Let me discuss the third aspect of mindfulness with regard to our
minds. It is called the contemplation of the state of mind (chittanupassana).
Rahula (1996) notes that meditators should be fully aware of their
minds whether they are passionate or detached, whether they are
overpowered by hatred, ill-will, jealousy, or are full of love and
compassion; whether their minds are deluded or have a clear and
right understanding of their feelings. Generally, people are more
accustomed to looking at other people's attitude and behaviour,
rather than their own mind. In meditation, it helps to have a humble
attitude: this helps one to observe one's own mind dispassionately.
One should make the effort to correct one's false views, as if looking
in a mirror.
When feelings come into awareness, the meditator should not cling
to them because they are pleasant nor avoid them because they are
unpleasant. There should be no attitude of criticizing or judging
between right and wrong, or good and bad. One should simply observe,
watch, examine and, most importantly, let go of them. In doing so,
one is a not a judge, but should be like a scientist. When people
observe their own mind, they can start to see its true nature clearly;
a thought and feeling arises, persists and disbands, and another
thought comes and follows the same process. By observing this arising
and passing away, one is no longer deluded into thinking that thoughts
are permanent. When they see the true nature of the mind, they may
become dispassionate with regard to their emotions and thoughts.
Thus they may become more detached and free, further able to regard
feelings and sensations as impermanent.
Students who are under acute stress due to overpowering anger and
hatred are, paradoxically, often not self-reflexive!y really aware
that they are angry. The moment a student becomes aware and mindful
of the state of anger in his mind, that is the moment he "sees"
his anger. Then he faces the choice of whether to act outI they
struggle with their concentration, they can bring mindfulness practice
on the breath to daily studies. For instance, when they read a book
they should keep total awareness on the words. They have to take
time and concentrate on their breath until they feel calmness, mentally
and physically. This peace of mind helps them to maintain undisturbed
bare attention on their studies. I will now explore more clearly
how this mindfulness can be implemented by students to cope with
negative emotions and feelings such as anger and restlessness arising
from their daily lives.
As a first step of Bhavana, when students are mindful of their breath,
it helps them to calm the mind and the body. This calmness of the
mind and the body helps them to be aware of emotions and feelings
with a greater clarity. Whenever feelings arise, students can become
aware of these feelings and how they change. For instance, if students
are aware that their anger is rising up, and they can bring mindful-attention
to that fact, then they will have the opportunity to control acting
out the anger. Also, in mindfulness one becomes aware of how anger
arises, stays awhile and disbands, and that it is not permanent.
This may lead students to calm their minds. Many students get stressed
or troubled or become violent due to uncontrolled anger or ill-will
(Stilwell, Galvin, Kopta, 2000; Swick, 1987). It seems that they
may not be "aware" of their anger before they express
it in an outburst, and that they only realize it after they express
it. Clearly, this type of self-observation cannot be practical for
most small children, say around five-years-old, due to an undeveloped
cognition at this stage (Crittenden, 1990) but it may help restless
teenaged students get rid of uncontrolled negative feelings as I
Although an individual may control their negative feelings in a
particular incident, those same feelings may arise again when the
environment or situation changes. When that person is mindful of
the impermanent nature of those negative feelings, and that these
negative emotions can be harmful to oneself as well as to others,
one may remain calm, regardless of the specific situation, environment
or the people involved. Gunaratana (1991) notes: "breathing
is a universal process. All vertebrates breathe in essentially the
same manner. All living things exchange gases with their environment
in some way or other" (p.48). Therefore, breathing Bhavana
can be used by everyone to help them to observe their feelings mindfully.
Teaching the 'mindfulness on the breath' technique as a first step
of Bhavana may help students to practice self-discipline.
In the beginning, one will find that it is not easy to bring the
mind to concentrate on breathing even for a few seconds. Students
will be amazed to see how the mind becomes distracted, by external
sounds and internal conditions such as racing thoughts. They may
be frustrated and disappointed by these disturbances and distractions.
Even so if they continue this practice at lease once daily, morning
or evening, for about five to ten minutes at a time, without giving
up their effort, they will gradually begin to concentrate the mind
on their breathing (Santina, 1997). After a certain period, depending
on their own ability and determination, they will experience a fully
concentrated and peaceful mind. Although they still have to go on
practicing this regularly, and it is important to know that they
must have determination and persistence to achieve the goal. This
practice of mindf ulness of breathing is one of the simplest and
easiest techniques for students or anybody at the beginning (Kabat-Zin,
1986; Gunaratana, 1997). At moments when they are nervous or excited,
such as when taking exams or giving a speech, they can practice
mindfulness for a few minutes, and they will see for themselves
that they become calm and better able to deal with difficult situations
(Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2002; Rahula, 1996).
For young children, we can make them aware of their presence by
the practice of counting breaths. For example, when a student breathes
in, he/she should count one, and breathing out, should count two.
Thus, they can count up to ten, then count backward and forward
for five to ten minutes. This type of practice on breathing helps
to hold awareness in the present moment. In an awareness of the
present, of how things are, it can be much easier to be one's own
image without damaging his/her social and moral identity, and manage
the present situation effectively in a positive manner. Levete (2001)
points out: From an early age most of us have been conditioned to
regard our negative emotions as unnatural states of mind to be covered
over either through suppression or distraction. Contrastingly, positive
feelings such as peace, happiness and goodwill should always be
a natural, permanent state of being. In reality, the positive image
of what we should or should not be thinking, doing or feeling does
not work out that way; thought is often in a crisis of conflict:
confused, guilty and deeply afraid.
A negative experience is often regarded as unnatural, a personal
affront, or personal failure. A consequence of this perception is
that habitual thought patterns are divorced from a deeper level
of intuitive understanding; an understanding which recognizes and
accepts its interdependent connection with the rest of nature. By
realizing that, as a self-observant and understanding human, one
may be able to see his/her experience differently; the physical
body and the process of thoughts are subject to natural laws, positive
and negative consequences, impermanence and change. This state of
mind empowers one's awareness of the present moment, and that awareness
may lead him/her to cultivate positive thoughts of love, compassion,
tolerance, sharing and respect due to a mind that is undistracted,
composed and natural.