Monthly Archives: March 2021

Wise Concentration

Mark Epstein, “Although Right Concentration follows mindfulness on the eightfold path, it is generally taught before mindfulness, when one is learning to meditate. It is such an essential introduction to Buddhist practice that its closing place on the eightfold path does not make sense at first glance. But concentration needs to be understood in the context of the entire path if it is not to become a distraction in itself. Concentration is “right” when it connects with the other branches of the whole. It is “right” when it demonstrates the feasibility of training the mind, when it supports the investigation of impermanence, when it erodes selfish preoccupation, and when it reveals the benefits of surrender.”

In Pali right or wise concentration is called Samma Samadhi. We remember that the word samma means correct, proper, appropriate, wise… right.  Samadhi means “meditative absorption.” So, wise concentration means concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions, which is developed through our meditation practice. The meditating mind focuses its attention on an object, and then practices sustained concentration on the object. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration during each meditation and in everyday life.

Generally, the unconcentrated mind doesn’t know that it’s unconcentrated or that there’s another way to think. Maybe we notice that our thoughts are scattered, tell ourselves to slow down, take it easy. But, the mind doesn’t become concentrated just because we tell it to. It takes practice, effort, and mindfulness. The patient practice of calm abiding.

Wise Concentration helps us see how we react to sensations and feelings and the stories that consume our thoughts. We start to understand not only what our experience is in the world, but we have the potential to see things as they are… to experience the ever changing process of life just as it is.

Wise Mindfulness

Sylvia Boorstein said, “Why do we practice? To keep the mind clear and our hearts open…”

The Buddha said that the Dharma “is directly visible, timeless; always available to us, and to be realized is within ourselves.” Right Mindfulness or “Wise” Mindfulness, seventh on the Noble Eight-fold Path, is what makes it possible for us to realize the the Dharma in our lives. Most of the time most of us are, at best, only partially engaged in the moment. Often we’re completely lost in thought – barely here at all. We tune out much of the world, and much of ourselves as well, and don’t even realize how removed we are from what’s really happening. The lesson of mindfulness is conscious presence here and now.

Mindfulness is the central practice of the Buddha Dharma and meditation is the method we use to train in mindfulness.  Meditation opens what is closed, fixated, and frozen within us.  It explores, investigates, and reveals what is hidden within us — and all around us.  Meditation helps us awaken from our dreams and illusions about how things are and discover actual reality. 

Ken McLeod wrote, “the Dharma isn’t something mysterious and remote but is the truth of our own experience. It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating it right through to its foundation. This truth, in order to become a liberating truth, has to be known directly. It’s not enough merely to accept it on faith, to believe it on the authority of books or a teacher, or to think it through with our reasoning minds. It has to be known intuitively, grasped and absorbed by a kind of knowing which is also an immediate seeing—an awakening.

In the original Satipaṭṭhāna Sutra, the Buddha described what he called the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.  This teaching tells us to be aware of our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, and of events, as they occur, moment to moment. 

The Buddha said that the Four Foundations of Mindfulness form “the way that leads to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path and the realization of Nirvana.” These Four Foundations show us that the attainment of liberation can only come from insightful contemplation.

Wise Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s actions, words and thoughts. It’s clear seeing. The Buddha was telling his followers not to live in the past or the future, but to be conscious and wake up to the present moment and the truth of what is. This is the simplest definition of reality: Things just as they are.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are:

Mindfulness of the Body: Mindfulness of the body is awareness of how the body moves: the position of the head, hands, feet, etc; our posture, our breathing; the feeling of grass, carpet, or concrete under our feet; the taste and smell of this moment.

Mindfulness of the Feelings: By simply noticing how we feel, without judgment or trying to change our feelings, we realize over time that each feeling we experience is transitory and impermanent. 

Mindfulness of the Mind: Until we deliberately listen for it, we usually pay little attention to the constant chatter running in our minds.  The old tapes that play all the time telling us about ourselves, our behavior, our world as perceived in some frozen past.

Mindfulness of Phenomena as They Occur: We become “mindful” living in the now and noticing all that is occurring moment.