The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English

This is actually the third book by BhanteĀ  Gunaratana I’ve gobbled up, but perhaps the best was his first. For some reason I rebel against the highly structured format that he tries to hammer into you, with the 4 foundations of mindfulness (body, feelings, mind, dhamma) which include the 5 hindrances (desire, ill will, laziness, restlessness/worry, doubt), the 5 aggregates of clinging (material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness), 6 internal & external senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind), 7 factors of enlightenment (mindfulness, investigation of dhamma, energy, joy, tranquility, concentration, equanimity), 4 noble truths (suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the path that leads to cessation), and the noble 8-fold path (skillful understanding, thinking, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration). Overwhelmed yet?

Most helpful to me as always are the sections on anger. Buddha abandoned thoughts of anger by thinking of compassion and loving friendliness/kindness. It’s useless to dwell on things in the past that you’ve done wrong, a waste of time and energy. Mindfulness “suffocates anger by taking away the fuel it needs to keep burning. When hate fills our minds, we should think: Hate makes me sick. My thinking is confused. A sick mind defeats the purpose of my meditation.”

How to deal with anger when it arises:

  • Practice mindfulness of breathing. Take a few deep breaths, counting up to ten then down to one.
  • Practice restraint. Stop talking if the conversation is leading to argument. During the pause, investigate what’s causing your heated words.
  • Replace the hatef by thinking kind thoughts.
  • Avoid angry people.
  • Make a commitment in the morning to be mindful about not getting angry.

He also cautions that every kind of ill will arises from the wish to be physically separated from something that causes discomfort or pain. The ill will & its causes are impermanent.