Working with the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, as both a practice and focus of study, has been exciting, daunting, exhilarating, confusing, overwhelming and wickedly fun! It’s made my realize how much I really do love mediation and Mindfulness and the Dharma, ever as I struggle with all of it! Thank you EMI!
Having said all that, allow me to offer a METAPHOR that is quite a stretch!
It’s offered in honor of this World Series being played between 2 worthy teams (Mets and Royals) that have not won it in over 30 years!
“A baseball game feels, often times, like the only possible way to ride the crest of the emerging moment.”
Mindfulness of Body – Think of us (all of us) being embodied inside a young man, an athlete, a person who’s life revolves around his physical prowess. He’s healthy and hyper aware of his body He is alert and focused on the constant stream of data his body is sending him. He’s awake and alive and full of potential. He’s the archetype of the human body – in touch with his physical sensations in a totally direct and tactile way. Think of him as the Buddha Body… and he’s about to enter the University of Rhode Island!
Mindfulness of Feelings – This young athlete (remember, he is all us as attempt to awaken) arrives on campus. In these first days, everything is new to him, and his feelings are on high alert. New campus, new roommates, new classes, new teachers, new friends, new food – it all hits him afresh, but he’s aware enough to see his preferential self at work. He can see that he’s gauging each thing he encounters as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral – or in his parlance it’s, “It’s cool; it sucks or it’s, “…whatever.” He is aware of his moods, his attractions and aversions and his roller coaster emotions, as the girl he most fancies doesn’t seem to notice him! As his mind interfaces with this new information, so does his body, especially as he tries out for the U of R varsity baseball team. He’s now running, throwing batting and lifting weights. He feels his body, it’s aches and pains, as well as it’s growing power. He’s mindful of all this, all these feelings…
Mindfulness of Mind – Then, 2 weeks after walking onto campus, he gets the word, he’s made the varsity team! Now, he’s part of a new identity, a new reality. He’s now part of Rhody Baseball! Immediately his new coaches and teammates recruit him into to their take on the game of baseball, their collective consciousness. Think of it like a beehive. Many bees, one hive. This young man is now thinking about hitting, fielding and running in the same way that correlates to the Buddha telling his disciples to contemplate their mind as mind, or consciousness as consciousness, without identifying with this mind. To be a better player he even does formal sitting meditation! While on the cushion he practices watching both the “Room” and, the “Contents” ie: the space where the thoughts arise from and the thoughts themselves. He welcomes his many thoughts even as he extricates himself from them to return to the breath. He sees the thoughts arising, flourishing and dying. He sees the patterns and the architecture of his mental activities. In his meditation he even practices Touch and Go and Not Too Loose, Not Too Tight! Now off the cushion and on the field, he can see calmness ot agitation arising. He can tell when he is focussed or distracted? He can watch as energy or fatigue arise.He is mindful of mind.
Mindfulness of Phenomenon or Dharma – We’ve all read the descriptions regarding the 4th Foundation of Mindfulness. It’s been described as, “Being mindful of mental objects and mental content.” and, “Having a sense perception of the world,” (including physical phenomenon). It seems to me that in this, the 4th Foundation, we truly open ourselves up to the whole world… or at least the world that we experience.
With that in mind, I am going to say that our young athlete is now, finally, and actually, playing IN THE GAME. He’s using this foundation to navigate real life, with real stakes, moment by moment and situation by situation. That means, in the foreground, during the game, there are, of course, all manner of mental phenomena happening: thoughts, memories, images, emotions, perceptions, desires, fantasies – all contents of his immediate experience.
Right now, he’s at bat. The score is 4 to 2 and the Rhody’s are losing. He has an 0 and 2 count on him, with 2 outs in the 8th inning and 2 guys on. That’s the “realIty,” but what is the reality that lies beneath all that? Adam Lobel says that, “To be Mindful of Dharma is to be mindful of the very factors of existence,” and, he says, to look at, “The very patterns of reality that underlies consciousness.”
In this metaphor I would say that the reality that underlies BASEBALL consciousness is it’s whole storied history; it’s rules and records; it’s legends, myths and memories; it’s sights, sounds, smells – the poetry and LOVE of the game. This is underneath this moment for our hero, this is the context for THIS moment – and yet THIS moment is, like every moment, is brand new and so he must respond.
He hits a double off the right field wall and ties the game!
Later, in extra innings, he draws a bases loaded walk and is credited with a run batted in (after all, he is our hero!).
I chose baseball for this attempt to help us think about the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness because, in this great game (and within the context of mindfulness) you CAN notice the spaces around the phenomena. Their are so many gaps, and pauses, and interruptions and blank spaces. The game has no clock, and, in theory, a tie game could go on forever! It’s played in a wide open field, with a lot of room between the players and it’s flow is non-linear and languid – broken up with moments of intense action…
BUT, most importantly, the whole point of it is simply to return HOME!