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Key points of awareness – Part II

lakeVisit Part I of this blog post here.

Concentration

  • Concentration has two central factors: applying attention to an object and sustaining it there, like an ice skater plants her foot (applying) and then glides along (sustaining).
  • When you practice formal concentration, keep returning attention to the object (e.g., breath, sensation, emotion, memory of your mother), fully aware of it, absorbed in it. If other thoughts, concerns, plans, etc. bubble up, let them arise but don’t follow them, and keep giving your full attention to the object.
  • When doing concentration, don’t be tense or hard on yourself, but serious and intent, like a cat watching at a mousehole. Set a bit of your attention to watching how well you are staying concentrated, like a guardian, and to alert you to bringing your attention back if it starts to wander.
  • Let each moment with the object be fresh. For example, notice the qualities of each breath.
  • To help yourself be concentrated, especially in the beginning of practicing, you can experiment with counting breaths (up or down from ten; if you forget where you are, just start over) or with a soft mental note naming the object (e.g., “rising” [belly with the breath], “sadness,” “planning”)
  • Useful objects of concentration: sensations of the breath around the nostrils or heart or belly; the feeling tone of positive/neutral/negative of each experience; good intentions, lovingkindness toward yourself or others (e.g., “May my body be at ease.” “May I feel safe.” “May I have happiness and the causes of happiness.” “May my father be at peace.” “May my daughter be healthy.”
  • When doing concentration meditations, you may experience feelings of bliss, happiness, and one-pointedness; without striving, you can invite these feelings to arise and see what happens.

Mindfulness

  • Anchored by background attention to a benign object – often the breath – mindfulness is a spacious, inclusive awareness of whatever is arising. Since that keeps changing, the trick of mindfulness is to stay aware of each part of the passing parade without getting sucked in.
  • Experiment with dividing your awareness between the breath (or perhaps an image or a mantra) and the flow of experience.
  • You could explore the four classic objects of mindfulness: (A) the body in all its sensations (notably, the breath), (B) the feeling tone of experience, (C) all the other psychological phenomena of thoughts, feelings, desires, etc., and (D) consciousness itself (so that you are aware of awareness).
  • And you can explore mindfulness while sitting quietly, walking, talking, or doing other actions.

See the Nature of Experience

  • Focused awareness lets you see into the fundamental nature of all experiences: Constantly changing; the result of endless prior causes; cascading along without need for an “I,” a self; never affecting awareness itself — accepting these facts brings great wisdom and peace of mind.
  • Notice that when we resist our experience . . . or scold ourselves for having it . . . or cling to some part of it . . . or fill it with self . . . . or think it will last . . . —– then we feel bad and suffer.

Know Your Innate Goodness

  • See the facts of your good qualities, like any other objectively true thing.
  • Be aware of any resistance to th at knowing. Let it flow and go.
  • Reflect on your: Good intentions. Kindness toward others. Good character qualities.
  • Sense your own essential being: conscious, interested, benign: a peaceful happy abiding.

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About Rick Hanson PhD

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Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and a New York Times best-selling author. His books include Hardwiring Happiness, Buddha’s Brain, Just One Thing, and Mother Nurture. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide. He has several audio programs and his free Just One Thing newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers.

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