Back in the 80's when I first learned to meditate, we did this practice of sitting and watching your thoughts. You see all the thoughts that you have are not always your own. Thoughts drift in and out of your consciousness much more often than you could ever imagine. At the time of learning this exercise, I had no idea that this was an old Buddhist practice. I was going through some old papers the other day and ran across this information. I thought it would be good for anyone starting out on their path. So many people ask me how do you meditate well, this is how you start watching your thoughts. Many people are always in their heads. They have no idea that this is so and more importantly they have no idea how to get out of their heads. This exercise of Satipatthana will assist you in quieting down your mind so that you can go forth and develop you practice.
In the Buddhist tradition, satipatthana refers to the establishing foundation or presence. It is an exercise of mindfulness. Recently, I have come to understand the practice of mindfulness and am considering adding it to my lifestyle. I learnt how to eat mindfully by enjoying each bit of the food you ingest. How you give thanks for it and how you taste the food one bite at a time. It gave me a new appreciation for food especially since I have the good fortune in knowing how to prepare food well.
The Buddha taught the establishing of mindfulness as the direct path to the realization of nirvana. There are Four Foundations of Mindfulness based for maintaining moment-by-moment mindfulness and for developing mindfulness through meditation.
The four foundations of mindfulness are:
- mindfulness of the body (Pali: kāyā): kāyasati and/or kāyagatāsati (S. kāyasmṛti)
- mindfulness of feelings (or sensations) (vedanā): vedanāsati (S. vedanāsmṛti)
- establishing mindfulness of mind (or consciousness) (cittā): cittasati (S. cittasmṛti)
- mindfulness of mental objects (or qualities) (dhammā): dhammāsati (S. dharmasmṛti)
As always, you are welcomed and encourage to explore this information further should any of it resonate with you. This is your journey, I myself am on mine.
Satipatthana is a very easy exercise to do. All you do in sit in a comfortable chair or you can lay down if you want. I would have a timer so that you don't get distracted from wanting to know how much time you have left. Once you set the timer just sit back and watch your thoughts. You don't have to do anything else. You will do this for about a minute twice a day. Each day you will increase the exercise another minute until you reach 10 minutes. The more you do this the more the thoughts will began to quiet down so that there are very few thoughts coming in.
Remember it takes 30 days for things to become a habit. This practice should become a habit for you as it is the foundation for all other practices.
Having obtained a certain skill in this exercise, you may turn to the following one. The purpose will now be to hold onto a single thought or idea for a longer while, and it suppress any other thoughts associating and obtruding with force on the mind. Choose for this purpose any train of thoughts or idea or a suitable presentation according to your personal taste. Hold onto this presentation with all your strength. Vigorously refuse all the other thoughts that have nothing to do with the thoughts being exercised. At first you probably will succeed only for a few seconds, later on for minutes. You must manage to concentrate on one single thought and follow it for 10 minutes at least.
If you succeed in doing so, you will be ready for a new exercise, how to produce an absolute vacancy of mind. Lie down or sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Energetically dismiss any thought coming upon you. Nothing at all is allowed to happen in your mind; an absolute vacancy of mind must reign. Now hold on to this stage of vacancy without digressing or forgetting. At first, you will manage to do so for only a few seconds, but by practicing it more often, you will surely succeed better at it. The purpose of the exercise will be attained if you succeed in remaining in this state for a full 10 minutes without losing your self-control or even falling asleep.
I envision that you will work at these exercised to obtain greater focus and concentration. It is the basis for additional study. It is much more important to focus on one thing then to multi-task. Multi-tasking is the way of the west and it will get you no where. Single focusing is the way of the east and it will get you everything. Try it, you just might like it and who is to say where you will go from here.
In La'kesh (I am another yourself) Peace and Love