3/25 Practice Circle: Mindfulness of Feelings

I’ve been reading Beth Ann Mulligan’s The Dharma of Modern Mindfulness, which is impressive for the way she uses anecdotes from her secular MBSR course to illustrate basic Buddhist principles. In that spirit, when Practice Circle meets again this Sunday, March 25, at 6 p.m. Pacific, 8 Central and 9 Eastern, we’ll continue our four-part examination of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness with a practice of Mindfulness of Feelings. I’ve shared an excerpt from Mulligan’s book below.Click here to join our free video conference group Sunday night!

The Second Foundation of Mindfulness — Mindfulness of Feeling Tones

In class 3 we’re looking deeply into the way we experience the world through the Pleasant Events Calendar and the Unpleasant Events Calendar. This relates to the Second Foundation of Mindfulness, which called Mindfulness of Vedana, or establishing awareness in the realm of feelings . . . .

Here’s what’s meant by vedana: feeling tones or sensations that are categorized as pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. These occur almost immediately when our internal senses come in contact with external objects, and the come before what we in the West think of as feelings. You’ll see how participants in MBSR classes investigate the way they label things and how that effects their actual lived experience. This is the practice of the Second Foundation of Mindfulness. Here we get to explore the way we quickly interpret the world and our experiences as soon as we come in contact with it. . . When I set this up in week two, I try to be careful to emphasize the curiosity factor by using an anthropology analogy: “Be an anthropologist of your own life. What is called ‘pleasant’ in the culture of you?”

Sometimes we may find that what we call pleasant, and do in a habitual way because the label has stuck, is actually not that pleasant. One student from the UK had such a revelation: “I am a soccer fanatic and I arranged our whole Saturday so my family would end up in a pub where I could watch the match. I noticed a bunch of things. One, I was actually quite tense, knowing my wife would have to keep the kids entertained so I could do what I wanted to do. Two, my whole body was clenched most of the time in anxiety about who would score. And because my team wasn’t doing that well, emotionally I was upset! Afterward I thought, ‘What was so pleasant about that?’ Before, I would have sworn that watching a soccer match was definitely pleasant.”

Beth Ann Mulligan