Right Mindfulness in Buddhism – The Seventh Spoke of the Wheel
The next principle of the Eight-fold Path is called Right Mindfulness which is “samma sati” in the Indian Pali language. This can be translated in a number of ways: “Right memory”, “right awareness”, “right attention” but it’s important to keep in mind that the word “right” actually translates to “skillful”, “realistic”, “authentic” in the sense that we are performing an action that is conducive to the attainment of enlightenment.
Defining Right Mindfulness
What is Right Mindfulness in Buddhism? Simply put it refers to being aware of our body and mind states in the present moment. It also means that we don’t forget why we are following the Eight-fold path in the first place, to be free of suffering (dukkha).
To be mindful of our thoughts also means that we have the opportunity to observe and to release habit patterns in our minds that have to do with maintaining the illusion of a self that is separate from everything else.
The Four Foundations of Right Mindfulness
The Buddha once said of Mindfulness when asked “What is Right Mindfulness” to which he replied:
“There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering and able to recall even things that were done and said long ago. He remains focused on the body in and of itself – ardent, alert, and mindful – putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in and of themselves, the mind in and of itself, mental qualities in and of themselves – ardent, alert, and mindful – putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world.” – SN 48.10
The Buddha further used the metaphor of a gate-keeper to illustrate this in the Nagara Sutta:
“Just as the royal frontier fortress has a gate-keeper — wise, experienced, intelligent — to keep out those he doesn’t know and to let in those he does, for the protection of those within and to ward off those without; in the same way a disciple of the noble ones is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. With mindfulness as his gate-keeper”
To sum up there are Four main types of mindfulness:
- Mindfulness of the body – Perception on the breath, pay attention to your breath going in and out
- Mindfulness of feeling – Take note of pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings
- Mindfulness of mind – Be aware of your thoughts and intentions
- Mindfulness of mental phenomena – Be aware of all of your senses, what arises and passes away
Applying Right Mindfulness
Bhikkhu Bodhi, a Theravadan monk further explains:
“The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness, the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped.”
If you have trouble following the breath, one thing you can do is invest in an adult coloring book. Coloring forces us to be mindful as we color inside the lines and is a good way to start cultivating mindfulness and awareness. If your mind wanders, then just bring your attention back to your coloring. Don’t think too much about the colors you choose and just go with what feels right. If you’re being mindful you will be aware of this.
There are many Mindfulness coloring books out on the market such as The Secret Garden by Joanna Basford and The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People , among others.
There are also Buddhist themed coloring books with mandalas and Buddhist imagery and symbolism where you can contemplate the teachings that are associated with them as you color, effectively turning adult coloring into a mindfulness meditative practice. This is also similar in principle to the construction of colored sand mandalas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that we see Buddhist monks make, which they destroy upon completion.
Helpful Buddhist Quotes
When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. – Pema Chodron
It is right mindfulness and attention that allow us to change our behaviour. – Kalu Rinpoche
When repeated difficulties do arise, our first spiritual approach is to acknowledge what is present, naming, softly saying ‘sadness, sadness’, or ‘remembering, remembering’, or whatever. – Jack Kornfield
When we let go of our battles and open our hearts to things as they are, then we come to rest in the present moment. This is the beginning and the end of spiritual practice. – Jack Kornfield
Thanks for reading this article on Right Mindfulness in Buddhism, and please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
May we attain perfect Buddhahood for the sake of all living beings!