Welcome back to our fourth and final exploration of the foundations of mindfulness. 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, two, or three, they can be found here, here, and here respectively. Now, let’s investigate the final foundation: mindfulness of everything.
As the name suggests, the final foundation of mindfulness is a combination of every other foundation before it. All three foundations culminate into this final one. In the end, we develop a picture of not just the components, but of our whole selves and where we fit into the world.
As Secular Buddhist put it, through observing the “totality of all the physical and mental processes…we begin to observe the interplay of all things, both physical and mental, taking place in me right now”. If the other three foundations are like turning on the lights in a dark room one at a time, mindfulness of everything is shining a spotlight into it.
In this “lighting-up”, we also open ourselves up to the entire world that we experience. The world that I experience and that you experience are different. As the podcast explains, when we practice mindfulness of everything, we begin to recognize “things as they are…” and notice that “what I observe, I observe because of the observer”. A strange sentence, sure, but let’s unpack it.
You, the reader, and I, the writer, have different experiences of this post. I am writing this while you are reading it — a small difference, but a good one to note. That means, from my perspective, I have experienced researching for this post, thinking of how to write it, writing it, and then publishing it. In the view of the world from your eyes, the reader, there is a different perspective. Maybe a friend sent you the link or you’ve been following along for a while. Whatever the experience, it is entirely unique to you. No one person’s view is better, they’re merely different.
Another way to think of this might be to imagine a purple pen being held in front of two people, one with color blindness and the other without. The color-blind observer might interpret the color of the pen differently from the other, depending on past experiences. Mindfulness of everything attempts to highlight how this is true of all of us. In some way or another, we are each a bit color-blind.
Finally, in developing this understanding and perspective, we notice the interplay of life. This is much like when a young child begins learning facts about the world. For example, when he or she begins to see that the sky is lit, because the sun is up. Mindfulness of everything’s revelations are not anything necessarily deep, but rather fundamental. A tree is here, because of the years of watering and growing it went through. I am here in part thanks to that tree giving me air to breathe, and perhaps I have similarly helped that tree in its growth.
That’s a very simple example, but the aim of mindfulness, ultimately, is to show the practitioner two things to reveal the oneness in everything, and to show the observer where they stand in it all.
This concludes our exploration into the foundations of mindfulness. I hope this investigation has been informative, and will perhaps give these new concepts a try some time in the rush of your daily life. If you are still interested in the topic, I suggest you go check out Secular Buddhism, or if you’d like a book that explains these ideas in greater depth, perhaps check out In the Buddha’s Words.