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8 Rights: The Noble Eightfold Path — the Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

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7. Right Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be achieved many ways, including concentrated activities such as “being one with the skateboard” or martial arts. See our previous story on the skateboarder who practiced mindfulness>>

The practice of Right Mindfulness, in particular, requires Right Effort. It is the constant watching / observation of your own body and actions, feelings, thoughts and mental objects (your imagination / images in your mind).

This self-observation is useful in two major ways:

  • It complements Vipassana (Insight) Meditation. As a subset to insight, it helps you gain better understanding of yourself, the ever-changing (impermanent) nature of your own mind and body.
  • It enables you to check any subconscious or careless mental / verbal / physical actions that are negative or bad.

Anapanasati, mindfulness of breath, helps cultivate the seven factors of awakening as defined the Anapanasati Sutta:

  • sati (mindfulness)
  • dhamma vicaya (analysis)
  • viriya (persistence)
  • piti (rapture)
  • passadhi (serenity)
  • samadhi (concentration)
  • upekkha (equanimity)
  • For more on this topic, see this teaching from Ven. Zasep Rinpoche>>

There are also subsets, such as the “mindfulness of feelings” which can help one overcome afflictive emotions such as anger. (See this story on Mindfulness of Feelings, Mahamudra Teachings)

8. Right Meditation

Simply put, Right Meditation is deep concentration or total focus. The purpose is to train your mind to obey you and not the other way round.

When you start practicing meditation, you will be shocked that your mind controls you, and how unruly it is, like a three-year child. (Sometimes we call it “monkey mind” because it won’t settle.) All sorts of thoughts will go and on in your mind. Initially, it will be like wrestling with a bull, or trying to ride a wild horse without getting thrown off. But, with persistence, strength and determination, you will gradually find it easier and easier to focus your mind. The key is to become the “observer.” Don’t judge what you observe, simply observe such as it is. Stay in the present, mindfully observing.

Shakyamuni Buddha meditated under the Bodhi Tree, ultimately attaining enlightenment. He wrestled with temptations, demons, and vile cravings. Mindfully watching these cravings or thoughts as an observer can help the meditator, ultimately, conquer obstacles.

Once you have succeeded in focusing your mind on a point, you can direct it / wield it, like a laser pointer. So, where do you point your laser-sharp and mirror-clear mind at? The answer is – the Five Aggregates that make up ‘you’. The Five Skandas (Aggregates or ‘heaps’) is a topic of its own, but in brief it is the realization that the Five Skandas entirely constitute sentient existence. The Skandas are: form (‘rupa’ or body), sensations (‘vedana’ or feelings), perceptions (‘samjna’), mental activity (‘sankhara’ or formations), and consciousness (‘vijnana’). These, interestingly, correspond to the Five Buddha Families (yet another feature story in its own right).

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