity and insight through awareness of basic feel or outlook, whether one’s own or another’s. One goes so far as to identify the positive, negative or indifferent nature of this outlook or feel. Restraint is important. One should avoid too much commentary.
3. CITTA NUPASSANA – gaining knowledge, familiarity and insight through awareness of moods, mind states and attitudes whether one’s own or another’s.
4. DHAMMA NUPASSANA – gaining knowledge, familiarity and insight through awareness of ideas, concepts and mental constructs, whether one’s own or another’s.
Non-judgementalism, a certain objectivity, matters very much. Focus on the reality of experience, not the identity of self and other.
“This is not me; this is not other; this is experience.” In this way, take responsibility.
Start with body for clarity’s sake. ‘Posture is everything’ so it’s said.
Become physically familiar – then include the other three features in order. Without distraction, keep an unbroken thread of awareness continuously with the body, the form, the physical, even while the other three features of practice are becoming conjoined. The purpose of practice is to understand dukkha and the healing thereof.
After becoming familiar with, first, the body and then the full body of experience, all four features, one then develops ‘Bare Attention’: undistracted mindfulness – awareness, pure and simple. Do your practice in a relaxed, calm, glad and attentive manner.
NOTES FOR CALMING THE PHYSICAL FORMATIONS
(Setting up the formal exercise practice)
1. Short sessions: 10-20 minutes at a time. Sessions should be kept fresh and alive. When skill is established through practice, then longer sessions can be helpful.
2. Set up a place of practice for sitting, lying down, walking or standing practice. Seek teaching on posture; enjoy the process; relax and learn naturally; repetition furthers.
3. Pay respect: At the beginning of a session express your good will and respect – many expressions are possible.
4. Dedication: At the conclusion of a session dedicate your practice by expressing your active support for a peaceful world.
5. Avoid excessive self-criticism. Say: “This alone is not me; this alone is not the other; this is dhamma, life happening”.
6. Notice and relax physical tensions or hindrances. Be careful not to inhibit air or blood flow or to pinch nerves or exacerbate injury. Begin with the obvious muscles, major formations, and then notice and relax the more subtle patterns and formations. Practice calmly, gladly and attentively. A little practice can be a catalyst for good benefits generally.
7. Calm – do the practice calmly, slowly and easily. Avoid judgementalism. Be like a good nurse with a kindly and objective attitude. Practice is meant to serve the general welfare.
8. Glad, Sukha – cultivate wellbeing and a willing, positive attitude. Benefit will become gradually apparent. Healing happens in advance of awareness. Practice is an expression of awakening; medicine for living, and especially with regard to mental health.
9. Attentive – be interested, notice things; remember. If you repeatedly notice some phenomenon then remember and be attentive, on the look-out at your next practice. Avoid judgementalism, especially about self. Seek to understand the whole picture.
10. General-specific – begin by trying to calm the general posture before paying attention to details. General awareness is maintained as a backdrop, an ongoing awareness, even as you come to notice particular details. Leave mindfulness of facial expressions until you have experience. Find Teaching about this and keep your sessions brief and alive. Practice with others can enhance personal practice. The same approach applies to all ‘four features’ of practice.
11. Breath – allow the breath to flow naturally, ensure the physical movement of breathing is relaxed and natural. In this way mindfulness of breath is an aspect of ‘calming the bodily formations’. Don’t become fixated on breathing. Meditation on the breath is a practice that requires instruction and skill.
12. Movement – exercise before formal practice can be helpful. If you adjust posture during a practice session, move easily, naturally and mindfully. Forced stillness or agitated movement are both unhelpful.
13. Posture – eyes open; body poised and relaxed; lying, standing, walking or sitting. Establish an approach to posture; become comfortable with your approach. If you want to sit on the ground rather than a chair it will take practice but has advantages. Mindfulness of body posture has many ramifications. Most formal practice is about calming the bodily formations. This is an accessible, useful practice, a foundation practice.
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON PRACTICE
Teaching: Finding an experienced teacher is a great asset, particularly at the outset of formal practice.
Collective: Learning and practicing with others can be very helpful.
Body: Learn to develop a relaxed, poised posture. Be calm about relaxing tensions. Find teaching.
Self-reliance: This practice can be understood for oneself – it is ‘self-checking’; reason is comfortable; self-reliance is maintained and developed.
Purpose: To establish Mindfulness in the stream of experience – that is to develop a clear awareness of satipatthāna and its benefits through first ‘calming the bodily formations’ with mindfulness, then developing the practice from that basis.
Thread of Awareness: Maintain a thread of bare attention to the whole body even while attending to specifics or noticing feeling or thought patterns.
Patterns: Note recurring patterns as you would note the conditions of a patient, or changes in the natural landscape. At the beginning of a session, note them, declare your interest and then return to general work. Return to your particular interest from time to time. Don’t be dominated or obsessed with them. Remain non-judgemental and engaged with the long-term view.
Senses: Senses are alive, natural and open. Eyes usually look comfortably downward, at about 45°. Though aware of sense activity, try to nonetheless keep the thread of awareness with the whole body. Seek instruction on balancing the senses.
Micro-Macro: Seek to develop, with the micro of formal practice, those qualities you want to develop in the macro of general life.
Amount: For many people, a little formal practice, particularly collective practice, goes a long way. Practice in a way that is effective for you.
Learn to recognise mindfulness and encourage it. This is the point of practice.
Universality: Mindfulness is a universal tool for human mental health. It requires no belief in gods or rituals but is not inimical to cultural expression. It can temper the involvement with particular causes or occupations.
Meditation, jhāna or samadhi: The stable absorption, or undistracted awareness that can be developed with mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced with or without meditation. ‘Meditation’ here means actual, formal, practice of a meditation method, such as ānāpānasati. Seek teaching if you do formal meditation exercises; avoid narrow-mindedness; practice effectively and safely. It is better to not do much without adequate teaching and experience. One gradually understands that ‘meditation’ is an aspect of developed mindfulness. Seek teaching.
Anāpānasati: Mindfulness of the flow of breathing. This is a wonderful meditation practice, much trusted and effective. One should learn properly with a teacher and be careful to practice properly. Anāpānasati is famous in the context of Mahāsatipatthāna.
Internal/external: Inner illumination can illuminate the outer or other, and vice versa. The practitioner is training in compassionate mindfulness and avoids emphasising thoughts of ‘self’ and ‘other’.
From the Theravada Dhamma Training Text, Coorain
Copyright: Coorain, Origins Centre (Society Incorporated) Inc.