Intermediate Mindfulness Course -
Centers for Spiritual Living
Instructor ~ Cayce Howe
Week 1 homework. Read through this material. We will cover it in more detail on Tuesday.
We will start with a simply breath meditation to get going. It is only 10 minutes, remember, let's works on consistency this week and HAVE FUN!!
learning to pay attention
to the present moment
Unpacking Mindfulness Meditation: A Detailed Guide to Understanding and Practicing
Mindfulness meditation has become a popular practice in recent years, but what exactly is it? We will delve into the various aspects of mindfulness meditation, using the definition provided by Jon Kabat-Zinn as our foundation. By understanding the core elements of paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, non-judgmentally, we can gain insight into the true essence of mindfulness meditation and learn how to incorporate it into our lives.
1. Paying Attention:
- Mindfulness meditation is all about paying attention to our experiences and the present moment.
- Although it may seem obvious, paying attention can be challenging in our fast-paced lives.
- Notice how often we go through daily activities without truly being present.
- The quote by Da Vinci reminds us of the importance of truly seeing, feeling, and hearing our surroundings.
“An average human looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”
2. The Present Moment:
- Mindfulness sets itself apart from other meditation techniques by focusing on the present moment.
- While other techniques may involve specific objects or visualizations, mindfulness invites us to be aware of what arises naturally in the present moment.
- This aspect makes mindfulness meditation highly flexible and portable, allowing us to practice it in various situations.
3. On Purpose:
Mindfulness emphasizes being intentionally present in the moment.- Unlike unconscious habits or instinctual reactions, practicing mindfulness involves consciously choosing to pay attention.- Recognize that our experiences and choices are not merely driven by external stimuli, but by our deliberate intention to be present.
4. Non-Judgmental Awareness:
- One of the key elements of mindfulness meditation is cultivating a non-judgmental attitude.
- This aspect can be challenging since our minds tend to label experiences as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant.
- However, mindfulness encourages us to observe and notice experiences without judgment, allowing them to be as they are.
- By practicing non-judgmental awareness, we free ourselves from the habitual tendency to self-identify with the contents of our awareness.
The Four noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhist teaching and are considered the first teaching given by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment. They are:
The Truth of Suffering (Dukkha): This truth states that all forms of life are inherently unsatisfactory, marked by suffering, and subject to impermanence and change. This includes physical and mental suffering, as well as the suffering that arises from change and loss.
The Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Samudaya): This truth states that the cause of suffering is craving and attachment. The Buddha taught that individuals suffer because they are attached to things they believe will bring them happiness and satisfaction, but which are ultimately impermanent and subject to change.
The Truth of the End of Suffering (Nirodha): This truth states that it is possible to end suffering by ending craving and attachment. The Buddha taught that by following the Eightfold Path, one can break the cycle of craving and rebirth and attain liberation from suffering.
The Truth of the Path to the End of Suffering (Magga): The truth of the path refers to the Eightfold Path, which is a practical guide for how to live in a way that leads to the end of suffering. The Eightfold Path consists of Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
The Four Noble Truths provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the nature of suffering and the path to liberation from it. By understanding and following the Eightfold Path, individuals can reduce their suffering and work towards attaining enlightenment, a state of complete freedom from ignorance and suffering.
WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Diagnosis of the Problem (The First Noble Truth - The Truth of Suffering):
Just as a doctor first identifies and diagnoses an illness, the Buddha began by identifying the pervasive nature of suffering (dukkha) in life. This isn't limited to just physical pain but includes all forms of dissatisfaction, stress, and unease.
The First Noble Truth acknowledges the reality of suffering in its various forms, such as birth, aging, sickness, death, encountering the unpleasant, separation from the loved, and not getting what one desires.
Identifying the Cause (The Second Noble Truth - The Origin of Suffering):
After diagnosing an illness, a doctor seeks to understand its root cause. Similarly, the Buddha identified the root cause of suffering as "tanha" or craving. This includes not just craving for sensual pleasures, but also craving for existence and non-existence.
This truth highlights the deep-seated patterns of desire, attachment, and aversion that bind us to the cycle of samsara (cyclic existence) and perpetuate suffering.
Prognosis (The Third Noble Truth - The Cessation of Suffering):
A doctor, after diagnosing an illness and understanding its cause, provides a prognosis, indicating whether the illness is curable. The Buddha, in the Third Noble Truth, offers a positive prognosis: suffering can cease. This cessation (Nirodha) is the state of Nibbana (or Nirvana) – the ultimate liberation from all forms of suffering.
This truth is a beacon of hope, indicating that liberation is not just a theoretical possibility but a tangible goal.
Prescription (The Fourth Noble Truth - The Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering):
Finally, a doctor prescribes a treatment plan to cure the illness. The Buddha prescribes the Noble Eightfold Path as the method to eradicate the causes of suffering and attain Nibbana.
The Eightfold Path provides a comprehensive guide to ethical, mental, and wisdom practices. It includes Right Understanding, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.
In essence, the Four Noble Truths offer a systematic approach to understanding and addressing the most fundamental challenges of human existence. By framing the truths in this diagnostic and prescriptive manner, the Buddha provided a clear and pragmatic roadmap for individuals to work towards their own liberation from suffering.
The Four thoughts that turn the mind towards dharma
n Tibetan Buddhism, the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Towards Dharma are foundational contemplations that serve as the bedrock for one's motivation to engage in spiritual practice. They are often introduced early in a practitioner's journey and revisited regularly, as they help to cultivate the right mindset and motivation for deeper practices.
These Four Thoughts are not just intellectual exercises but are meant to be deeply internalized through contemplation and meditation. They serve as a constant reminder of why one is practicing, ensuring that the practitioner's motivation remains pure and aligned with the ultimate goal of attaining enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
Precious Human Birth:
Significance: This contemplation emphasizes the rarity and value of a human birth, especially one with the freedoms and advantages to practice the Dharma. In the vast expanse of samsaric existence, with its multiple realms and countless beings, a human birth with the conditions conducive to spiritual practice is considered exceedingly rare.
Motivation: Recognizing this rarity instills a sense of urgency. It's like finding a precious gem in a pile of rubble. Knowing the value of our human life, we are motivated to not waste it on trivial pursuits but to use it to its fullest potential in the pursuit of enlightenment.
Impermanence and Death:
Significance: Everything in the world, including our own lives, is transient. This contemplation breaks our deep-seated belief in permanence and confronts us with the reality of our own mortality.
Motivation: The awareness of death's inevitability and the unpredictability of its timing serves as a powerful motivator. It reminds us that procrastination in spiritual practice is a luxury we cannot afford. With the understanding of impermanence, we are driven to practice with diligence and urgency.
Karma – Cause and Effect:
Significance: This principle underscores the infallible relationship between actions and their results. Every action, whether physical, verbal, or mental, leaves an imprint that will eventually ripen into an experience.
Motivation: With a deep understanding of karma, practitioners are inspired to lead ethical lives, engage in virtuous deeds, and avoid harmful actions. It provides a clear moral compass, guiding one's behavior in alignment with the path to enlightenment.
The Defects of Samsara (Dukkha)
Significance: Samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, is inherently unsatisfactory. No matter the realm or circumstances of birth, suffering is pervasive. This thought highlights the various forms of suffering inherent in samsaric existence.
Motivation: Recognizing the pervasive and inescapable nature of suffering in samsara propels the practitioner to seek liberation. It cultivates a genuine aspiration for enlightenment, not just for oneself but for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Meditating on the Four Thoughts involves a combination of analytical meditation and stabilizing meditation. Analytical meditation involves actively contemplating the meanings and implications of the teachings, while stabilizing meditation helps to internalize these understandings and transform the mind. Below is a general outline of how one might formally meditate on each of the Four Thoughts:
1. Precious Human Birth
Contemplation- Reflect on the rarity and preciousness of your human life, considering the freedoms and endowments that allow you to practice the Dharma.
Comparison- Consider the vast number of sentient beings in other realms and recognize the unique opportunities available in your present circumstances.
Gratitude: Cultivate a deep sense of gratitude for your precious human life.
Resolve: Generate a strong intention to utilize this life for spiritual practice.
2. Impermanence and Death
Reflection- Ponder the transient nature of all phenomena, including your own life, possessions, and relationships.
Awareness- Bring to mind the unpredictability of the time of death.
Impermanence- Allow the feeling of impermanence to permeate your mind and sit with that awareness.
Urgency - Develop a sense of urgency to practice the Dharma diligently.
3. Karma – Cause and Effect
Understanding- Reflect on the principle that every action has consequences and that positive actions lead to happiness, while negative actions lead to suffering.
Recollection- Recall instances from your own life where you have observed the law of karma in action.
Ethical Mindfulness- Cultivate a mindful awareness of your actions and their potential consequences.
Intention: Strengthen your intention to engage in virtuous actions and avoid non-virtuous ones.
4. The Defects of Samsara
Recognition- Reflect on the various forms of suffering inherent in samsara, such as birth, aging, sickness, and death.
Empathy- Consider the pervasive suffering experienced by all sentient beings in cyclic existence.
Renunciation- Develop a genuine wish to be free from samsara.
Compassion- Cultivate a heartfelt desire to alleviate the suffering of all beings.
General Practice Tips:
Start with Calm Abiding- Begin each meditation session with a few minutes of calm abiding meditation (shamatha) to stabilize the mind.
Dedication: Conclude each session by dedicating the merit of your practice for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Daily Practice: Engage in daily practice, even if for a short duration, to gradually deepen your understanding and realization of the Four Thoughts.