Monday, 22 January 2018

Past Connections

If you are interested in clarifying and deepening your mindfulness practice, it can be useful to know something of the origin of this fascinating term.

The word ‘mindfulness’ is an English translation of the ancient Indian (Pali language) word sati, a noun closely related to the verb sarati, which means ‘remember’.

Sati can be understood in two related ways:

(i) as an aspect of memory, that is, of ‘calling to mind’ and ‘remembrance’, where such recollective activity facilitates greater awareness and sense of purpose for one cultivating awareness;

(ii) as awareness of the present moment, such that the manifesting of sati implies a ‘presence of mind’ that allows one to be awake to the present moment. Such ‘wakefulness’ in turn supports the recollective function of (i).

Clear Seeing

In this way, sati is an alert yet receptive awareness, which brings a quality of breadth to experience, and is thus an awareness of things in relation to things.

Therefore, not only does sati have the ability to notice what is occurring, it also brings a wider vision of mental objects in their relationship to other mental objects.

Additionally, it may be useful to know that, in classical Buddhist psychology, a clear distinction is made between mindfulness (sati), perception (sanna) and discriminative consciousness (vinnana). In this model, it is sanna that processes and labels sensory and mental objects, i.e. sanna identifies an object and ‘gives it a name’ by conceptualising it.

Discriminative consciousness (vinnana) is that which is aware of a sensory or mental object, and which discriminates between its basic aspects, which have been recognised by sanna.

But it is sati which brings an awareness not just to objects in their relationship, but one which is untainted by the subjective bias of there being an essential, unchanging ‘I’ that is doing the recognising and the knowing.

Monday, 1 January 2018

What’s Going On?

Right here, right now, is life.

The present moment is your one chance to be fully alive to your experience. This is the only point from which you can foster awareness of what is happening as it is happening. Everything else is history or fantasy – some form of mental construction of past or future.

Despite the ever-available present, it is easy to overlook. Take, er, right now. What exactly is going on? As you read these words, your experience is a visual consciousness of black squiggles on a white background and the spontaneous meaning-making produced by your mind as it interprets them.

Light is reflecting off these squiggles, invisibly impressing their image on the retinas of your eyes, generating signals to your brain, and precipitating reactions, such as thoughts and feelings.

Your experience is, therefore, constantly changing – it is different, in some immeasurable way, to how it was when you started reading this paragraph.

How is this experience coming about? The fact that you are reading these words (and the fact that I wrote them) is easily taken for granted. Yet both are conditioned by a multitude of factors.

For starters, there’s your entire life story, and everything that led up to you being right here, right now, reading this.

The same goes for me, up to the point when I wrote this sentence.

Could we ever have planned or predicted this momentary encounter between ‘you’ and ‘me’?


Happy New Year.

Grand Narratives (III)

Where and how do you ‘situate’ mindfulness in your life? The previous two posts overview why this is a valuable question to consider. Wise r...