This path has taken us through the wilderness of the body. We have learned how to befriend physical sensations and the natural breath. We have begun to shift away from reactive patterns of the mind and learned how to cultivate mind states that lead to freedom. We have tasted universal truths of the human experience by investigating the hindrances and the mechanics of the ego structure. We have brought mindfulness to the six senses and begun to touch that which is beyond the world of sensory experience. Take stock of how far you have come.
We are now moving on to the teaching and practice known as “The 7 factors of awakening”, namely:
Markers on the path
These are the qualities we develop and cultivate through the 4 foundations of mindfulness. Just like sign posts on a hiking trail, they mark the path of liberation. They are the signs of an awakened heart and a liberated mind.
There is no need to be overly concerned with the form of the practice or the style of the teaching. Any spiritual practice (Sādhanā) may be considered in the light of these seven qualities of mind.
Does your practice awaken your heart-mind and bring these 7 qualities alive for you?
The beginning and end of the spiritual journey
Mindfulness is the fuel for the process of awakening. With sufficient awareness, the other factors start to unfold naturally. Without it, there is no foundation.
When we move mindlessly through life, we tend to ignore the majority of our experience (avidyā = ignorance). We become forgetful and lose track of our deeper intentions.
“Mindfulness is the root of Dharma
Mindfulness is the body of practice
Mindfulness is the fortress of the mind
Mindfulness is the aid to the wisdom of innate wakefulness
Without Mindfulness you are a heartless zombie, a walking corpse
Dear Dharma friends, please be mindful!“
– Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche (paraphrased)
We can think of mindfulness as our personal guardian. It is the guardian of the sense doors that help us stay centered in the midst of craving and aversion. It is the guardian of the heart and mind, reminding us of our true nature. It is the guardian of our intention, reminding us of our deepest longing for truth, love and wakefulness.
“If we can sit without doing anything else, the whole dharma will be revealed to us“
The capacity for mindfulness is what brings us face to face with reality.
“Our true person, our true self, doesn’t need a particular job or position.
Our true self doesn’t need money, fame or status.
Our true self doesn’t need anything.
We just live our life deeply in the present moment.
When we eat, we just eat. When we wash the dishes, we just wash the dishes. When we use the bathroom, we just enjoy using the bathroom. When we walk, we just walk. When we sit, we just sit.
Doing all of these things is a wonder, and the art of living is to do them in freedom.
Freedom is a practice and a habit. We have to train ourselves to walk as a free person, sit as a free person. We need to train ourselves how to live.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh (The Art of Living)
It has the quality of simplicity and bare knowing. When we look for something extraordinary, we overlook what is right in front of us. The reality of the present moment is the doorway into the profound timelessness.
Shifting to presence
We all know what it is like to be fully aware in the present moment with a quality of openness and acceptance. The feeling that now is enough and the sense that we are deeply involved in it. This state of presence is familiar to us whether we call it mindfulness or something else. It is the remembrance of what it is like to be in that state of awareness.
The shift to presence does not require time. It is an instant recognition of our natural state. Whenever we do remember – as a visceral, felt sense – we are experiencing the state of mindfulness directly.
From state to trait
Mindfulness is not difficult, we just have to remember to do it. Trust the natural capacity to come back home to presence. Connect with your heart. It remembers.
“The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.”
In addition to a state of being, mindfulness (sati) is also about the intention to remember. But is not enough to have an intention to be mindful – we need to actually develop habits that put us into the state of mindfulness. The more we taste the experience of mindfulness, the more effortless the practice becomes. Over time, our neurology starts to shift away from worry and distraction toward presence. We turn the state mindfulness into a trait.
Befriending the now
The attitudes of mindfulness show us how to attend to the present moment without getting caught up in judgements about it. Fundamentally, they teach us how to befriend each moment and how to say “yes” to our experience. Just like listening to a friend, we receive the present moment with openness, kindness and curiosity. As we listen, we become receptive to whatever arises in awareness. As we soften, we become responsive rather than reactive.
By embodying these qualities we develop the capacity to hold even difficult experiences with compassion.
What is alive in you right now? Where do you feel this in the body? Can you allow it? Can you allow yourself to be with the reality of this moment?
🧘 Guided practice:
Mindfulness as the first factor of awakening:
Mindfulness meditation – 24 minutes:
These practices are invitations to shift into presence and to turn the state of mindfulness into a trait. This becomes the foundation for the other factors of awakening to develop. This is what we will continue exploring in the next frame.