Right Mindfulness in Buddhism – The Seventh Spoke

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.

right mindfulness in buddhism

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:

right mindfulness in buddhism

Watching the Mekong by Flickr user Akuppa John Wigham

“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:

  1. Mindfulness of the body Perception on the breath, pay attention to your breath going in and out
  2. Mindfulness of feeling Take note of pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings
  3. Mindfulness of mind – Be aware of your thoughts and intentions
  4. Mindfulness of mental phenomena Be aware of all of your senses, what arises and passes away

 Applying Right Mindfulness

right mindfulness in buddhism

Sand Mandala by Flickr user Jasleen Kaur

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

right mindfulness in buddhism

Kalu Rinpoche

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!

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8 Responses to Right Mindfulness in Buddhism – The Seventh Spoke

  1. Mayuri says:

    I come from a very religious Buddhist family, so I am a Buddhist since birth, but I never took any time to study Buddhism except the classroom time spent at school. My grandfather wrote books about Buddhism, I never even took the time to read any of his books either. It is very interesting to see how you are learning and practicing Buddhism and I am ashamed of my self for not digging deep to this great religion.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Mayuri,

      Thanks for the comment! Don’t be ashamed that you haven’t dug deep into your heritage. What is your grandfathers’ name? I’d like to check out his books if possible.

  2. Daniel Garcia says:

    I am not really into Budism but I do like your post on the seventh spoke because it was insightful and I learned about it, that would be amazing if everyone was in thier right mind the world would be very different. I also like the adult coloring books because it does take people in a trance like state where they are so focused they don’t pay attention to the world around them, I know see why colorama is popular.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! I agree that if everyone practiced mindfulness then the world would definitely be a better place. The Dalai Lama once said that if we teach meditation to all of the children in the world, we would see change for the better in a generation.

  3. netp says:

    I’ve been learning quite a lot about mindfulness recently because I’ve been studying reiki and have completed the first level. I need to try and incorporate studying more into my day though – as I find the more that I don’t, the less I manage to do it. It takes practice. But I find when I am making an effort to remember mindfulness, I feel much better.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment. Cool that you’ve been studying Reiki, it has helped so many people over the years. I’m fascinated by the manipulation of energy that is involved. And yes mindfulness is more challenging that most people realize. Sounds like you not only have been practicing mindfulness but also right effort. Our minds sometimes convince us that right effort is painful like the effort one might experience under dukkha.

  4. Lionismee says:

    This is a well written article. I learned a little about Buddhism today. I have to say that I don’t really see how the eight fold path could free me from suffering since suffering is a side effect of sin which we can have no control over, but mindfulness certainly does bring about a change of perspective that can be helpful.
    Thanks for the insight.

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