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Satipatthana Mindfulness | part 1

Updated: Apr 8

'Daily life mindfulness' is definitely helpful - as that is a way to manage hindrances. Other than that, you must also develop mindfulness that leads to Wisdom (Satipatthana mindfulness), in formal practice and daily life. Do you know the difference?

What's the difference between daily life mindfulness and Satipatthana mindfulness?

Daily life mindfulness has concept, as its object. It's mindfulness of present moment with concepts. How to make parctice a way of life? | Part 2 | Mindfulness in daily life illustrates how to do it.

Most of the time, it is worldly concepts especially while at work. Occasionally, you make time to do daily activities mindfully as practice - training the mind to stay as present as possible and keeping thinking related to that activity. It's mindfulness of present moment, also with concepts. But what about when the mind is directed to body posture and movements during these activities? This too, is, mindfulness of present moment with concepts. The concept is about reality-objects - it is concept, nonetheless.

And, this is also the case in formal practice for Wisdom meditators. Rise, fall, breathing in, breathing out - the mind is still arising with concepts, even though it's following the object, moment to moment.

To put it very simply, Satipatthana Mindfulness is mindfulness established on ultimate conditioned realities with clear perception of the Three Characteristics.

Why go beyond concepts?

So that Wisdom could arise. It can't arise when the mind is stuck at concept level.

Why Wisdom? Because Wisdom overcomes all suffering and, brings about true, stable and everlasting peace. Wisdom arises only if the three characteristics is clearly perceived and understood by direct experience. For this, the mind must disengage from concepts, and be anchored to the ultimate conditioned realities.

Therefore, uplifting the mind beyond concepts is necessary.

How to uplift the mind beyond concepts?

(1) Recognise the realities

First and foremost, learn to recognise the ultimate conditioned realities. These are the Wisdom Meditation objects. This perception is best developed during formal practice.

Not all realities are suitable as object of meditation. Even more so if mindfulness and detachment mental states are weak. The mind may take on some trickier objects later when mindfulness and detachment mental states are developed. The mind is like a powerful muscle car. A skilled and experienced driver is a must before speeding - mindfulness and detachment.

(2) Establish continuous mindfulness

Secondly, keep mindfulness continuous. It's best to use the body foundation to arouse and build up continuous mindfulness. Primarily, it's because the body realities are gross, obvious, neutral and therefore suitable to be used to arouse mindfulness in the beginning. Occasionally, feeling from body base, such as pain, numbness, itchiness can be taken as its object especially when it has become strong. Use this to build up detachment, patience and acceptance mental states.

The mind will become clear, bright, stable and peaceful if mindfulness is continuous. The mind feels steady, soft and workable - not rigid or closed. The challenge before this occurs is, to overcome hindrances.

Once you notice this development, you should know it's time to observe the realities, as described in (3) below.

(3) Strengthening mindfulness and concentration. Maintaining even, balanced energy.

Start paying closer attention to the reality-objects from the body foundation and feeling foundation. This develops stronger mindfulness and perception of the object's characteristics. Every reality-object, has characteristics that are peculiar and unique to itself - its specific characteristics. Clearly perceiving its characteristics builds up Knowing (clear comprehension of realities). It also indicates how strong the mindfulness is and, signalling another readiness.

At this stage, mind could be taken up as a Wisdom Meditation object too. That means start building a recognition of various types of mind (step 1), observe it, and train the mind to perceive mind-change (step 3 & 4).

Note, if mindfulness is continuous, sharpened and is anchored to the realities:

  • there won't be thinking during these periods. Thinking is not being mindful of mind, not watching or observing mind. When there's thinking, there's concept and the mind is taken in.

  • concentration will become strong and energy is even. Practice will feel as if it is going on an auto-pilot mode.

  • the mind is ready to be more precise.

(4) Satipatthana Vipassana

Aim the mind at the beginning of the reality-objects or processes. Aim it at the ending. Pay close attention, as best as you can and keep it continuous. This develops continuity of mindfulness whilst developing the perception of arising and passing away of realities. Clear comprehension of realities (the Three Characteristics) will eventually arise and matures.

All existence is conditioned phenomena (realities). All conditioned phenomena has the mark of Three Universal Characteristics.

What's described in these steps is a general guide for development / practice during Wisdom Meditation. It's suitable in formal practice in daily life, not just in a retreat.

Try this guided session.

Daily Life

In daily life, it's very difficult to be so precise and intense as concentration is not built up to that extent. Also, it’s not always possible to direct the mind to the ultimate realities, although there are times we can. If requisite conditions are present, deep experiences are possible. In general, formal practice in daily life is essential, a lesser degree of Wisdom meditation practice is also necessary in daily life, and daily-life mindfulness is also beneficial.

All these seem difficult. It’s only difficult when we’re learning the skills and trying to understand what to do, and when to do what. It's doable. It becomes easy and natural over time - when it becomes habitual. This practice isn’t something only a monk or nun could do. And, we shouldn't wait until we get older, retired or rich - for who knows what tomorrow brings? If there's such thoughts, know that it's rooted in delusion, a form of hallucination of mind. It's a hindrance, a doubt. Let that go and keep chipping away at practice. Spiritual friendship like being in Group Practice can really help to keep the momentum going.

Do what you can, gradually. Don’t push too hard. Once you know what to aim at, and how to aim, knowing when to aim becomes important. It’s not about pushing the mind to its limits. Knowing when to gladden the mind, when to calm it down and when to energise it, is part of the practice too. These are the practices of developing the Enlightenment Factors - has to be for another post/Note.

Much metta :)

See you all next week in Group Practice.

Coming up next:

  • How to extend Wisdom meditation practice to daily life? You’ll find more immediate use in this upcoming Note/ post. It will illustrate practical applications of Wisdom Meditation practices in daily life.

  • How to bring out and develop Mindfulness? This will clarify the difference between concentration and mindfulness.

For guided practice, try these: