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Lions Roar : July 2009
second foundation: feelings We deepen our intimacy with experience by bringing mindfulness to feelings—again, not as a disassociated observer, but from within the feelings themselves. feelings here are not emotions but the “feeling tone” or “felt sense” of experience. to see for yourself, take a moment to close your eyes and just sit, with your hands resting on your lap, palms down. settle yourself into the experience, noting how it feels to sit here, physically and energetically. you may note such feelings as heavy, grounded, stable, or dull. then, maintaining your attention, turn your palms upward and note if there’s a change in the feeling tone. you may find yourself feeling light, open, receptive, or vulnerable. feelings are a primal experience that, ac- cording to the Buddha, precede any reaction or emotion. the importance of bringing mindfulness to feelings or sensations cannot be overestimated. it is at the junction between feeling and reactivity that mindfulness pro- vides the possibility of freely choosing how to respond to any given situation. hatha yoga practice can either help us grow in awareness and insight, or create dukkha (suf- fering), depending on whether mindfulness of feelings is present or not. for example, when practicing an asana you enjoy, experiencing the pleasure of a sensuous stretch, or the psycho- logical pleasure of the “successful” performance of a challenging posture, if you are not mind- ful you will get caught in craving and cling- ing, seeking to prolong or repeat the feeling as soon as it wanes (as it most assuredly will, all phenomena being impermanent). While it is indeed a pleasure to accomplish a challeng- ing posture, without mindfulness, as the clas- sic yoga text Gherandha Samhita warns, asana practice becomes an obstacle to liberation when ego-gratification is clung to and identification with ego and the body becomes more rigid and solid. We get caught in pride and our identity as someone who can do advanced postures. When conditions change, through illness, injury, or age, and we can no longer do what we used to, we can become discouraged and suffer despair. Practicing difficult postures, we may ex- perience unpleasant feelings. mindfulness shows us how quickly the mind seeks to push one-Shot Mind In his seminal teaching on the four foundations of mindfulness, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche explains how to practice mindfulness of mind. mindfulness of mind means being with one’s mind. When you sit and meditate, you are there: you are being with your body, with your sense of life or survival, with your sense of effort, and at the same time, you are being with your mind. you are being there. mindfulness of mind suggests a sense of presence and a sense of accuracy in terms of being there. you are there, therefore you can’t miss yourself. if you are not there, then you might miss yourself. But that also would be a double take: if you realize you are not there, that means you are there. that brings you back to where you are—back to square one. really we operate on a very small basis. We think we are great, broadly significant, and that we cover a whole large area. We see ourselves as having a history and a future, and here we are in our big-deal present. But if we look at ourselves clearly in this very moment, we see we are just grains of sand—just little people concerned only with this little dot which is called nowness. We can only operate on one dot at a time, and mindfulness of mind approaches our experience in that way. We are there, and we approach our- selves on the very simple basis of that. That does not particularly have many dimensions, many perspectives; it is just a simple thing. relating directly to this little dot of nowness is the right understanding of austerity. and if we work on this basis, it is possible to begin to see the truth of the matter, so to speak—to begin to see what nowness really means. in sitting practice, or in the awareness practice of everyday life, for that matter, you are not trying to solve a wide array of problems. you are looking at one situa- tion that is very limited. it is so limited that there is not even room to be claustro- phobic. if it is not there, it is not there. you missed it. if it is there, it is there. that is the pinpoint of mindfulness of mind, that simplicity of total up-to-dateness, total directness. mind functions singly. once. and once. one thing at a time. the practice of mindfulness of mind is to be there with that one-shot perception, constantly. you get a complete picture from which nothing is missing: that is happening, now that is happening, now that is hap- pening. there is no escape. even if you focus yourself on escaping, that is also a one-shot movement of which you could be mindful. you can be mindful of your escape— of your sexual fantasy or your aggression fantasy. things always happen one at a time, in a direct, simple movement of mind. therefore, in the tech- nique of mindfulness of mind, it is traditionally recommended that you be aware of each single-shot perception of mind as thinking: “i am thinking i hear a sound.” “i am thinking i smell a scent.” “i am thinking i feel hot.” “i am thinking i feel cold.” each one of these is a total approach to experience—very precise, very direct, one single movement of mind. things always happen in that direct way. ♦ From the heart of the Buddha, by Chögyam Trungpa. ©1991 by Diana J. Mukpo. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications. llisegagne/istocKPhoto