2022-03-11 Satipaṭṭhāna (42) Prioritizing Beneficial States of Mind
4:53PM Mar 11, 2022
Yesterday we had a shift in these teachings of Satipaṭṭhāna in the second half of the third foundation. It is a shift to a state of mind that is an outcome of cultivating awareness. An outcome of no longer prioritizing states of greed, hatred and delusion, or thoughts or attitudes of greed, hatred and delusion. And all its subsidiary, common ways in which we get caught in thought, limited by our thoughts and thinking, where we are excessively focused on objects of awareness, objects of attention.
If I suddenly started thinking about how it would be nice to replace a carpet at home, and then I am very mindful of the carpet here at IMC. I am focusing on it. I am so studying it, that I even lose touch with what I am talking about to you. The most important thing, the object of attention becomes carpets. In that focus on carpets, I am certainly present and mindful for it, but that is not really the arising of awareness that is free. Awareness that is present for things, but knows its presence – not lost and caught up in the activity.
This mindfulness begins developing strength. The sense of awareness is not limited or bound by what the object of attention is. As awareness keeps developing, that sense of awareness – not being bound or limited, but being larger – is partly represented by a sense, a feeling, a knowing, that we know we know. We know we are aware. The awareness is not submerged in something. The awareness is like the lotus growing out of the muddy water. The lotus is not blossoming underwater in the mud. It comes out of the water to blossom. The mind, awareness, blossoms and becomes spacious.
The important point here that I want to emphasize is the mind is no longer caught or preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, emotions, reactivity with the world. Now the mind becomes much more infused with this wider awareness, this presence, this attentiveness. Some people might call it a broad sense of being conscious of experience – the sense of consciousness is broad and inclusive.
At some point, there is a shift in what gets prioritized. Rather than prioritizing our preoccupations with what we want to get, what we are angry or upset with, or afraid of, we begin prioritizing a state of mind that is peaceful, calm or easeful. In that calmness and peacefulness, there is not that narrow, tight, limited attention on some particular thing. The awareness now feels broader, more expanded.
This shift in the third foundation begins, "One knows an expanded mind as an expanded mind. And one knows a mind that is not expanded as a mind that is not expanded." We begin to sense the size of the mind. It can be a large sense of mind, spacious, or even boundless sense of the mind. Or the mind is in fact limited, constricted and preoccupied with something. The mind under stress is limited. Sometimes as the mind begins to open up, we can feel the places where the mind, the body, or the brain are tense. You can feel how that creates a limit, boundary, or constriction for this open awareness, open presence and consciousness.
At some point, there is a shift where we have as a reference point, this possibility of a calm, peaceful, more expansive awareness. That is a nice reference point. Even better is to begin prioritizing it – giving it at least slightly more priority than the mind's inclination to prioritize the unhealthy states of mind that we go into. You might say that "I don't prioritize," but the mind will do it for you. We get pulled into this world of preoccupations and concerns that can be quite stressful.
What about prioritizing the peaceful mind, the calm or open mind? Not to hold on to it. Not to make it an object. Not to constrict yourself around it, but rather to rest in, open to, or allow. A bit like someone who wants to go swimming in a wonderful pool of water. They are on their cell phone, talking some animated, engaging, or upsetting conversation. They are completely absorbed in the conversation. They walk right into the water and the water gets deeper and deeper. Suddenly there is a ledge and no more ground. They are so concerned with the phone call, not paying any attention to floating, and so they drown.
As we go into the water of consciousness, we have a sense that there is floating, there is swimming there. We prioritize floating enough. Like that person on the phone, (should not have the phone in the water probably), would at some point prioritize floating in the water if there is no bottom. So we prioritize this wider state, this peaceful place. As we do so, it develops and gets stronger. At some point we can, "Know a mind that is unsurpassable." And we can, "Know a mind that can be surpassed," or a mind that is ultimate, and a mind that is not ultimate.
What this refers to are states of enlightenment, states of realization. This movement into this open awareness – calm, peaceful states, can grow and develop. At some point it feels like, "This is ultimate. There is nothing better than this. Nothing higher than this." Because in this state, there is zero suffering, zero stress, zero tension, zero fear – nothing that limits it. There cannot be anything more ultimate than this, because it is so peaceful. There is nothing that disturbs it.
There is not even a self that we are preoccupied with, caught up in, or contracted around. There is not even a ripple of self concern. It feels so ultimate. Now this becomes another reference point – not just a peaceful mind, but now a mind that is so free of suffering. This becomes a powerful reference point where we know what is possible. We know it is possible to live this way, this kind of radical freedom.
And then, the next thing, "One knows a steadied mind as a steadied mind, one knows an unsteadied mind as an unsteadied mind." This is knowing that there is that mind that is peaceful, has no ripples on it. That is so peaceful. And one knows when there are ripples on it. After deep realization experience practice still continues. Now there is a reference point of what it is like to have no ripples. We are much more sensitive to the subtlest ripples in the mind, (or the big ones) and how there is subtle prioritization of preoccupations, concerns, and where there is still a little bit of attachment.
The last thing it says, the Satipaṭṭhāna, "One knows a liberated mind as a liberated mind." My understanding of this today is that this is a mind that is fully liberated – somehow all roots of attachment have been pulled out – there are no more attachments, no more tendency for the mind to cling. And that can be known. This is the ultimate. The final goal of Satipaṭṭhāna is this kind of liberation.
The third foundation does describe the whole path of practice in a certain way. We will go on to the fourth foundation, which presents that path in a different perspective. In the third foundation it is from the perspective of the mind states that we have.
One of the things I would like to leave you with, in this third foundation, is two ideas – that you have reference points, and the idea of prioritization. What reference points do you have for a state of mind that is valuable for you, really precious? That is certainly better than some of the alternative ways your mind functions in some of your life? Maybe something you have attained in meditation, or experienced in meditation or some other times? How can you beneficially use that as a reference point? Many ways, and one way is to give a certain prioritization to that state of mind. Do not take it for granted. Do not think that it is only available in certain rarefied states like meditation. The more you experience it, maybe there are hints of it, maybe there is a smell of it, or small clues of it, maybe it is always present to some degree. Maybe you can prioritize it, or let it inform you, let it support you in being free, relaxed and present more often than you do.
An interesting exercise is to go through the day, at the end of the day, review the day. Write the autobiography of the day, based on what the mind was prioritizing. See if, "Did you have to prioritize that? Was that really to your best interest?" Could you have done different prioritization, so that something else could have blossomed, so your lotus can blossom, out of the muddy waters.
Thank you. Next week we will start the fourth foundation. If you did not follow well enough this third foundation, the fourth foundation, as I said, does similiar things from a different angle – the angle of insight.
Finally, for the next days until Monday, IMC is doing this fundraiser for the refugees from the war in Ukraine. I think it is quite a powerful thing when a group of people gather together to raise funds to support people suffering in the world. I believe it is beneficial for them. It is also beneficial for others to see this being done, to see that there are caring people who are engaged collectively to make a difference.
If you are wondering how you could support the people of Ukraine, with the tremendous suffering they are experiencing right now, I invite you to join this IMC effort. The way you learn about it, the way you can do that, is to go on IMC's website. On the homepage, there is a section called What's New. In the What's New section, it says fundraising for Ukraine. You can click on that. That will take you to a donate button that is specifically for us to make donations to Save the Children, a wonderful charity foundation that is supporting people of Ukraine. 100% of what we receive we will give to Save The Children. 100% of that, they will use to support their efforts in Ukraine.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to starting again on Monday.