Mindfulness, at its core is a Buddhist meditation technique and has exploded into popularity and relevance over the past decade. What was once an exclusive practice for Buddhists is now a global phenomenon and had reached its peak popularity in the west.
Though it has been disconnected from its original routes and adapted for everyday use, many do not clearly understand the original beliefs at the forefront of it. This was inevitability for the practice to reach a larger audience. While the wisdom is still beautiful and powerful, the practice has become a show of its previous self.
The Four Mountains of Mindfulness
The four fountains of mindfulness were said to have been laid down by the Buddha’s over 2,000 years ago, it still serves as the quintessential guide to moment-to-moment mindfulness practice and are the four establishments to most of the Buddhist meditation techniques.
Mindfulness of the Body
The four fountains work very much in a step-by-step nature, but the forefront of this is always the ‘Mindfulness of the body in the body’ stage. Those of us that are familiar with mindfulness and Buddhist meditation techniques know the foundation of the practice is always the mindfulness of breath. While, there is also mindfulness of our steps in walking meditation, mindfulness of chewing in mindful eating.
“These are only well-known examples of this, but it goes much deeper. More than just the mindfulness of physical positions and movements, it is also the mindfulness of our anatomy and the elements that we are made up of. The Buddha suggests that we talk deeply about our body in completeness and this is what the mindfulness of anatomy is. This involves talking about things we don’t normally discuss such as saliva, skin, and urine”, - explains Thomas Clark, a Yoga blogger at Stateofwriting and Bigassignments.
The last area in this practice is mindfulness of the four elements: Earth, fire, water, and air.
Mindfulness of Feelings
This is simply the easiest to explain and understand as the mindfulness of painful, pleasurable and neutral feelings. These feelings are felt through six sense organs of the eyes, ears, tongue, body, nose, and mind.
This stage in the mindfulness practice is very important as it deals with the ‘Three Unwholesome States of Mind.’ So, how does it involve them?
- Pleasurable feelings lead to attachments such as greed and lust
- Painful feelings lead to aversions such as hatred and fear
- Neutral feelings lead to delusion because they often seem unimportant and then in turn ignored.
With mindfulness, it is possible to live in a way that you experience great peace and joy without attaching to or averting things. In fact, the greatest experiences are often these when we can be with a pleasurable feeling without attaching and openly accept painful feelings without growing aversion to them.
Mindfulness of Consciousness
This is traditionally called the ‘Mindfulness of the mind in the mind.’ In Buddhism it is noted that there are 52 mental formations, these are what we refer to as emotions and state of mind. These include joy, fear, anger, frustration, and excitement.
Without going into too much detail, the best place to begin to practice this mindfulness is to start by noticing the coming and going of various emotions and states of mind such as joy, fear and anger.
By acknowledging these emotions, you are acknowledging ‘I am being mindful’, when you are being mindful or ‘I am being mindless’ meaning you catch yourself in a distracted or forgettable state of mind. This is practicing mindfulness of consciousness.
Mindfulness of Mental Objects
This is traditionally called ‘Mindfulness of objects of mind in objects of mind.’ It may sound slightly confusing, but objects of mind are really about our thoughts, ideas and conceptions. Here, it is important to understand what role perception plays in our life.
Think of the perception as a television screen. There is something real and true being transmitted onto the screen, but it is not the image on the screen. The image on the television screen is an object of mind. It is simply an ideal in our mind, or a thought of the real thing.
“That image, our perception has a way of layering itself over reality. That almost always distorts, either positively or negatively on our direct experience. That is the goal here, to move beyond this, to a place where our perception is where we can see the true undistorted thought, idea or image”, - explains Betty Luckett, a Mindfulness writer at Paperfellows and Academized.
If the last point was a little difficult to follow, it is worth remembering that most people that learn these practices take years to perfect them. If you dedicate yourself to the first three phases of mindfulness, you will gradually cultivate your mindfulness to the extent where you will notice things in a subtle way.