This week, we’ll be looking at the first Factor of Awakening: Mindfulness (sati). As the namesake of this newsletter, ‘mindfulness’ is a theme that gets regular review and attention.
In many respects, mindfulness is the foundational capacity that both steers and fuels the course of our spiritual lives. Without it, we wander (or skid) aimlessly from one reactive experience to the next, often in a deadened or half-hearted state of being. But with mindfulness, we connect to life with vivid, wholehearted presence and aliveness.
As the first Factor of Awakening, mindfulness has three primary functions.
1.Sees clearly: Mindfulness clearly recognizes what is happening is the present moment. In this function, mindfulness allows us to meet each experience without the distorting influence of desire, aversion or confusion.
2. Cultivates the other Factors of Awakening: As the muscle of mindfulness gains strength through steady and repeated application, all of the other factors of awakening begin to grow out of this careful attention. The more we abide in a non-judgmental, spacious awareness of things, the more we become calm, even-minded and curious in relationship to those very things.
3. Balances the Mind: In any given moment, there is the potential for the mind to slip into an unconscious pattern of reactivity. For example, if someone sits down next to you on the train and starts coughing, belching or farting too much, the mind will likely soon be flooded with aversion, hatred or ill-will. BUT, if mindfulness catches this mind-state, recognizing, “Oh, this is irritation, and it’s like this,” then, almost immediately, the mind can come into a sense of balance with the experience, not getting swept away by the flush of hatred flowing through the mind.
So this week, both on and off the cushion, check in with these questions: with mindfulness, 1)What is being seen? 2) What is being cultivated? 3) What is being balanced?
Originally published on June 8, 2011