Whether or not you joined our Spring on the Sea of Cortez retreat, the following meditations may be of benefit to you. Learn more about the four foundations of mindfulness, and listen to four meditations from our spring retreat.
The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
The four foundations of mindfulness offer us instructions on what to be aware of during our meditation practice. They also offer us a preview of the insights we might experience if we meditate consistently. We can think of these as moving from gross to more subtle layers of awareness. The four foundations of mindfulness are as follows:
- Mindfulness of the body (and breath)
- Mindfulness of feeling tones (vedana)
- Mindfulness of our state of mind
- Mindfulness of the dharma
One way to develop a deeper understanding of the four foundations is to use them as objects of meditation in our formal meditation practice. We did just that on our spring retreat.
4 Meditations From Our Spring Retreat
On our spring retreat, we practiced a guided meditation every morning using the four foundations of mindfulness as our meditation anchor. An anchor gives us direction on where to place our attention. This way, we can monitor whether or not we are meditating. Stay with the anchor, and we’re in the meditation. Drift from the anchor, and we’ve become distracted.
To try it, listen to the following guided meditations. Then, practice on your own and see what happens.
Mindfulness of the Breath
We begin with mindfulness of the breath. The intention here is to observe our breath, not just with the thinking mind, but as it is experienced by the body itself. What does the breath feel like as it moves through the body?
This foundational meditation is a good one to practice first for several reasons. The breath is always with us and is typically consistent, making it a convenient, stable meditation anchor. Once we stabilize and calm the mind with breath awareness, we may find it easier to work with the more subtle layers of mindfulness.
Pleasant & Unpleasant
The second of the meditations from our spring retreat focused on identifying the vedana, or feeling tones, of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. These feeling tones arise nearly instantaneously once we observe sensation. They are not necessarily good or bad. But when they lead to a habitual, mindless reaction, the feeling tones can get us into trouble.
By increasing mindfulness of these judgments or labels, we also become more mindful of our reactivity to them. In this way, we learn to do less harm both to ourselves, and others.
Mindfulness of Mind
Whenever we are in meditation, there’s one part of the mind that is focused on an anchor, such as breath, while another part of our mind is aware of the quality of our focus. For example, is the mind craving distraction or content where it is? Is the mind feeling restless, or like there’s too much energy? Or tired, as if there’s too little energy?
In the third of the meditations from our spring retreat, we began working with turning the mind back toward itself, asking, ‘what’s my state of mind like right now?’
Mindfulness of the Dharma
The last of the four foundations of mindfulness is mindfulness of the dharma. Dharma may refer to the entirety of the Buddhist or Yogic teachings, but it may also be translated as reality itself, or the truth. Typically, we don’t see things as they are, but as we are. This often causes suffering and gets us into trouble. Yoga is the practice of turning the mind around so we can see all things, including ourselves, as they really, truly exist.
Among the things we notice when we become mindful of the dharma is that nothing exists in just one way, and nothing exists permanently. Everything is always changing. By embracing the truth of change we find greater ease in life, no longer fighting against reality.
A Final Word on Meditations from Our Spring Retreat
Anyone can listen to these four meditations, regardless of whether or not they were present on our retreat. Please listen in a quiet, safe space where you can be relatively free from distraction. We invite you to listen to them in order, giving each as much space as you’d like to. Perhaps practice one of the four foundations each week. Listen to the guided practice on a Monday, then practice on your own the following days, returning to the guided practice as you need to.
Questions or comments? Please share your experience with us below.