Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – Mindfulness

Extracts from Chapter 13

Mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena. It sees the way that we have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of experience and then conceptualized them as separate, enduring, entities.

Mindfulness is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced — rather easily — and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the thing itself.

When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is mirror-thought. It reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. There are no biases. Mindfulness is non-judgmental observation. It is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. With this ability, one sees things without condemnation or judgment. One is surprised by nothing.

In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can’t examine our own depression without accepting it fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy reflecting its existence.

Mindfulness is an impartial watchfulness. It does not take sides. It does not get hung up in what is perceived. It just perceives. Mindfulness does not get infatuated with the good mental states. It does not try to sidestep the bad mental states. There is no clinging to the pleasant, no fleeing from the unpleasant. Mindfulness sees all experiences as equal, all thoughts as equal, all feelings as equal.

It stays forever in the present, surging perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wave of passing time.

Mindfulness stops one from adding anything to perception, or subtracting anything from it.

In Mindfulness, one is an unbiased observer whose sole job is to keep track of the constantly passing show of the universe within.

Mindfulness is not an intellectual awareness. It is just awareness.

Repeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries over into the rest of your life. A serious meditator pays bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not.

Mindfulness is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we have ceased to do so.

Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness. It has a flavor–a light, clear, energetic flavor. Conscious thought is heavy by comparison, ponderous and picky.

Mindfulness and only Mindfulness can perceive the three prime characteristics that Buddhism teaches are the deepest truths of existence. In Pali these three are called Anicca (impermanence),Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and Anatta (selflessness–the absence of a permanent, unchanging, entity that we call Soul or Self).

One who attends constantly to what is really going on in one’s mind achieves the state of ultimate sanity.

Fully developed Mindfulness is a state of total non-attachment and utter absence of clinging to anything in the world.

This pure and unstained investigative awareness not only holds mental hindrances at bay, it lays bare their very mechanism and destroys them. Mindfulness neutralizes defilements in the mind. The result is a mind which remains unstained and invulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life.

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