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    Four Ways to Boost Your Mindfulness Muscle | Joseph Goldstein

    Recognizing that our thoughts and experiences are natural occurrences helps us break free from harmful narratives and cultivate a more present and mindful perspective.

    enAugust 08, 2022

    About this Episode

    These days, the word mindfulness has become a buzz phrase but very often people don’t know what the word actually means, much less how to practice it. One simple definition of mindfulness is the ability to see what’s happening in your mind without getting carried away by it. The benefits of doing so are vast and profound— from decreased emotional reactivity to being more awake to what’s actually happening in your life.

    Today's guest Joseph Goldstein talks about a classic Buddhist list called the four foundations of mindfulness, which lays out various techniques for developing mindfulness within your practice.


    Goldstein is one of the premier western proponents of Mindfulness. He co-founded the legendary Insight Meditation Society alongside Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield. He also wrote a book called Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening.


    In this episode we talk about:


    • The historical context for the four foundations of mindfulness 
    • Why he thinks the Buddha loved lists
    • Why the Buddha placed mindfulness of the body first on the list
    • The steps to mastering mindfulness of the body
    • The meaning of the word embodied and how that’s different from our usual mode of being in the world
    • How and why to do walking meditations
    • What are feeling tones and why are they important
    • Practices for cultivating mindfulness of mind
    • And we talk about some of the mantras that Joseph uses when teaching 


    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/joseph-goldstein-483

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Understanding and practicing mindfulness, as taught through the Four Foundations, can greatly enhance our well-being and our ability to navigate daily life with greater awareness and presence.
    • Cultivating mindfulness of the body is essential for enhancing meditation and incorporating mindfulness into daily life, ultimately leading to profound enlightenment.
    • By adopting a larger framework of awareness and acknowledging the whole body's sensations while breathing, anxiety can be eased and the breath can become more natural and effortless.
    • Mindfulness can be practiced at any moment and in any activity, with the challenge being to remember to be mindful. Walking meditation is a powerful practice that can lead to deep insights and a more effortless experience.
    • By practicing mindfulness during movement, such as walking, we can reconnect with our bodies, notice the subtleties of each step, and create a more enjoyable and natural experience.
    • Find your own pace and use mindfulness to guide your practice, focusing on feelings and finding freedom in the process.
    • Being aware of the pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feeling tones in each moment helps avoid negative mind states and leads to liberation and freedom from suffering.
    • Experiencing mindfulness practices firsthand allows for personal discovery of their truth and effectiveness in reducing suffering, emphasizing the transformative power of mindfulness in transcending external circumstances.
    • Mindfulness allows us to navigate life's experiences with awareness and freedom from suffering, while avoiding self-judgment and attaching personal worth to negative thoughts and emotions.
    • Cultivating a non-judgmental awareness allows us to make wise choices, let go of negative states of mind, and strengthen positive mind states, leading to inner peace and happiness.
    • Recognizing that our thoughts and experiences are natural occurrences helps us break free from harmful narratives and cultivate a more present and mindful perspective.
    • Exploring the seven factors of Awakening can help us understand ourselves better and focus on developing the qualities that contribute to our happiness and reduce suffering.
    • Understanding and balancing qualities like calmness, concentration, and mindfulness can lead to a fulfilling life and liberation from suffering by letting go of attachments.
    • By recognizing unwholesome states of mind and constantly questioning our attitudes, we can experience moments of freedom from suffering and cultivate a positive mindset.
    • Instead of fixating on being lost in thought, celebrating moments of wakefulness during meditation can inspire a more positive and compassionate mindset in daily life.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Four Foundations of Mindfulness: A Comprehensive Framework for Cultivating Mindfulness in Everyday Life

    The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, as taught by Joseph Goldstein, provide a comprehensive framework for developing mindfulness in our lives. These foundations serve as the building blocks for a meditation practice, whether one is a beginner or more experienced. Mindfulness, defined as the ability to see what's happening in our minds without being carried away by it, offers numerous benefits that are backed by scientific research. Exploring the historical context of these foundations helps us understand their significance and the techniques for cultivating mindfulness in each area. Through this conversation, we also learn about the importance of embodied movement, walking meditation, and the cultivation of mindful awareness of the mind. Overall, understanding and practicing mindfulness can greatly enhance our well-being and our ability to navigate daily life.

    Understanding and Practicing Mindfulness: A Comprehensive Guide from Buddhism's Ancient Teachings

    Mindfulness is often misunderstood and misused in popular culture, but the Buddhist teachings provide a comprehensive and ancient guide for truly understanding and practicing mindfulness. The use of lists in Buddhism, such as the four foundations of mindfulness, served as mnemonic devices in an oral tradition to aid in teaching and memory retention. The first foundation, mindfulness of the body, is emphasized because the body is a readily accessible and tangible aspect of our awareness. By cultivating mindfulness of the body, we can not only enhance formal meditation sessions but also bring mindfulness into all aspects of our daily lives. Mastering this foundation can have profound and far-reaching consequences, leading to enlightenment. The initial steps involve practices such as mindfulness of breathing, which serve as starting and ending points for mindfulness exploration.

    Techniques to Alleviate Anxiety and Tension Through Mindfulness and Breath Awareness

    Practicing mindfulness through focusing on the breath can take time and effort, but there are techniques to alleviate anxiety and tension. Joseph Goldstein suggests that one way to ease anxiety is by adopting a larger framework of awareness by acknowledging the whole body and its sensations while breathing. By doing so, the focus on the breath becomes more natural and effortless, allowing the body to breathe on its own without interference. This approach removes the self or ego from the equation, emphasizing the body's innate ability to breathe. Additionally, other areas of attention, such as body postures, can also be incorporated in mindfulness practice.

    The Power of Mindfulness in Everyday Life and the Significance of Walking Meditation

    Mindfulness can be practiced in any posture and during any activity. Joseph Goldstein emphasizes the importance of being aware and present in every moment, whether we are walking, sitting, lying down, or even engaging in daily tasks like brushing our teeth or opening doors. He highlights that mindfulness is not difficult itself, but rather the challenge lies in remembering to be mindful. Additionally, Joseph discusses the significance of walking meditation, explaining that it is not just a break between sitting meditations, but a powerful practice that can lead to deep insights and understanding. He suggests shifting from observing the movement to feeling the movement, allowing for a more effortless experience.

    The Power of Mindful Movement: Cultivating Ease and Presence in Each Step

    Practicing mindfulness of the body during movement, such as walking, can help us reconnect with our bodily sensations and be present in the moment. By simply feeling the movement of our arm or the sensations in our feet and legs while taking a step, we can cultivate ease and effortlessness in our movements. It is about noticing the subtleties of each movement, such as lightness, heaviness, vibrations, and pressure. By focusing on one step at a time, we can avoid getting overwhelmed and work within our capacity for attention. This practice of mindful movement can help us break away from our usual mode of rushing and being absorbed in our thoughts, bringing us back into our bodies and creating a more natural and enjoyable experience. With consistent practice, mindfulness during movement can become the default setting, allowing us to effortlessly remember and be present in our physical sensations.

    Exploring the Many Paths of Walking Meditation

    Walking meditation can be practiced in various ways and at different speeds, depending on individual preferences and comfort levels. Joseph Goldstein suggests starting with a more normal pace, gradually slowing down, and eventually exploring very slow walking if desired. He mentions the option of using mental notes or simply letting mindfulness wash through the body during the practice. Joseph emphasizes the importance of finding what works best for each person and experimenting with different speeds. The focus should be on mindfulness, not on the speed of walking. This conversation also introduces the second foundation of mindfulness, which is mindfulness of feelings, an essential aspect of the teaching that leads to liberation and freedom.

    The Importance of Mindfulness of Feeling Tones

    Mindfulness of feeling tones is crucial in avoiding the conditioning of unwholesome mind states. Feeling tone refers to the quality of each moment's experience being either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. If we are unaware of these feeling tones, they can condition negative states of greed, hatred, and delusion. By cultivating mindfulness and being open to pleasant experiences without grasping or attachment, and acknowledging unpleasant experiences without aversion or hatred, we can break free from suffering. Additionally, becoming mindful of the neutral feeling tone holds significant implications, as it reveals that mind states themselves can be a source of suffering. By recognizing and releasing from grasping and lusting, we can experience a sense of liberation and freedom.

    The Power of Personal Experience and Self-Inquiry in Mindfulness and Life

    The teachings of Buddha emphasize personal experience and self-inquiry. Rather than demanding blind belief, Buddha encouraged individuals to investigate and test his teachings for themselves. This principle is applicable not only to mindfulness but to all aspects of life. Joseph Goldstein stresses the importance of trying practices firsthand to determine their truth and effectiveness in reducing suffering. While discussing mindfulness of feeling, Goldstein suggests exploring pleasant and unpleasant experiences with curiosity and interest. He highlights the profound realization that awareness does not discriminate between pleasure and discomfort. This insight reveals that our sense of wellbeing can transcend external circumstances, demonstrating the transformative power of mindfulness.

    The Power of Mindfulness in Recognizing and Understanding our Emotions

    Mindfulness helps us recognize and understand our range of feelings and reactions, leading to a sense of ease and equanimity. By being mindful of the pleasant and unpleasant experiences in life, we can navigate them with greater awareness and freedom from suffering. Mindfulness of the mind, the third foundation of mindfulness, allows us to discern between beneficial and harmful mind states. However, it is important to avoid self-judgment when recognizing unwholesome thoughts and emotions. This tendency to judge ourselves negatively can hinder our progress in mindfulness practice. Instead, we should use mindfulness to observe and understand our patterns of greed, anger, and delusion, without attaching a personal sense of worth or identity to them.

    Cultivating Mindfulness without Judgment

    Mindfulness does not mean judging oneself or others. It means being aware of the present moment without attachment or self-judgment. By cultivating a non-judgmental awareness, we can make wise choices and cultivate wholesome qualities of mind that bring happiness and peace. This includes noticing when negative states of mind, such as greed or anger, are present, and redirecting our attention to settle back and let go of them. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of positive mind states, such as love and generosity, without becoming attached to them, as they too are impermanent. By practicing mindfulness without judgment, we can strengthen and reinforce positive mind states while cultivating inner peace.

    Embracing Nature to Free Ourselves from Mindless Narratives

    The phrase "This Is nature" can help cut through the mindless stories we create about ourselves and bring us back to the present moment. Dan Harris and Joseph Goldstein discuss how our minds often create narratives based on thoughts and judgments, which can negatively impact our lives. By reminding ourselves that our thoughts and experiences are simply part of nature unfolding in our minds, we can free ourselves from attachment and detachment and find a friendlier and more helpful perspective. This shift in mindset can lead to greater mindfulness and a deeper connection with the present moment.

    The Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness: Understanding and Applying the Teachings

    The foundation of Mindfulness encompasses various aspects of the teachings, such as being mindful of hindrances, factors of enlightenment, and the four noble truths. It is not just about being aware of these elements, but also understanding how they function and apply to our own experiences. The lists within the fourth foundation serve as a convenient way to systematize these teachings. A practical practice that can be taken from the fourth foundation is exploring and cultivating the seven factors of Awakening. By recognizing these mental qualities within ourselves, we can determine which ones require further development and focus on them. This exploration can lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves, our experiences, and the factors that contribute to suffering and happiness.

    Cultivating Seven Qualities for a Calm and Balanced Mind

    Achieving a calm and balanced mind is essential for both meditation and living a fulfilling life. The speaker emphasizes the importance of understanding and cultivating seven qualities: calmness, concentration, equanimity, investigation, energy, rapture, and mindfulness. These qualities must be in balance to avoid excess excitement or dullness. Mindfulness plays a crucial role in bringing forth and balancing these qualities over time. The conversation also discusses the causes of suffering, highlighting the attachment to impermanent things as a major factor. Letting go of attachments leads to a place of ease and freedom from suffering. The speaker suggests that even before the full realization of liberation, moments of a mind free from greed, anger, and hatred can be experienced.

    Achieving Liberation from Suffering through Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

    Liberation from suffering is achievable through mindfulness and self-awareness. Joseph Goldstein emphasizes that enlightenment, or the complete end of suffering, is attainable, but even before reaching that state, there are moments when the mind is free from suffering. Recognizing and understanding the unwholesome states of mind—such as greed, aversion, and delusion—is crucial in this process. By constantly questioning the attitude in our mind and observing our thoughts and emotions, we can identify and let go of these unwholesome states. This self-reflection allows us to experience moments of freedom from suffering and vividly perceive the difference between a mind filled with negativity and one that is free from it. Ultimately, this conversation highlights the practicality and personal testability of liberation from suffering through mindfulness and awareness.

    Embracing Wakefulness: Shifting Perspective and Cultivating Mindfulness

    We can shift our perspective from self-judgment to emphasizing wakefulness. Joseph Goldstein highlights the experience of going from delusion to wisdom and being asleep to being awake. He suggests that instead of focusing on being lost in thought during meditation, we should celebrate the moments of wakefulness. By emphasizing the feeling and value of wakefulness, we inspire ourselves and counteract the tendency to criticize and judge ourselves. This simple exercise can be helpful in our formal meditation practice and in daily life. It reminds us to appreciate and embrace our moments of wakefulness, ultimately leading to a more positive and compassionate mindset.

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