The Four Foundations of Mindfulness Part 9

 In Part 9 of this series I want to continue with the second of the meditation practices of “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness,” which is mindful awareness of feelings.

As noted in earlier parts of this series, one need not be a Buddhist to study this Buddhist approach to meditation. These basic practices can easily be adapted to your current beliefs whether you are one who believes in God, one who does not, or one who is not sure what to believe.

Please read the earlier posts of this series, at least the previous one or two posts, to be aware of the principal themes and practices offered so far.

As noted last week, I want to emphasize the Theravada Buddhists use the word feelings differently than we do in modern times. When these teachers discuss feelings they are referring to three very basic feelings, or emotional states: satisfied, dissatisfied, or neutral.

In the post last week, I mentioned that eating food is a very good way to make the transition from mindful awareness of sensations to the mindful awareness of feelings.  There are the sensations of eating the food. Then there is the arising of one of three basic feelings.

The experience of the sensations of eating or smelling the food is satisfying, unsatisfying, or neutral.

What is important is to notice the tendencies that arise from each of these three basic feelings. If the food is satisfying, does the feeling of satisfaction give rise to a restless aching desire for “more”? As you near the end of the meal or desert, is there a feeling, whether mild or pronounced, of longing or sadness when you realize you have the last bite in your mouth and there is no more?

If the food is poorly cooked or badly seasoned, what does the feeling of dissatisfaction feel like, regardless of whether the feeling of dissatisfaction is mild or pronounced? For example, you have gone out to an expensive restaurant and the food really tastes bad. There can be disappointment, maybe even high levels of frustration. The waiter responds in a snooty way and explains that there must be something wrong with you and your lack of knowledge of fine cuisine. Does the feeling of dissatisfaction with the food and the waiter give rise to irritation or anger that your carefully planned night out has been ruined by this over-priced restaurant and surly wait staff?

If the food is unremarkable but at least there is enough of it that you are no longer hungry, is there a feeling of neither satisfied or dis-satisfied, rather a sort of in-between feeling?

Another good example of watching feelings of satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and neutrality arise can be seen in the experiences of working with others.

Possibly some of the people you work with are bright and positive and very helpful and skillful at what they do. The feeling of completing a project with them is satisfying and you like these people. Does this satisfaction give rise to thoughts of “Well I really want to spend more time working with these people”? Or, if those people leave the company or get transferred is there a feeling of, “I sure wish they were still here. I want the experience of working with them to continue”? (BTW a very natural inclination)

On the other hand perhaps one or two of people you work with in another department are lazy, incompetent and couldn’t care less whether the work is done well or poorly. The feeling that arises from working with them may be one of real dis-satisfaction. Watch carefully, does this dissatisfaction then give rise to frustration, irritation, anger, and even aggressive thoughts of lashing out big time?

For another example, suppose you are on vacation and having a really good time. Does the feeling of satisfaction give rise to thoughts, “I wish I had another week, even a few more days of this good time”? (Who has not had these thoughts?)

Does the thought of going back to a job you really find to be draining give rise to feelings of dissatisfaction? Does this dissatisfaction give rise to thoughts of anger and frustration about having to go back to work for a boss that is constantly belittling you or one who has increased the work but not increased the pay?

Watch carefully as you eat, work, go on vacation, commute to work, buy clothes, spend time with friends, lovers, have sex, make money in the stock market, lose money in the stock market, think about your meditation teacher, look in the mirror at your face or body, look at your house or apartment, see the days weather, and drive around the town you live in.

Notice the sensations of sight, sounds, smell, taste, and the sensations of touch in various points of the body.

See them arise and pass, arise and pass.

Notice whether the experience of these sensations is satisfying, dissatisfying, or neutral.

Notice as these feelings arise and pass, arise and pass. Whether they change slowly or quickly, watch them change, increase in force, decrease in force.

Notice the thoughts and actions that arise from the feelings of satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and neutrality.  This shift from feelings to thoughts is a natural segue to the third practice of “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness” which is practicing mindful awareness of the general state of mind that is triggered by specific feelings.

There is more to be said about the three basic feelings, satisfying, dissatisfying, and neutral.  But for now it is enough to continue to be mindful of the sensations of the body and the feelings of satisfaction, dissatisfaction and neutrality that arise from the sensations of the body.

There is also much more to be said about the transition from observing these three feelings to observing the thoughts and actions that arise from feelings.

But this blog post is, again, too long. So it makes sense to sign off for now.

All the best with head and heart, work and love.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.