Continue Practicing with Mindfulness of Breathing
Continuing from Lesson 5. Remember, you can alternate the guided meditation with unguided practice.
Being Awake at the Sense Spheres: After reading the notes in this lesson, experiment with bring more mindful awareness to your six senses.
Remember, your breath is an anchor for your awareness. The breath is used to calm and collect your mind. You bring just enough attention to keep tension of your breath in the foreground of your awareness. Everything else in contact with your six senses are still rising in passing away in the background.
When you are ready, add the practice of Mental Noting and described at the end of this lesson, "Using Mental Notes".
Six Sense Spheres & Objects of Awareness: Part 2
Objects of Awareness
We use the word "object" to make reference to what we perceive in our present moment experience. An object is known by the mind, through the six sense spheres.
There is always something to be aware of. Many people have the mistaken view that mindfulness meditation is about getting rid of thoughts, feelings, sounds, sensations, etc. We are not trying to empty the mind. In fact, we are tuning into the "fullness" of our mental experience. There are always objects to observe and there is a mind doing the observing.
In order to accumulate wisdom and an understanding of how our mind works, we are required to turn toward and observe the workings of our mind. We want to understand the nature of how our mind relates to lived experience. Our life is full of inner and outer events and objects which are continuously arising, changing, and passing away.
Mind and Objects
In mindfulness meditation, we are observing what arises in the mind when inner and outer objects arise and pass away in the mind. We observe this process; objects are being known and they are experienced by the mind.
We do this by paying attention at the sense spheres. We are mindfully paying attention to objects as they come into contact with our six senses. In any given moment, there are many, many objects arising at the six sense doors that the mind can be aware of and know.
Reflect back on the three components of the sense spheres described above. They are sense organ, sense object, and sense consciousness. When all three of these components arise together, we call this "contact".
For example, when a sound arises within our environment (sense object), it is received by the ear (sense organ), and is known (sense consciousness). We have "contact" because all three components came together. Therefore, we can be mindful of this event. If we were distracted, lost in thought, we may not have been aware of the sound. The component of consciousness was not there, therefore contact would not have occurred. To be mindful, all three need to be present.
When contact occurs, something big happens - our mind responds/reacts! Our mind apprehends the object and the state of mind is colored by it. When we come into contact the inner and outer events and objects of our life, our mind responds. Contact gives rise to mental states and events.
One of the mental functions that arise when we are in contact with an object is "perception". It always arises when contact occurs. It is a natural function of mind. Perception's job is to remember and interpret the characteristics of an object based on past experiences. If we come into contact with a tree, perception recognizes it as tree. If we have an itch, perception remembers the characteristics of itch.
Perception is extremely helpful. We would be in sad shape if we did not have this function. We would have no contextual framework to live by. Mindfulness is not about getting rid of perceptions.
Concepts and Views (Mental Proliferation)
That being said, our perceptions are not always accurate. Intwined with each perception are associated conceptual views. These concepts tend to overlay our perceptions of an object. Some of these are functional and beneficial, some of them are not. We should keep in mind that the conceptual overlay is never 100% real.
Mindfulness practice allows us to bring more clarity and insight into our life. We are attempting to see life more clearly and know when we are acting in accordance with habitual views and conceptual biases. and when we are seeing things more clearly.
You can say that mindfulness is an antidote to superficiality. It allows us to see through our immediate and often reactive views and gain insight into how things really are. The clearer we see, the more opportunity we have to act in ways that lead to greater health and well-being and transform the patterns of mind that lead to unhappiness and ill-being.
PRACTICING at the six Sense SPHERES
How to Practice Mindfulness at the Six Sense Spheres
Practicing at the six sense spheres should be taken slowly. Remember, try not to be overwhelmed by the information. Hold it all lightly. All guiding instructions are meant to be explored over time.
You do not need to fully understand the teachings before you practice them. In fact, true insight and understanding arises out of contemplation, practice, and life experience. This is true in regard to all mindfulness contemplations.
Mindful awareness is a special kind of awareness that allows us to see things directly, clearly, and naturally. One aspect of mindfulness is reflected in it's manifestation as “bare Awareness”. Bare awareness is an awareness that is “bare” of conceptual clinging and identification. It is an awareness that sees things closer to how they actually are, as they are happening, in the present moment.
A famous Zen haiku reads: “The old Pond. A frog jumps in. Plop”
Joseph Goldstein, an insight meditation teacher says:
"This is a wonderful description of bare attention. The old pond is not necessarily beautiful or covered with lily pods or green or blue. The poet, Basho, goes directly to the essence of his experience: the pond, frog, plop. We can say that in meditation we are developing “plop mind”. We are stripping away everything that is extraneous to our immediate experience and simply being present with what is happening. This is bare attention: direct, essential, non-interfering."
Using Mental Notes
One technique for cultivating the continuity of bare awareness is the practice of mental noting. The practice of mental noting is a relatively simple. When you notice contact with an object, such as during a mindfulness of breathing meditation, when you feel physical sensation of the body breathing in, you make a mental note, "in-breath".
Notice when you are paying attention to the raw sensations of the body breathing at the body sense sphere. You are feeling the object of breath sensation. It is coming into contact with your body sense sphere, you were conscious of it (sense consciousness). Your perception arises with this contact. All of this is bare attention. You give your perception a mental label ""in breath". Any other ideas about the breath such as, good breath or bad breath, are conceptual over lays. No problem, you can even labeled these metal objects, making a mental note of "concept."
Mental noting is a technique to help you filter concepts from bare attention. It also supports a continuity of awareness. If you get too preoccupied with mental noting, you may lose track of bare attention and become lost in the conceptual aspect of noting.