Right Mindfulness (7th Noble Eightfold Path)

Mindfulness Yoga – Right Mindfulness Lecture Recorded Notes on September 26, 2013

My father is a traditional father, who has high expectations of his children.  He wants his children to do well, and often suggests his children to follow his way of life.  However, if we did something that was not in line with his value, he would complain to others and nag us for not doing the “right” thing.

My brother has twin daughters, who are about to enter kindergarten.  My sister-in-law was trying to gather information about different kindergartens and my father happened to know a priest who might be able to help connecting the twins to a Christian kindergarten.  He asked my sister-in-law whether she was interested in that kindergarten and said he would try turning to the priest if he could help.  The priest asked my father to pass the admission forms to my sister-in-law and have them return as soon as possible in order to secure the spots in the kindergarten.  My father passed the forms to my sister-in-law, but did not receive much feedback from her.

I happened to have a lunch get-together with my father a month after this incident.  I was looking forward to catching up with him and sharing with him about my recent news, however, as soon as we sat down, he started to complain about my sister in law, about how she did not turn in the admission forms, about how the priest was asking about the forms.

At the beginning, I thought, “Oh my God… We haven’t sat together and have lunch for a long time, why didn’t you ask about me but start complaining?  Can’t we just enjoy our presence?”  I noticed my frustration started to surface, and I knew if I was not mindful, I could blow up any moment (it often happened in the past).  Not wanting to argue with my father, I decided to pay attention to my breathing, my frustration, and also try to practice deep listening without judging him.  It was not easy, but I did my best to stay close with my breath so that I could stay present without being lost in the past resentments.

As I continued to listen to my father with an open heart, I started to feel his pain, so I asked, “Dad, does this incident make you feel losing face in front of the priest because you had asked him for this favor but it seemed like you didn’t follow through?”  He thought for a while, replying with great frustration and agitation, “No, it’s not about losing face, it’s about losing the trust from others.”

At that moment I noticed all his complaining indeed originated from this pain – the fear of losing trust.  Thanks to mindfulness, for the first time I was able to listen to the message behind the harsh words.  I started to notice his complain is a way for him to release his pain, only that he wasn’t aware of the damage this release can have on others around him.

Looking at the example above, we can see how Right Mindfulness can help others and ourselves:

  • By being mindful of the present moment without judgments, it helps you touch your life deeply hence you gain a better vision of the reality.  In the example above, listening to my father wholeheartedly has allowed me to be in touch with my father without being carried away by the past.
  • When we are present to the other person, we help the other person to be present too.  As I was listening to my father mindfully, my father was able to be present to his own pain.
  • When we are mindful of something, we nourish the object of our attention.  My father felt a sense of relief.
  • As the object of mindfulness is nourished, we help to release the suffering of others (and ourselves).  When I was able to pinpoint the pain in my father, it helped him release his pain in a more wholesome way.
  • Mindfulness helps us gain a deeper understanding of the reality.  When I saw the pain in my father behind the complains, I started to understand his reason of complaining.
  • The understanding brings about compassion and healing.  When I saw the pain in my father, I couldn’t help but to feel for him.  When I felt his pain, I did not blame him for the complains he made.


The insight gained from this deep listening has helped me better understand the pain of others instead of becoming angry because of all the pain they had inflicted on me.  When we understand the root of suffering, there is no way to become angry with others, knowing that they are also victims of their own pain.  When we are able to understand the pain of the other person, our insight and receptivity also helps others see their own habitual energy and hence relieve from their suffering.  The mindfulness here has also helped me transform my biased perception of my father (the perception that was clouded by all the past events), and touch my father and love him as the way he is, without trying to fix him in any way.  As a result, our relationship has become more harmonious.

When you are mindful, we have to be mindful of something.  Anything that comes into your mind can be the object of mindfulness.  When we observe an object with an open and curious attitude, slowly we will be able to see three universal laws of nature:

  • Nothing is permanent – everything eventually comes to a change
  • Every manifestation is due to other causes and conditions – as conditions change, they lead to different manifestations – everything inter-are with everything else
  • Holding on to any conditioned thing will eventually cause suffering or unsatisfying feelings

Notice if you have a pattern of looking forward to an upcoming event, and as the event comes to an end, you feel a sense of emptiness.  Then you start to make plans of a new event, you look forward to that, experience excitements and happiness during the event, but as the event comes to an end, you feel the same sense of emptiness again… Then you make another plan… And the cycle continues… You may be able to find this pattern at work, in relationships, your traveling plans, with any material things etc…

We all have this pattern.

Our practice is to be mindful of our experience and notice whether we have forgotten about these three universal laws.  Our unsatisfactoriness comes in when we try to hold onto pleasant experiences – when unpleasant experiences come to an end (eventually it will), we become disappointed, frustrated, and angry.  The more we try to push away unpleasant experiences (because we are not the sole creator of our experiences – our experiences inter-are with other conditions), our resistance create mental pain and suffering.  However, if we are able to observe our everyday events with the eyes of mindfulness, we will see that no matter how pleasant or unpleasant an event is, they shall all pass like the floating clouds in the sky.

It’s good to check in from time to time, asking ourselves, “ Do I hold on the past? Am I holding the future that has not happened yet?

When you take a close look at your life, you will notice each moment is an unique moment; there aren’t two moments that are the same.  Even you go to work everyday thinking you are dealing with the same job, same boss, and the same invoice, if you look closely, you notice your mood is different, your body condition is different, the mood of your boss is different, the weather is different, the amount in the invoice is different; there isn’t two moments that are exactly the same.

This is the insight we want to see with the right mindfulness practice.

When we notice there is none of the moment are the same, we start to appreciate each moment a lot more.

The more we start seeing our pattern of habitual expectation or disappointment; we start to notice how dissatisfying to hold onto these feelings (because they keep on changing).  We can see that it is very dissatisfying to associate with things we like and very dissatisfying to associate with things that we don’t like, because all of these experiences continue to change.  When we have this insight, we no longer to hold on to any experience because no matter how good or bad the experiences are, they still pass.

Most of our suffering comes from the wrong assumption that our suffering lasts forever.  But when we come back to the present moment, we can touch each moment deeply.  Touching the present moment frees you from being the prisoner of the past and the future.  When we don’t hold onto any particular moment of our life, we start to flow with the river of life.  We start to enjoy life more and suffer less.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

With the practice of mindfulness, we want to be mindful of four aspects:

1.  Mindful of the body
Mindfulness is not a practice that you only do on your meditation cushion, it is something that has to be lived.  Our body is very honest to us, so by being mindful of the body, the breath, we immediately come back to the present moment, being in touch with life in a profound way.

We also want to be mindful of our body position throughout the day – when we walk, we know we are walking; when we sit, we know we are sitting; when we stand, we know we are standing; when we lie down, we know we are lying down etc.  We want to maintain our level of mindfulness throughout the whole day, so that we live our lives in a conscious way.

2.  Mindful of the feelings
Feelings are of three kinds – pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral.  They are neither good nor bad, they simply reflect what is.  When we are mindful, we are mindful of the pleasant experience just as much as neutral and unpleasant experience.  We practice maintaining an open mind to our feelings.  Feelings come and go like the passing clouds, and the more we allow our feelings to just be, the more ease we experience in our life.

3.  Mindful of the mind
We want to practice noticing the content of the mind as the way it is.  Just like how we practice being open to our feelings, we practice to notice the content of the mind just as the way it is without trying to hold onto or push away anything.  If you notice you are experiencing anger, simply make a note to yourself, “I am aware of the anger energy in me.”  When there is no more anger in you, you simply make a note to yourself, “I am aware of the absence of anger energy in me.”  The more we allow our mind to just be, our mind starts to quiet down and the energy will run out of energy by itself.  The more we try to prolong our (pleasant) emotions or push away (unpleasant) emotions, the more energy we feed these emotions.

4.  Mindful of the object of mind
We want to be aware of the Five Hindrances of our mind, and they are:  desire, aversion, lethargy, agitation, and doubts.  When one or more of these hindrances arise, we want to recognize it as the way it is.  When we no longer experience these hindrances, we also want to recognize their absence.

When we observe these Hindrances, you will notice they come, they peak, and they go, just like everything else.  They are of nature to change and there is no need to hold on to these experiences and there is no need to label these experiences as us.  When we are able to see their impermanent nature, we are able to see the causes of these hindrances, and how our attachment or aversion have caused us to suffer.  As the hindrances dissolve, we notice we no longer suffer, we recognize the absence of pain, and that helps cultivate our happiness.

At any moment, if you notice there is an absence of pain, it immediately helps you to be happy.  You don’t need to wait for something or someone to make you happy.  Mindfulness can be compared to the Sun, when it shines its light on wholesome seeds, the seeds sprout and grow, becoming beautiful flowers.  When the light of mindfulness shines on unwholesome seeds, it discourage these seeds to continue to grow, just like how the Sun kills bacteria.

Starting today, simply become mindful of your breathing, of your body position.  Slowly, as your seed of mindfulness becomes stronger, you will be able to notice your feelings, the content of your mind, as well as your object of mind – seeing their impermanent, interconnected nature will free you from the suffering of your attachment and aversion.  One day, you will notice how you can flow with life with peace and joy.

Allow your insight from your mindfulness practice to show you the truth in life.