I’m on retreat until Tuesday afternoon, but I’ve queued up some emails to keep you inspired while I’m away.
Bhante Gunaratana starts chapter 12 of The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English with the Gilana Discourse. One of the Buddha’s senior pupils was very ill, so the Buddha went to visit him and asked how he was doing. Mahakassapa said “I am not bearing my illness well. My pain is very great, and it shows no signs of decreasing.” The Buddha then said,
I have taught seven factors of enlightenment. When they are carefully developed, they lead to realization and perfect wisdom … What seven?
Mindfulness, Investigation into phenomena, Energy, Joy, Tranquility, Concentration, and Equanimity.
The story continues:
Hearing these words, Kassapa rejoiced…
Then and there, Mahakassapa rose from his sickness and his ailment vanished.
I read this part of the chapter earlier in the week, when I was bogged down in a bad cold/flu/something. And wouldn’t you know, the next morning, I felt better!
These seven factors, which have one of my favorite names in Pali, bojjhangas, mark our progress on the path. Each stage develops naturally out of the one before.
We’ll discuss the first three today, the next three tomorrow, and Equanimity on Sunday.
We’ve been discussing mindfulness all month! Mindfulness can develop to be strong, focused, and specific. The focus can be on the body, feelings, thoughts, or phenomena. Our practice can be “ardent and alert” – having some degree of effort and enthusiasm. (Are you enthusiastic about your mindfulness? Doesn’t that make it sound like it’s something fun?)
Bhante Gunaratana also says mindfulness can be “unremitting” – “practice mindfulness all the time, not just when we are meditating.”
I’ve been reading about an amazing teacher from India, named Dipa Ma. She was a regular householder, a mother, grandmother, sister, aunt. Jack Kornfield said,
Dipa Ma was a living example of how to live in this world, of how practice and the mundane activities of our day-to-day experience can be made one. She insisted that the practice be done all the time…
Talking, eating, working, thinking about her daughter, playing with her grandson–none of those activities hampered her practice because she did them all with mindfulness.
That’s really inspiring to me! What are some ways you can bring your mindfulness to everyday life?
As our mindfulness deepens, we get inquisitive.
We listen to or read about various ideas, reflect on them. We ask questions, we think, we discuss.
For example, when a thought arises, we can investigate if it is skillful or not. Does it lead to peace or not. We examine our actions and attitudes in a similar way.
Bhante says, “The attitude we should adopt is “come and see.” … the truth of what we experience all the time invites our attention.”
As our investigation continues, we become more interested in what we are doing. “That interest arouses the energy to make even greater effort to stay the course.”
I’ve noticed that myself. I find there are times when I’m mindful and investigating something, and I have that “oh cool!” moment… and I want to keep going. See if you notice that in your own practice.
Gil Fronsdal and Adrianne Ross co-led a retreat on the seven factors in 2014. Here are links to some talks and meditations related to these first three factors. I invite you to pick one to listen to today:
- Introduction to Mindfulness
- Instructions: Mindfulness of Breathing
- Mindfulness Factor of Awakening
- Instructions: Mindfulness of the Body
- Investigation Factor of Awakening
- Instruction: Mindfulness of Body and Feelings
- Energy Factor of Awakening
- Instructions: Mindfulness of Emotions
May your mindfulness grow, and your investigation inspire energy!
With best wishes,