Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Exploring modern Theravāda interpretations of the Buddha's teaching.
User avatar
robertk
Posts: 2489
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:08 am

Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by robertk » Tue Oct 17, 2017 8:03 am

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/ ... 2c0d00c201
Mindfulness would be good for you. If it weren’t so selfish.
How a self-help trend warped a good idea.





By Thomas Joiner August 25
Thomas Joiner is a professor of psychology at Florida State University and the author of “Mindlessness: The Corruption of Mindfulness in a Culture of Narcissism,” from which this essay is adapted.
We may live in a culture of distraction, but mindfulness has captured our attention.

Books on the practice are numerous, including guides to “A Mindful Pregnancy,” “Mindful Parenting,” “Mindful Politics,” “The Mindful Diet” and “Mindfulness for Teachers.” Corporations, sports teams, even the military and police departments provide mindfulness training to their employees. A bevy of podcasts offer tips for living a mindful life, guided mindful meditation and interviews with mindfulness evangelists. Another sure sign of cultural saturation: You can order “a more mindful burger,” at Epic Burger in Chicago or an “Enjoy the ride” trucker hat from Mindful Supply Co.

I was dismayed when mindfulness began to encroach on my field: psychology, and specifically the treatment of suicidal behavior. A psychiatrist colleague’s proposal for a book on bipolar disorder prompted a pre-publication reviewer to request “less lithium, more mindfulness” — even though less lithium can lead to more death by suicide in patients with bipolar disorder.


Of course, we’re all intrigued by interventions that show promise over the standard treatment, especially for the most difficult cases. But I wanted to know whether mindfulness had merit. So I soon found myself immersed in the literature and practice — sitting shoes-off in a circle, focused on the coolness of my breath as it hit the back of my throat.

What we might call authentic mindfulness, I found, is a noble and potentially useful idea. But true mindfulness is being usurped by an imposter, and the imposter is loud and strutting enough that it has replaced the original in many people’s understanding of what mindfulness is. This ersatz version provides a vehicle for solipsism and an excuse for self-indulgence. It trumpets its own glories, promising health and spiritual purity with trendiness thrown in for the bargain. And yet it misunderstands human nature, while containing none of the nobility, humility or utility of the true original. Even the best-designed, most robust research on mindfulness has been overhyped.

Although there are various definitions of mindfulness, a workable one, drawn from some of the most respected practitioners, is the nonjudgmental awareness of the richness, subtlety and variety of the present moment — all of the present moment, not just the self. Mindfulness is not the same as meditation, although meditative activities and exercises are often deployed in its cultivation. Neither is it the emptying of the mind; far from it, as the emphasis is on full awareness. And it is not about savoring the moment, which would demand dwelling on the positive. True mindfulness recognizes every instant of existence, even those of great misery, as teeming and sundry. It encourages adherents to be dispassionate and nonjudgmental about all thoughts, including those like, “I am hopelessly defective.” Mindfulness wants us to pause, reflect and gain distance and perspective.


Authentic mindfulness is also humble in the sense that it places the self in its proper, minuscule place within each moment’s infinitude. The mindful person is attuned to the miasma of sensation that has nothing at all to do with one’s own subjectivity, but rather concerns the features of the present moment surrounding one’s own mind, in its minute detail and its vastness, too. And, in addition to attunement to this external moiling of sensation, one is also and simultaneously dispassionately attentive to the contents of one’s own mind.

Accepting one’s thoughts as merely thoughts is very different from treasuring one’s thoughts; one may as well treasure one’s sweat or saliva. This is about recognizing that each thought is inconsequential and thus not worth getting depressed or anxious about. Viewing the mind’s moment-to-moment products as of a similar standing as floating motes of dust — myriad, ephemeral, individually insignificant — is admirable and requires genuine humility.

But mindfulness has become pernicious, diluted and distorted by the prevailing narcissism of our time. The problem has somewhat less to do with how it’s practiced and more to do with how it’s promoted. People aren’t necessarily learning bad breathing techniques. But in many cases they are counting on those breathing techniques to deliver almost magical benefits. And, all the while, they are tediously, nonjudgmentally and in the most extreme cases monstrously focused entirely on themselves. That is troublesome for mental health practice and for our larger culture.


Authentic mindfulness has always been susceptible to this distortion because of its encouragement of an inward gaze. At a mindfulness retreat I attended in 2013, the workshop leader exhorted us to remember the selflessness of genuine mindfulness and not to “fetishize” it as a cultist solution for self-enhancement or for the affluent’s petty aggrievements. And yet we spent 90 percent of that retreat focused on our own sensations — the minute muscular changes as we engaged in “mindful walking,” the strain points in our muscles and joints during “mindful stretching.”

It is easy to see how this emphasis could be misinterpreted. In moderation, self-examination can lead to a reasonable and unobsessed awareness of one’s emotional tendencies, thought patterns, impact on others and blind spots. But to encourage an inward gaze among incredibly self-interested creatures is to court excess.

The trendy version of mindfulness tends to be described in terms of what it can do for us as individuals. For example, a recent article on the website of Mindful magazine described “How mindfulness gives you an edge at work .” Likewise, the book “10-Minute Mindfulness” promises: “When you are truly experiencing the moment, rather than analyzing it or getting lost in negative thoughts, you enjoy a wide array of physical, emotional and psychological benefits that are truly life changing.”


Or consider this promotional language for a workshop this summer co-sponsored by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center: “Practitioners report deeper connection to themselves, more self-compassion, and greater insights into their lives.” The emphasis is on the individual — connection to themselves, self-compassion, insights into their lives.

Indeed, self-compassion and self-care are intertwined with the popular concept of mindfulness. The notion seems to be that it is not selfish to tend to and even to prioritize one’s own needs for care and understanding. After all, this line of thought goes, how can one be available for others unless one is fully present, and how can one be fully present unless one’s own needs are met? The reasoning here contains a kind of trickle-down logic.

Of course, self-care in the sense of adequate sleep and nutrition is eminently sensible. But it seems that the most ardent fans of self-compassion focus on things like relaxing vacations, restorative massages and rejuvenating skin-care regimens. This preoccupation gives the impression that “self-compassion” is code, and a rationalization, for doing things people already find pleasant. There’s nothing wrong with pleasant activities, but those already have a name: “pleasant activities.” Calling them self-care adds little meaning and unhelpfully obscures that such activities are not essential to survival or health or caring for others — and that they can be foregone in the service of sacrifice and honor.

What do we really know about what mindfulness can do for us? “10-Minute Mindfulness” mentions advantages including reduced levels of stress, anxiety and overthinking, plus improved memory, concentration and sleep. And there is some mild scientific support for those benefits. Headlines regularly announce further breakthrough discoveries. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve heard that “Mindfulness-based intervention significantly improves parenting ,” “Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients” and “Mindfulness may lower blood sugar levels.”

It’s true that numerous studies seem to support the benefits of mindfulness for a variety of life problems. Yet headlines tend to oversell what the studies show. And the effects of mindfulness seem to fade under the scrutiny of rigorous and tightly controlled experiments.

Take a look at that parenting study, a fairly typical example of mindfulness research. The study, published by the Journal of Addiction Medicine, didn’t look at parenting in general. Its target population was mothers enrolled in treatment for opioid addiction who started with a low level of parenting skills. That’s certainly a worthwhile focus, though narrower than one might have assumed based on the headline. The intervention was a bit of a mishmash. It involved mindfulness themes, such as attention and nonjudgmental acceptance, along with meditation and activities such as “the creation of a glitter jar to settle the mind.” The mothers also received feedback on how they interacted with their babies, and they learned about the impact of trauma on parenting. So what was the active ingredient that contributed to the observed improvements in parenting behavior? It’s impossible to say. And because there was no control group, we don’t know if the progress of their addiction treatment or showing up with their children at a treatment center for two hours a week for 12 weeks was what made the difference.

The pain study was more rigorous. Patients reporting unmanageable pain were randomly assigned to one of three 15-minute interventions: mindfulness training focused on acceptance of pain; hypnosis focused on changing the sensation of pain through imagery; or a pain-coping education session. The study authors framed their research in the context of the opioid crisis, but their findings don’t suggest that mindfulness will play much of a role in its resolution. Only about a quarter of patients in the mindfulness group reported a decrease in pain substantial enough to be considered of even moderate clinical importance. And the mindfulness group didn’t exhibit any meaningful decrease in perceived need for opioid medication. Here, as in the vast majority of well-controlled mindfulness research, an intervention related to mindfulness failed to outperform — in fact, slightly underperformed — an active comparison treatment (hypnosis) and exceeded only a very inert comparison group (education). Nevertheless, studies like this are held up by mindfulness enthusiasts as proof positive of its special power.

Given my own specialty area, I have been particularly intrigued by the work of British psychologist Mark Williams and his colleagues, who have suggested that mindfulness interventions may be useful for preventing and treating depression. Unfortunately, their impressive 2014 study, which included a large and representative sample of adults, was not particularly supportive of a mindfulness-related approach. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy — with meditation and without — failed to outperform treatment as usual (with previously prescribed antidepressant medication) in preventing recurrence of major depressive disorder. More specifically, about half of those in the study experienced a recurrence of depression, regardless of whether they were randomly assigned to the antidepressant plus mindfulness with meditation group, the antidepressant plus mindfulness without meditation group or the antidepressants alone group. (Because taking someone with major depressive disorder off medication can cause their depression to come roaring back, as famously happened with David Foster Wallace, studying mindfulness therapy without medication in this population is not an ethically responsible option.)

I don’t mean to suggest that we should thoroughly dismiss the potential of mindfulness. Some reputable studies have shown that mindfulness training can reduce mind wandering and improve cognitive functioning, as measured through GRE scores. They have found that mindfulness mitigates sunk-cost bias — when we resist abandoning an effort and cutting our losses. But when many of the supposed effects of mindfulness fade in the hands of highly credentialed teams publishing well-designed studies in the best journals, we should be skeptical of the benefits promulgated by people and in outlets that are not as scientifically rigorous.

It’s worth noting, too, that some research suggests that mindfulness may backfire. For instance, one study compared a group of participants who briefly engaged in mindfulness meditation with a group who did not. All the participants were asked to memorize a 15-word list; all the words involved the concept of trash (e.g., “rubbish,” “waste,” “garbage,” etc.). A key point is that the list did not contain the word “trash.” Close to 40 percent of the mindfulness group members falsely recalled seeing the word “trash,” compared with about 20 percent of the control participants (who had been advised to think about whatever they liked). Ironically, being mindful meant losing awareness of details.

Mindfulness, as popularly promoted and practiced, can itself be a distraction. It purports to draw on ancient traditions as an antidote to modern living. Yet it exacerbates the modern tendency toward navel-gazing, while asking us to resist useful aspects of our nature.

Snap judgments and “mindless” but superb performance are two such elements of our evolutionary endowment. Our nervous system — perhaps nature’s crowning achievement — evolved to discern figure from ground, to discriminate, to judge, often on an almost reflexive basis. And when we are fully absorbed in an activity, in a state of flow, it can be adaptive to lose self-awareness. A sure way to throw elite golfers off their game is to ask them to think aloud as they putt.

Interestingly, in contrast to much of the hyperbolic praise that is heaped on mindfulness, there is convincing evidence that the repetition of some activities, such as aerobic walking, even if done quite mindlessly, promotes health. Mere walking — three times a week for 40 or so minutes at a time — has even been shown to increase the volume of people’s brains enough to reverse usual age-related loss by almost two years.

So rather than reading books on mindfulness or attending retreats or ordering a mindful burger, you may want to consider taking a walk.

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:29 am

Many thanks Robert. This is an interesting article. Although he lost my sympathy somewhat when he said this:
Although there are various definitions of mindfulness, a workable one, drawn from some of the most respected practitioners, is the nonjudgmental awareness of the richness, subtlety and variety of the present moment — all of the present moment, not just the self.
I thought that the debunking of the "panacea" idea was done well. I liked the "trash" experiment!

paul
Posts: 812
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 11:27 pm
Location: Vietnam

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by paul » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:53 pm

Mindfulness involves more than blanket equanimity:

“This explanation (MN 117) makes problematic the common interpretation of mindfulness as a type of awareness intrinsically devoid of discrimination, evaluation and judgment. While such a type of awareness has gained currency in the popular literature on meditation, it does not square well with the canonical texts and my even lead to a distorted view of how mindfulness is to be practiced. There are certainly occasions when the cultivation of mindfulness requires the practitioner to suspend discrimination, evaluation, and judgment, and to adopt instead a stance of simple observation. However to fulfil its role as an integral member of the eightfold path, mindfulness has to work in unison with right view and right effort. This means that the practitioner of mindfulness must at times evaluate mental qualities and intended deeds, make judgments about them, and engage in purposeful action. I conjunction with right view, mindfulness enables the practitioner to distinguish wholesome qualities from unwholesome ones, good deeds from bad deeds, beneficial states of mind from harmful states. In conjunction with right effort, it promotes the removal of unwholesome mental qualities and the acquisition of wholesome qualities. It is only in this way that the practice of mindfulness can lay a foundation for correct wisdom to arise and extirpate the roots of suffering.”—“What Does Mindfulness Really Mean? A Canonical Perspective,” Bikkhu Bodhi.

Saengnapha
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Oct 31, 2017 5:04 am

paul wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:53 pm
Mindfulness involves more than blanket equanimity:

“This explanation (MN 117) makes problematic the common interpretation of mindfulness as a type of awareness intrinsically devoid of discrimination, evaluation and judgment. While such a type of awareness has gained currency in the popular literature on meditation, it does not square well with the canonical texts and my even lead to a distorted view of how mindfulness is to be practiced. There are certainly occasions when the cultivation of mindfulness requires the practitioner to suspend discrimination, evaluation, and judgment, and to adopt instead a stance of simple observation. However to fulfil its role as an integral member of the eightfold path, mindfulness has to work in unison with right view and right effort. This means that the practitioner of mindfulness must at times evaluate mental qualities and intended deeds, make judgments about them, and engage in purposeful action. I conjunction with right view, mindfulness enables the practitioner to distinguish wholesome qualities from unwholesome ones, good deeds from bad deeds, beneficial states of mind from harmful states. In conjunction with right effort, it promotes the removal of unwholesome mental qualities and the acquisition of wholesome qualities. It is only in this way that the practice of mindfulness can lay a foundation for correct wisdom to arise and extirpate the roots of suffering.”—“What Does Mindfulness Really Mean? A Canonical Perspective,” Bikkhu Bodhi.
Yes, mindfulness involves more than blanket equanimity. But, I wonder if Bhikkhu Bodhi's explanation above is too broad and if mindfulness should be broken down into different factors.
Ven. Payutto breaks it down as such:

The constituent factors in the practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are twofold: the passive (that which is focused on, observed, discerned), and the active (the act of observing, paying attention, insight).
-The passive constituents are those ordinary, mundane things common to all of us: the body and its movements, thoughts, feelings, etc., which exist or manifest in the present moment of awareness.
-The active constituents are mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajanna), which are the principal factors in the practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. These two agents focus on and observe those things present in the mind, unfalteringly and free from distraction.

Mindfulness (sati) is that which keeps hold of the chosen object; clear comprehension (sampajanna) is the wisdom faculty, which clearly discerns the nature and purpose of the object under investigation. For example, while walking one is mindful of and fully present with the movements of the body, and simultaneously one knows clearly the reason for walking, the intended destination, and the factors related to walking. Moreover, clear comprehension understands the object or the action as it is, without coating it with preferences and aversions.
...........One does not react to the object, evaluate it, criticize it, or judge it as being good or bad, right or wrong, etc............One merely discerns how that object, condition, or quality, actually is.
His explanation seems different than BB's and perhaps a bit more careful in explaining what the tools are and what not to get caught up in. What do you think?

paul
Posts: 812
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 11:27 pm
Location: Vietnam

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by paul » Tue Oct 31, 2017 6:59 am

Regarding mindfulness in detail I follow Thanissaro Bikkhu’s comprehensive (including all three time frames) interpretation, which includes the qualities of ardency (atappa) and alertness (sampajanna) with sati as components of mindfulness, since in the satipatthana refrain they always accompany it, “…ardent, alert and having sati, -subduing greed and distress with reference to the world. This is called the faculty of sati.” (DN 22). Thanissaro’s interpretation is innovative compared to Bikkhu Bodhi’s (as explained in “What Does Mindfulness Really Mean?”), in that he gives equal importance to ardency and alertness, and I agree that as it is mentioned, ardency should be an equal part of the mindfulness trio. But primarily, from personal experience I had independently realised that memory of dhamma was a contributing factor to mindfulness. Dhamma is an underlying logical law which can be realised for oneself.
Of the three components, Thanissaro attributes the function of remembering to sati, the function of awareness of the present to samapjanna, and the desire to avoid what is unbeneficial to atappa.

“Taken together, these mental factors of sati, alertness, and ardency indicate that right sati, as a factor of the path to the end of suffering and stress, brings memories from the past to bear on a clear alertness of events in the present with the purpose of abandoning unskillful qualities and developing skilfulness both in the present and on into the future.”—“Right Mindfulness”, Thanissaro Bikkhu.

It should be pointed out that two verses in MN 19 show how mindfulness operates on a continuum between right effort (first verse) and right concentration (second verse); the intensity of mindfulness depends on the strength of the defilements at a particular time, and the sutta indicates that these occurrences are cyclical. So at one stage the tactics of right effort need to be actively applied, while at the other the conditions for equanimity are present.

"Just as in the last month of the Rains, in the autumn season when the crops are ripening, a cowherd would look after his cows: He would tap & poke & check & curb them with a stick on this side & that. Why is that? Because he foresees flogging or imprisonment or a fine or public censure arising from that [if he let his cows wander into the crops]. In the same way I foresaw in unskillful qualities drawbacks, degradation, & defilement, and I foresaw in skillful qualities rewards related to renunciation & promoting cleansing.

"Just as in the last month of the hot season, when all the crops have been gathered into the village, a cowherd would look after his cows: While resting under the shade of a tree or out in the open, he simply keeps himself mindful of 'those cows.' In the same way, I simply kept myself mindful of 'those mental qualities.'
Last edited by paul on Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:49 am, edited 3 times in total.

Saengnapha
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:27 am

Paul,

There is much more that Payutto says about all the facets of mindfulness. He does talk about the 'memory' aspect and how sati guards against 'unwanted intrusions', etc. I like Payutto's way of describing Dhamma. He is very clear and seems to cover all the terrain.

DooDoot
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by DooDoot » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:11 am

paul wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:53 pm
There are certainly occasions when the cultivation of mindfulness requires the practitioner to suspend discrimination, evaluation, and judgment, and to adopt instead a stance of simple observation.
While I agree with most of what VBB wrote, I think the above excerpt is not true because when the mind "suspends discrimination, evaluation and judgment" there is a very subtle judgment & evaluation occurring that the mind has suspended gross discrimination & judgment. In my evaluation, mindfulness does not ever operate without evaluation. Even in jhana, where the mind is ekkaggata, mindfulness evaluates/knows the mind is on the right path & thus does not break that path.

DooDoot
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by DooDoot » Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:55 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:27 am
There is much more that Payutto says about all the facets of mindfulness. He does talk about the 'memory' aspect and how sati guards against 'unwanted intrusions', etc. I like Payutto's way of describing Dhamma. He is very clear and seems to cover all the terrain.
This probably warrants examination.
The constituent factors in the practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are twofold: the passive (that which is focused on, observed, discerned), and the active (the act of observing, paying attention, insight).
The suttas & commentaries seem to define 'mindfulness' as 'to remember' (SN 48.10) or 'retain in mind' (MN 117). Therefore, the act of observing (anupassi), paying attention (manasikara) or insight (vipassana) do not appear to be 'mindfulness' (sati).
The active constituents are mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajanna), which are the principal factors in the practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. These two agents focus on and observe those things present in the mind, unfalteringly and free from distraction.
The act of observing in the Satipatthana Sutta is called 'anupassi'. Mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajanna) may certainly act to keep the mind free from distraction :geek: and, for yogic meditators, may crudely act to keep the mind unfalteringly on the intended object but the language in the suttas does not appear to say the function of mindfulness is to 'observe'. 'Mindfulness' is memory while consciousness observes in sense contact. Mindfulness (sati) does not appear to be consciousness (vinanna).
Mindfulness (sati) is that which keeps hold of the chosen object;
Crudely, maybe, but not always. For example, if the breath tranquilises & rapture arises, mindfulness has no power to stop the breath from disappearing & stop the rapture from dominating the field of consciousness/observation. The fact that mindfulness cannot determine any chosen objects shows mindfulness does not really keep hold of any object.
clear comprehension (sampajanna) is the wisdom faculty, which clearly discerns the nature and purpose of the object under investigation.
This is sounding a bit strange. An object of satipatthana, such as the breathing, does not really have a "purpose", apart from to serve as an object of non-attachment. Sampajanna may apply the wisdom of non-attachment but this seems to pertain to the purpose of the path (namely, liberation) rather than to the purpose of the object. As for discerning the nature of the object, this sounds like 'vipassana' (insight) rather than 'sampajanna' (situational wisdom).
For example, while walking one is mindful of and fully present with the movements of the body, and simultaneously one knows clearly the reason for walking, the intended destination, and the factors related to walking. Moreover, clear comprehension understands the object or the action as it is, without coating it with preferences and aversions.
The above is a common passage in the suttas that might possibly create confusion. As mentioned, sampajanna does appear to not be direct wisdom (vipassana) but the application of learned wisdom. It sounds like this passage means to not-cling to walking, standing, etc, & to keep in mind it is only the body walking, standing, etc, as follows:
Situational awareness

Furthermore, when a monastic goes out and returns they act with awareness; when looking to the front and to the side they act with awareness; when bending and extending their limbs they act with awareness; when wearing the robes, and carrying the bowl and outer robe they act with awareness; when eating drinking, chewing, and tasting they act with awareness; when defecating and urinating they act with awareness; when walking, standing, sitting, lying down, waking up, speaking, and keeping silent they act with awareness.

In this way they meditate by observing an aspect of the body inside … This too is how a monastic meditates by observing an aspect of the body.... They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world.

https://suttacentral.net/en/mn10#table-of-contents
:alien:
...clear comprehension understands the object or the action as it is, without coating it with preferences and aversions.
To be mindful (to remember) to not coat the observation of an object with aversions sounds like a 'preference'.
...........One does not react to the object, evaluate it, criticize it, or judge it as being good or bad, right or wrong, etc............One merely discerns how that object, condition, or quality, actually is.
This might be Payutto's personal ideas rather something from the Pali suttas. Given the mindfulness of the Buddhist path is called 'Right Mindfulness', obviously each path factor, including mindfulness, is constantly monitored & evaluated as being "right".
Last edited by DooDoot on Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:13 am, edited 4 times in total.

paul
Posts: 812
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 11:27 pm
Location: Vietnam

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by paul » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:00 am

Equanimity has an agenda:

"As for equanimity, even though the passage from MN 101 contrasts it with the fabrication of exertion, we have to remember that it's a mental feeling (Sn 36:31), one of the five aggregates, and so it's a fabricated phenomenon. When used on the path, it differs from the fabrication of exertion only in that it requires much less effort. In fact, one of the important insights leading to release is that even subtle forms of equanimity are no less fabricated that mental states requiring much more energy. This point is bourne out by the fact that when equanimity is employed instead of the fabrication of exertion, it's used with a particular purpose in mind: to abandon unskillful qualities. This means that it has an underlying agenda, the agenda of right effort, and is not totally free from preference." "Right Mindfulness", Thanissaro Bikkhu.

DooDoot
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by DooDoot » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:08 am

paul wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:00 am
This means that it has an underlying agenda, the agenda of right effort, and is not totally free from preference." "Right Mindfulness", Thanissaro Bikkhu.
Sounds like what was posted in the previous post, below:
DootDoot wrote:
Payutto wrote:...clear comprehension understands the object or the action as it is, without coating it with preferences and aversions.
To be mindful (to remember) to not coat the observation of an object with aversions sounds like a 'preference'.

Saengnapha
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:38 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:08 am
paul wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:00 am
This means that it has an underlying agenda, the agenda of right effort, and is not totally free from preference." "Right Mindfulness", Thanissaro Bikkhu.
Sounds like what was posted in the previous post, below:
DootDoot wrote:
Payutto wrote:...clear comprehension understands the object or the action as it is, without coating it with preferences and aversions.
To be mindful (to remember) to not coat the observation of an object with aversions sounds like a 'preference'.
You can read his full description in his massive work 'Buddhadhamma', translated by Robin Moore which has just been published in English here in Bangkok and is to be distributed gratis. It is more than 1500 pages.

DooDoot
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by DooDoot » Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:36 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:38 am
You can read his full description in his massive work 'Buddhadhamma', translated by Robin Moore which has just been published in English here in Bangkok and is to be distributed gratis. It is more than 1500 pages.
Why would I read a "massive work" when I lacked confidence in the brief excerpt you posted, here? I recall having a copy of Payutto's 'Samma Sati' (quoted below) years ago when it was first published and found parts of it difficult to reconcile with meditative experience plus found it unnecessarily lengthy & wordy.
Payutto Samma Sati wrote: The primary feature of the working of sati is that it prevents the mind from drifting. It does not allow mental states to pass by unheeded. It prevents the mind from becoming agitated and restless. It is attentive, as if keeping its eyes on each impression that passes into consciousness and then bearing down on it. When one wishes to concentrate on a particular object, it maintains one's attention fixedly upon it, not allowing the object to drift away or disappear. By means of sati, one keeps placing the mind on the object, or recollecting it, not allowing oneself to let it slip from the mind. There is a simile likening it to a pillar, because it is firmly embedded in its object, or to a gate-keeper, because it watches over the various sense-doors through which sense-data pass, inspecting all that enters. The proximate cause for the arising of sati is a firm and clear perception of the object, or any of the different sorts of satipatthana that will be spoken of below.

On the positive side, sati is the controller and inspector of the stream of sense-consciousness, mentality and all one's actions, ensuring that they all lie within desired parameters. It keeps the mind harnessed to its chosen object. It is thus the tool for laying hold of or clasping onto an object, and its action is rather like placing the object in front of the mind for consideration.

4. The ability to take hold of a meditation object and, as it were, to lay it down in front of the mind so that subsequent investigation by the wisdom-faculty may proceed with optimum clarity as a basis on which wisdom can be developed and brought to perfection.

https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Payu ... i.htm#Role
For me, the sutta MN 117 explains the role of mindfulness perfectly in five repetitions of one similar sentence, as follows:
MN 117 wrote:One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood: This is one's right mindfulness.

MN 117
Payutto writes may good things but these can be found more clearly in the Pali suttas. To me, Payutto's books are similar to Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, namely, an encyclopaedic collection of various & often contradictory ideas. The following is an example, with what appears to be two antagonistic/contradictory definitions/translations of the term 'Satipatthana':
Payutto Samma Sati wrote:'Satipatthana' is sometimes translated as 'the Foundations of Mindfulness' and sometimes as 'the Establishing of (i.e. governance by) Mindfulness'.
Or the following, where 'mindfulness' (sati) is equated with 'observation/contemplation' (anupassi).
In brief, the main elements of satipatthana are as follows:

1. Kayanupassana, contemplation or mindfulness of the body:

2. Vedananupassana, mindfulness of feeling: i.e. when a feeling of pleasure, pain, or indifference arises, whether associated with sensual desires or unassociated with them, one has a clear perception of it in its actuality at the moment of occurrence.

3. Cittanupassana, mindfulness of mind: i.e. how the mind is at a given moment -- for instance, whether sensual desire is present in it or not, whether aversion is present in it or not, whether it is agitated or concentrated, liberated or still fettered, etc., one has a clear perception of the underlying state of mind, in its actuality in the present moment;
So, above, 'mindfulness' to Payutto appears to be equated with "clear perception" or "observation" of an object rather than with "governance by mindfulness". The Pali suttas (AN 10.58) say path dhammas are "governed" by mindfulness (satādhipateyyā sabbe dhammā).

Saengnapha
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:06 am

DooDoot wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 7:36 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:38 am
You can read his full description in his massive work 'Buddhadhamma', translated by Robin Moore which has just been published in English here in Bangkok and is to be distributed gratis. It is more than 1500 pages.
Why would I read a "massive work" when I lacked confidence in the brief excerpt you posted, here? I recall having a copy of Payutto's 'Samma Sati' (quoted below) years ago when it was first published and found parts of it difficult to reconcile with meditative experience plus found it unnecessarily lengthy & wordy.
Payutto Samma Sati wrote: The primary feature of the working of sati is that it prevents the mind from drifting. It does not allow mental states to pass by unheeded. It prevents the mind from becoming agitated and restless. It is attentive, as if keeping its eyes on each impression that passes into consciousness and then bearing down on it. When one wishes to concentrate on a particular object, it maintains one's attention fixedly upon it, not allowing the object to drift away or disappear. By means of sati, one keeps placing the mind on the object, or recollecting it, not allowing oneself to let it slip from the mind. There is a simile likening it to a pillar, because it is firmly embedded in its object, or to a gate-keeper, because it watches over the various sense-doors through which sense-data pass, inspecting all that enters. The proximate cause for the arising of sati is a firm and clear perception of the object, or any of the different sorts of satipatthana that will be spoken of below.

On the positive side, sati is the controller and inspector of the stream of sense-consciousness, mentality and all one's actions, ensuring that they all lie within desired parameters. It keeps the mind harnessed to its chosen object. It is thus the tool for laying hold of or clasping onto an object, and its action is rather like placing the object in front of the mind for consideration.

4. The ability to take hold of a meditation object and, as it were, to lay it down in front of the mind so that subsequent investigation by the wisdom-faculty may proceed with optimum clarity as a basis on which wisdom can be developed and brought to perfection.

https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Payu ... i.htm#Role
For me, the sutta MN 117 explains the role of mindfulness perfectly in five repetitions of one similar sentence, as follows:
MN 117 wrote:One is mindful to abandon wrong view & to enter & remain in right view: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong resolve & to enter & remain in right resolve: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong speech & to enter & remain in right speech: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong action & to enter & remain in right action: This is one's right mindfulness.

One is mindful to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter & remain in right livelihood: This is one's right mindfulness.

MN 117
Payutto writes may good things but these can be found more clearly in the Pali suttas. To me, Payutto's books are similar to Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, namely, an encyclopaedic collection of various & often contradictory ideas. The following is an example, with what appears to be two antagonistic/contradictory definitions/translations of the term 'Satipatthana':
Payutto Samma Sati wrote:'Satipatthana' is sometimes translated as 'the Foundations of Mindfulness' and sometimes as 'the Establishing of (i.e. governance by) Mindfulness'.
Or the following, where 'mindfulness' (sati) is equated with 'observation/contemplation' (anupassi).
In brief, the main elements of satipatthana are as follows:

1. Kayanupassana, contemplation or mindfulness of the body:

2. Vedananupassana, mindfulness of feeling: i.e. when a feeling of pleasure, pain, or indifference arises, whether associated with sensual desires or unassociated with them, one has a clear perception of it in its actuality at the moment of occurrence.

3. Cittanupassana, mindfulness of mind: i.e. how the mind is at a given moment -- for instance, whether sensual desire is present in it or not, whether aversion is present in it or not, whether it is agitated or concentrated, liberated or still fettered, etc., one has a clear perception of the underlying state of mind, in its actuality in the present moment;
So, above, 'mindfulness' to Payutto appears to be equated with "clear perception" or "observation" of an object rather than with "governance by mindfulness". The Pali suttas (AN 10.58) say path dhammas are "governed" by mindfulness (satādhipateyyā sabbe dhammā).
So, you don't like his style, and you have your own views on this. What else is new?

User avatar
Pondera
Posts: 593
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:02 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Pondera » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:14 am

Interesting that in the original article, mindfulness seems to be ineffective where the opioid crisis is concerned. In my experience, mindfulness is a catalyst for activating natural analgesics. The key to reducing pain and opiate addiction (possibly) is in knowing where the natural analgesics are and how greed, delusion, ignorance, and craving act as inhibitors to their release.
A wise man once asked an audience, "why do the ignorant shrug their shoulders?"

No one in the audience knew. They shrugged their shoulders, however the wise man only laughed and shook his head. He didn't explain any further.

DooDoot
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by DooDoot » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:20 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:06 am
So, you don't like his style, and you have your own views on this. What else is new?
I like the style & particularly the content of this link: https://www.mahidol.ac.th/budsir/Contents.html by Payutto. Its not about me not liking his style. Its that I don't pretend to be open-minded & devoid of views whilst at the same time clinging dogmatically, loyally & uncritically to gurus who write long books & give long sermons. I try to critically evaluate what I read according to what seems real. In my experience of meditation, mindfulness is not observation nor is mindfulness able to choose any of the four objects in satipatthana. Lots is going in meditation or 'Satipatthana' and not everything occurring in Satipatthana is 'mindfulness'.

Saengnapha
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:18 am

DooDoot wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:20 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 2:06 am
So, you don't like his style, and you have your own views on this. What else is new?
I like the style & particularly the content of this link: https://www.mahidol.ac.th/budsir/Contents.html by Payutto. Its not about me not liking his style. Its that I don't pretend to be open-minded & devoid of views whilst at the same time clinging dogmatically, loyally & uncritically to gurus who write long books & give long sermons. I try to critically evaluate what I read according to what seems real. In my experience of meditation, mindfulness is not observation nor is mindfulness able to choose any of the four objects in satipatthana. Lots is going in meditation or 'Satipatthana' and not everything occurring in Satipatthana is 'mindfulness'.
I understand what you are saying, but I do the same thing, or at least attempt to do it. In my experience, Payutto's definition and exposition of Mindfulness and satipatthana practice comes very close to my own, so I see no problem with the way he speaks and I don't cling dogmatically, loyally, & uncritically to any gurus whether they write long books or no books.

Payutto: 'There is the matter of linguistics here that needs to be addressed. Some people misconstrue the common definition of sati as 'recollection' and the definition of sampajanna as 'self awareness', leading to misguided practice. They establish mindfulness on the sense of self and then have the impression that they are the agents for various actions, thinking, 'I am doing this,' 'I am doing that.'; as a result they create or reinforce the concept of self. They become preoccupied with this self image and develop a rigidity of mind. At the very least, their minds are not truly focused on the activity and their efforts thus do not come to fruition.

Someone prone to such misunderstanding should recall the definition of sati as 'bearing in mind,' 'sustaining attention on the object or task at hand,' and 'sustaining attention on the flow of events.' Similarly, one should recall the definition of sampajanna as 'clear comprehension of an object of attention' or 'clear comprehension of one's current activity.' In other words, it is not a matter of focusing on the sense of self ('I am doing this'). Rather than focusing on the 'performer' of the task, one focuses on the task itself. One's attention is so present and focused that eventually there is no opportunity for a sense of self to interfere in the process.

The essential fiature of mindfulness is an accurate, undistorted perception of things. One sees and understands what the object of awareness is, how it manifests, and what effects it has in each moment. This entails a constant acknowledging, observing, contemplating, and understanding............

The constant application of mindfulness and clear comprehension implies living in the present moment. One is aware in each moment of what is arising, what is happening, or what one is doing; attention does not slip. One does not attach to or linger over past events, and one does not drift off into the future in search of things that do not yet exist.............By dwelling in the present moment, one is not enslaved, seduced, or driven by craving.........


Doo Doot, if the Pali suttas were so clear and efficient in their meaning, what do you think prompted others to write treatises and give talks about them? It would follow that one reading of a sutta would clarify all things and impart immediate awakening. Maybe there are some people who fit this description but it certainly ain't you or I or anyone else on this board.........Payutto is a very clear writer, carefully choosing his words. He is highly thought of here in Thailand. I know of no person that is not questioned, analyzed, or critiqued, by others. Even the Buddha was not immune to this, but I'm not equating Payutto or BB to the Buddha. Since there is no perfection in any of this, perfection being a mental object and having no ultimate reality, I am not looking for perfection in what he writes. One's life becomes the proof of wisdom, not the words. Cheers.

DooDoot
Posts: 544
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:06 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by DooDoot » Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:13 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:18 am
In my experience, Payutto's definition and exposition of Mindfulness and satipatthana practice comes very close to my own
You appear to be arguing in circles. I already offered an objection to or refutation of your views & you have not offered a refutation in return. There is little point in re-posting what you & I previously posted.

I trust i demonstrated & proved your idea of mindfulness to be not real or true. That is the matter. I already posted when meditators calm their breathing and cannot discern their breathing anymore, this shows mindfulness does not "choose" a "chosen" object. Or when breathing ceases as an object of awareness & is replaced by the rapture of jhana, mindfulness does not chose the disappearance of breathing & the appearance of rapture. It is quite obvious Payutto & yourself are asserting things that are not real or true and, being not real or true, would indicate adherence to a collective or group dogma.

In short, what I have posted above is obviously irrefutable.
Payutto: 'There is the matter of linguistics here that needs to be addressed. Some people misconstrue the common definition of sati as 'recollection' and the definition of sampajanna as 'self awareness', leading to misguided practice.
If Payutto is saying mindfulness is not "recollection", it seems it is Payutto that might be misconstruing & misguided because there are many scholar & meditation monks that prefer "recollection" if a single word translation is required; from Buddhadasa to Sujato.

As for sampajanna, I never said it is 'self-awareness'. It said it is 'situational wisdom' or 'applied wisdom'.
They establish mindfulness on the sense of self and then have the impression that they are the agents for various actions, thinking, 'I am doing this,' 'I am doing that.'; as a result they create or reinforce the concept of self. They become preoccupied with this self image and develop a rigidity of mind. At the very least, their minds are not truly focused on the activity and their efforts thus do not come to fruition.
This is a departure from what was previously discussed, which was Payutto's personal ideas about mindfulness (sati).
Someone prone to such misunderstanding should recall the definition of sati as 'bearing in mind,' 'sustaining attention on the object or task at hand,' and 'sustaining attention on the flow of events.'
Sati might be "bearing in mind" but I trust I already proved sati is not "sustaining attention on the chosen object", unless that object is non-attachment or another object that can be permanent.
Similarly, one should recall the definition of sampajanna as 'clear comprehension of an object of attention' or 'clear comprehension of one's current activity.' In other words, it is not a matter of focusing on the sense of self ('I am doing this'). Rather than focusing on the 'performer' of the task, one focuses on the task itself. One's attention is so present and focused that eventually there is no opportunity for a sense of self to interfere in the process.
This is irrelevant to mindfulness (because it is a discussion of sampajanna) but Payutto seems to again equate sampajjana with consciousness (vinnana; anupassi) & concentration (samadhi) when he says: "so present & so focused". All sampajjana is is a support for the development of the path, which brings learned wisdom to a situation, such as: "the self idea is to be abandoned because abandoning self is the path of peace".
The essential feature of mindfulness is an accurate, undistorted perception of things.
This is not mindfulness. It is "wisdom" (panna) & vipassana (clear seeing) that is an accurate, undistorted perception of things. :roll:
One sees and understands what the object of awareness is, how it manifests, and what effects it has in each moment.
This is not mindfulness. It is "wisdom" ("panna") and vipassana ("clear seeing") that understands what the object of awareness is, how it manifests, and what effects it has in each moment.
This entails a constant acknowledging, observing, contemplating, and understanding............
There are simply too many discrete mental functions in the above sentence for all them to be "mindfulness" (sati).
The constant application of mindfulness and clear comprehension implies living in the present moment. One is aware in each moment of what is arising, what is happening, or what one is doing; attention does not slip. One does not attach to or linger over past events, and one does not drift off into the future in search of things that do not yet exist.............By dwelling in the present moment, one is not enslaved, seduced, or driven by craving.........
This is more rhetoric.
Doo Doot, if the Pali suttas were so clear and efficient in their meaning, what do you think prompted others to write treatises and give talks about them?
Because the suttas may have been miscomprehended.
It would follow that one reading of a sutta would clarify all things and impart immediate awakening.

Indeed. Immediate awakening, i.e., at least stream-entry, is a feature of many Pali suttas.
Maybe there are some people who fit this description but it certainly ain't you or I or anyone else on this board...
The path includes truthful speech. I think the above should be rephrased according to your personal knowledge of what is known to be true, namely: 'Maybe there are some people who fit this description but it certainly ain't I ..".
Payutto is a very clear writer, carefully choosing his words.

Obviously, I disagree. I think I have made a very sound case, which, as usual, you have not corrected, countered or refuted. I posted:

1. Mindfulness (sati) is obviously not observing (anupassi), otherwise the Pali words would not be different.

2. Mindfulness is unable to choose & stay with most objects given most objects of Satipatthana are impermanent (unless the object is something potentially permanent, such as non-attachment, non-craving, Nibbana or impermanence).
He is highly thought of here in Thailand.
What is true & real is not a popularity contest. Plus, I already posted I had Payutto's book 'Samma Sati', when it was 1st published. In other words, I was living in Thailand at the time.

User avatar
Aloka
Posts: 5632
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Aloka » Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:44 pm

.

Here's Ajahn Jayasaro talking for 4 minutes about the meaning of sati and sati sampajanna:







:anjali:

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 2446
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Nov 01, 2017 1:26 pm

Aloka wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:44 pm
...
Many thanks, Aloka. I have viewed that video several times, and I'm always impressed with Ajahn Jayasaro's clarity. He says something similar in his talk "Liberation and Precepts", which I also like a lot and to which I return whenever I am exposed to discussions about "mindfulness" which multiply vague definitions and cause confusion.
Earlier I mentioned the practice of being in the present moment in daily life,
and being mindful. The Thai word for sati, which is usually translated into
English as mindfulness, is ‘kwahm raleuk dy’ or ‘recollection’. One important
aspect of mindfulness is the recollecting of what needs to be recollected at any
time and place. It is a form of non-forgetting and may include not only the
bearing in mind of a meditation object, but also certain teachings or appropriate
information. Mindfulness is not a floating nebulous ‘awareness’. You can’t just
be mindful. You always have to be mindful of something. In meditation you’re
mindful of a particular object, but in daily life what can you be mindful of? It is
the failure to ask this question and so being left with a lack of clear objects for
mindfulness that helps explain why it is so easy to get distracted in daily life.

Saengnapha
Posts: 326
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Mindfulness and modern ideas about it

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:21 pm

Aloka wrote:
Wed Nov 01, 2017 12:44 pm
.

Here's Ajahn Jayasaro talking for 4 minutes about the meaning of sati and sati sampajanna:







:anjali:
Jayasaro also helped with the translation of Payutto's 'Buddhadhamma' and as far as I am told, holds Payutto in high esteem, for whatever that is worth to someone like Doo Doot who seems to criticize anything that doesn't jive with his own views. That is from the mouth of the translator to my very ears.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests