The four foundations of Mindfulness as taught by the Buddha
To be mindful is to pay attention / contemplate something w/o further judgmental, analytic, and decisional processes. It can be on a material object, thought, emotion, behavior.
The 4 foundations of mindfulness are the fundamental teachings of the Buddha on meditation as the way to experience Awakening. They are common to all traditions including Zen and represent a systematic guide – sort of 101 – to practice mindfulness toward serenity and Awakening. As we shall see, they are all interconnected.
Mindfulness of the body:
Experiencing full awareness of being in our body, including the sensations of breathing, pain, posture, movement outside and within our body. It includes its weightiness, aging process, diseases, impermanence, and so on.
Mindfulness of feeling:
Feelings, according to the Buddha, do not mean emotions but sensations coming from the 6 senses. He listed 6 senses are: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin(body), and mind.
He classified them as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral/indifferent.
Pleasant sensation may bring craving, unpleasant may bring hate, and neutral/indifferent may lead to delusion or ignorance.
Mindfulness of mind:
Experiencing full and non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts and emotions as they arise, dwell, and pass away. This allows us to see the transient and insubstantial quality of the
thinking and emotional processes that guide our positively and negatively our actions.
Mindfulness of – as he called- “Mental objects”:
The fourth foundation is tricky to describe properly and simply.
The Buddha defines mental objects in 4 groups to meditate mindfully on their components:
1 The 4 Noble Truths:
1 Life is suffering, 2 causes of suffering, 3 extinction of suffering (Nirvana) and
4 The 8 paths/tools to achieve reduction and cessation of suffering.
2 The 5 hindrances that slow down our progress toward serenity:
Desires, improper will, laziness, doubt, and restlessness of body and mind.
3 The 5 aggregates:
– Form (our body)
-Feeling better translated as sensations/perceptions that the Buddha
describes as pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral/indifferent.
– Sensorial perception from our peripheral 5 senses.
– Mental activities (thoughts, emotions, etc.)
4 The 7 factors or practice aiming to Enlightenment:
Mindfulness, Concentration, Determination, Quest toward the nature and understanding
of reality, Effort (energy), Joy (rapture), Equanimity (accepting reality as it is).
The point of the Buddha is not to practice full awareness to all “Mental Objects” at the same time because it is impossible, but to pay attention to them one by one and put them into our daily practice. This 4th level of mindfulness meditation practice opens the door to Awakening.
As we can see, the 4 foundations are all entangled and one cannot exist on its own.