The Second Foundation of Mindfulness
In this four-part series, we will be exploring the four foundations of mindfulness together. The information we’ll be exploring has all been discussed on the “Secular Buddhism” podcast, and if you are interested in the matter I would highly recommend checking it out. If you missed part one, it can be found here where we focus in on Mindfulness of the Body. But for now, let’s dive back in.
As we know, within the sect of mindfulness, there are four further subdivisions. Today, we’ll be looking at Mindfulness of Feelings. As with the first foundation, this is a rather self-explanatory sounding idea, but there are some deeper aspects that need to be unpacked.
Just as the name might suggest, this foundation is centered around being mindful of one’s feelings. This includes the mental and physical manifestations, or our emotions and sensations. Emotions include statements like I feel “excited” or “anxious” or “angry,” basically different mental states we might find ourselves in. Sensations, on the other hand, deal with feeling hot or cold, or sick or healthy—sensations our body can physically feel.
What mindfulness of feelings asks the practicioner to do is to find a way of separating the self from the feelings. This doesn’t mean dissociating from our situation as much as rather recognizing the feelings without being consumed by them. Secular Buddhism phrased it in their podcast as recognizing that you are feeling sad rather than saying I am sad.
This distinction is small but important. Mindfulness of feelings wants you to recognize that the feelings are not you more are they only experienced by you. Instead, we are meant to identify the feelings, but avoid being defined by them.
This allows us to notice moments of calm and serenity and appreciate what is causing them and to take not of this, but also gives us the power to recognize more of our negative feelings.
For example, perhaps while being mindful you note that you are feeling angry. From this, you might recognize that you want to behave and respond to external things differently than when you’re feeling calm. You might want to be shorter with people or use stronger language or actions that you would regret later when you are once again feeling calm.
Mindfulness of feelings allows us to take note of this, that we want to be a bit short, but more importantly it allows us to determine if we want to want that. We can see that if we respond shortly, we will feel poorly about it later, and the excuse “I was feeling angry” isn’t enough to rectify our actions. So, while we are feeling angry and might feel the desire to be short, through mindfulness of feelings we are not swept up in this anger. We don’t allow ourselves to be angry, rather we recognize that we feel it and accept that.
This practice also allows us to notice more subconscious feelings and acknowledge them without judgement. This is incredibly valuable as many of these subconscious feelings might be shocking or feel unwanted, but in acknowledging them through mindfulness of feelings, we hold back judgement on if they are good or bad and instead just take note of them. We are able to see the reasoning behind some of them more clearly, and not simply continue to shun them in the subconscious.
In this way, mindfulness of feelings allows for meditation on the external and the internal (our sensations and our emotions), and gives us the power to delve deeper into our self and uncover aspects we might have buried long ago.
That was the second foundation of mindfulness. Again, if you’re interested in more, please check out “Secular Buddhism” and check back on here for our next segment where we’ll delve a bit into mindfulness of mind.