At the most basic level, meditation are exercises to get rid of painful and unhappy thoughts or feelings. There are a variety of well-known mindfulness meditations being practiced that employ a variety of techniques and coresponding results. The mindfulness meditation described below is anchored in practice instruction originally taught by the Buddha and translated by contemporary Buddhist scholars and meditation masters.
The primary function of mindfulness is the development the power of observation in conjunction with calmness. These practices integrate mental and physical exercises that result a wide range of immediate benefits. The long to goal is true personality transformation. The Buddha characterized it as imperturbale serenity.
Mindfulness is best defined as the ability to remember to observe exactly how our minds attention moves from one mental state to another. Moreover, it is to directly experience how the mind operates -- how our attention gets high-jacked and compelled by emotional urges -- and how this conditions our moods and mental states.
Without mindfulness, calm and contentment is easily polluted by unconscious urges that can quickly dominate our mood and our thoughts that determine out quality of life. Strong emotions often or high-jack our better judgement and turn into compulsive behavior.
It is because we simply don't have the skills to protect ourselves from these forces that once activated, are almost impossible to curb or stop. Through skillful development and use of mindfulness along with relaxation, we can learn to cut off the fuel that feeds compulsive reactions and return to balance. This rebalancing is characterized with by an uplifted or what the Buddha called wholesome mental states.
Immediately Effective Mindfulness
A meditation methodology known as the Six Rs are are an actionable system that effectively cultivates moment to moment attentiveness, ease, and comfort while deconditioning habitual unconsciousness patterns that are the root causes of distress and unhappiness. With modest practice, most people experience immediate relief of worry, anxitey, and distress.
The Six Rs can be thought of as an exercise program that cultivates moment to moment attentiveness that also deconditions the causes unconsciousness reactions while developing wholesome-uplifted mental states. This is traditionally known as "Right Action" but is better understood as a harmonious practice of exercises. The Buddha taught this as the foundation of meditation in four parts. The Six Rs is a method to learn how to develop these skills masterfully.
The Six Rs
Development of mindfulness means your observation power is to observes each step of the practice. Once you understand the purpose of mindfulness, the goal is to keep it going all the time until it is no longer difficult to do. This makes the meditation practice almost effortless and fun to do. It becomes a part of happy living and this brings up a smile. Remembering the 6R’s leads you to having a wholesome up-lifted mind more and more.
Remembering by mindfulness is the key. Before practicing the Six R’s, remember exactly what you will be doing. It's like remembering to gas-up the car before you start driving so you can get to your destination without running out of fuel. The steps are as follows:
Recognize: Mindfulness remembers to observe any and all movement of mind’s attention as it transitions from one thing to another. This observation notices when mind’s attention moves away from an object of meditation such as the breath or radiating loving and kind feelings. This skill is equally effective and in daily life activities. As your power of observation improves, you will notice slight tensions as mind’s attentiveness shifts toward or away from any mental object or sensation that arises.
A pleasant or painful feeling may occur at any of the six sense doors: sight, sound, odor, taste, touch, or thoughts can cause this pulling sensation causing tension to begin. With careful and non-judgmental observation, the meditator will begin to notice these sensations. Recognizing movement of the attention is the goal and key to success. This is the "Recognize" step.
Release: When a feeling or thought arises, you release it, let it be there without giving anymore attention to it. The content of the distraction is not important at all, but the mechanics of “how” it arose are important! Just let go of any tightness around it; let it be there without placing attention on it. Without attention, the tightness passes away. Mindfulness then reminds you to:
Relax: After releasing the feeling or sensation, and allowing it to be there without trying to control it, there is a subtle, barely noticeable tension within mind/body. This is why the Relax step “Tranquilization” as translated in the suttas) is being pointed out by the Buddha in his meditation instructions. Please, don’t skip this step! It would be like not putting oil in a car so the motor can run smoothly. The important Pāli word here is “pas’sambaya”. This word specifically means “to tranquilize” and appears as “an action verb to be performed” as described in the suttas and is not “a general kind of relaxing” that is included within other release steps found in other kinds of meditation. This point is sometimes misunderstood in translation, which then changes the end result!
Without performing this step of relaxation every time in the cycle, the meditator will not experience a close-up view of the ceasing of the tension caused by craving or the feeling of relief as the tightness is relaxed. Note that craving always first manifests as a tightness or tension in both one’s mind and body. You have a momentary opportunity to see and experience the true nature and relief of cessation of tightness and suffering while performing the Release/Relax steps.
Mindfulness moves on by remembering to:
Re-Smile: If you have listened to the Dhamma talks at DHAMMA TALKS LIBRARY you might remember hearing about how smiling is an important aspect for the meditation. Learning to smile with mind and raising slightly the corners of the mouth helps mind to be observant, alert, and agile. Getting serious, tensing up, or frowning causes mind to become heavy and your mindfulness becomes dull and slow. Your insights become more difficult to see, thus slowing down your understanding of Dhamma.
Imagine for a moment the Bodhisatta resting under the rose apple tree as a young boy. He was not serious and tense when he attained a pleasant abiding (jhāna) and had deep insights with a light mind. Want to see clearly? It’s easy!
Just lighten up, have fun exploring and smile! Smiling leads us to a happier more interesting practice. If the meditator forgets to Release/Relax, rather than punishing or criticizing yourself, be kind, Re-smile and start again. Keeping up your humor, sense of fun exploration and recycling is important.
After Re-smiling, mindfulness recalls the next step.
Return or Re-Direct: Gently re-direct mind’s attention back to the object of meditation (that is the breath and relaxing, or Mettā and relaxing) continuing with a gentle collected mind and use that object as a “home base”. In daily life, having been pulled off task, this is where you return your attention back to releasing, relaxing, and re-smiling into the task.
Sometimes people say this practice cycle is simpler than expected! In history, simple things can become a mystery through small changes and omissions! Doing this practice develops better focus on daily tasks with less tension and tightness. Mind becomes more naturally balanced and happy. You become more efficient at whatever you do in life and, actually, you have more fun doing all of the things that used to be a drudgery. Nearing the end of the cycle.
Mindfulness helps with the final remembering to:
Repeat: Repeat your meditation on your object and keep it going as long as you can, and then repeat this entire practice cycle as needed to attain the results the Buddha said could be reached in this lifetime!
Repeating the “6R’s cycle” over and over again will eventually replace old habitual suffering as we see clearly for ourselves what suffering actually is; notice the cause of it and how we become involved with the tension and tightness of it; experience how to reach a cessation of that suffering by releasing and relaxing; and discover how we can exercise the direct path to that same cessation of suffering. We achieve this cessation each time we Release an arising feeling, Relax and Re-Smile. Notice the Relief!
In summary, mindfulness (sati) is very relevant to Buddhist meditation and daily life. Sharpening your skill of mindfulness is the key to simple and smooth meditation. The process of remembering keeps the six steps of the practice moving. Practicing this meditation as close to the instructions (found in the suttas) as possible will lighten life’s experience. A very similar practice was taught to people in the time of the Buddha. It was taught as Right Effort. Within the 6R’s we have added a couple more steps to make things a little easier to understand.
The remarkable results of doing the meditation in this way are “immediately effective” for anyone who diligently and ardently embraces these instructions. When you have an attachment arise this practice will eventually dissolve the hindrance, but it does take persistent use of the 6R’s to have this happen.
When you practice in this way, because it is found to be so relevant in daily life, it changes your perspective and leads you to a more successful, happy, and peaceful experience. As mindfulness develops, knowledge and wisdom grow naturally as you see “how” things work by witnessing the impersonal process of Dependent Origination.
This leads to a form of happiness the Buddha called “Contentment”. Contentment is the by-product of living the Buddhist practice. This meditation leads to balance, equanimity, and the dissolution of fear and other dis-ease. With less fear and dread you find new confidence. Then Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity can grow in our lives.
Your degree of success is directly proportional to how well you understand mindfulness, follow the precise instructions, and use the 6R’s in both your sitting practice and daily life. This is the way to the end of suffering. It’s interesting and fun to practice this way and certainly it helps you smile while changing the world around you in a positive way.
When you are practicing TWIM, you do not suppress anything. Suppression means we would push down or push away or not allow certain types of experience. This would temporarily stop hindrances from arising. Instead, when a hindrance arises, you must work to open your mind by seeing clearly anicca (impermanence, it wasn't there and now it is), dukkha (suffering or unsatisfactoriness, you see that when these distractions arise they are painful), and anattā (not taking it personally, seeing the hindrances in the true way as being an impersonal process that you have no control over and not taking these hindrances as “I am that”).
You then let go of this obstruction, relax the tightness in the head, calm mind and finally, redirect your craving-free attention back to the practice of “Mindfulness of Breathing”.
As a result, you begin to see clearly how mind works and this leads to the development of wisdom. Instead of identifying with them, when you allow them and relax, these hindrances will naturally fade away. Mind becomes more clear and bright. Every time you let go of the ego attachment of “I am that”, mind naturally becomes more expanded, alert, and mindful.
Thus, one of the main reasons for this book is to show that whenever you suppress anything, you are not purifying mind or experiencing things as they truly are. At the time of suppression, you are pushing away or not allowing part of your experience. Thus, mind is contracted and pulls the tension even tighter instead of expanding and opening. As a result, this is not purifying mind of ignorance and craving. You are actually stopping the purification of mind!
It is impossible to experience the unconditioned state of the supra-mundane Nibbāna when one does not let go of everything that arises, and in that way purifies mind of the ego belief of “I am that”.
The Buddha never taught suppression of any experience nor did he teach a meditation that causes mind to fix on or become absorbed into the meditation object. Remember, he rejected every form of “concentration meditation” as not being the correct way. Actually, any kinds of pain, emotional upset, physical discomfort, and even death must be accepted with equanimity, full awareness or strong attention without identifying with these states or taking pain personally.
Real personality change occurs when you open and expand your mind and let go of any kinds of hindrances, pain, suffering, and tension even in your daily lives. This means that you open and expand your awareness so that you can observe everything with a silent mind free from tightness and all ego-attachment. You gradually lead a happy and calm life without a lot of mind chatter, especially during your daily activities.
When you practice “concentration meditation”, you will feel very comfortable and happy while in the deep meditation. But, when you get out of these exalted stages, your personality remains the same. Old anger, fears, or anxiety remain. This means when the hindrances attack you, you do not recognize them and open your mind and allow the hindrance to be there without taking it personally. Thus, you contract your mind and become even more attached! You might even become prideful and critical! This is because whenever a hindrance arises during the meditation, you let it go and immediately go back to the object of meditation again. You do this without calming and relaxing the tightness caused by the distraction. While in meditation, your mind tends to close or contract and tighten around that experience until mind becomes more deeply concentrated where distractions do not interrupt the continuity of awareness.
As a result, although this suppresses the hindrance, you have not completely let go of the ego-attachment to that distraction. Your mind is also tight and tense because you are not seeing clearly. You are not opening and allowing, but instead you are closing and fighting with that distraction.
This explains why nowadays meditators complain that they have huge amounts of tension in their head. Actually, if you truly let go of any distraction, there will not ever be any tension in the head. It is as a result of this suppression that there is no real purifying of mind, and thus, personality change does not occur.
Talking About Words
Now, we are almost ready for the Ānāpānasati Sutta. But before we go into that, let’s look at some words which have been simplified so that their meanings in the texts become clearer.
For instance, the word “rapture” is replaced by “joy”; the word “pleasure” is changed to “happiness”; the word “concentration” is replaced by “stillness”, “collectedness”, or “unified mind”; the phrase “applied and sustained thoughts” is replaced by “thinking and examining thoughts”, which seems to be more immediately understood; the word “contemplation” has, in most cases, been changed to “observation”.
When you practice according to the Buddha’s instructions, as described here, afterwards, you will be able to confirm your experiences by reading the suttas. As a result, there will arise a better understanding of these profound texts.
The Six Rs
The meditation method known as the Six Rs is what the Buddha referred to as Harmonious Practice or today known as Right Action.
The Six Rs was developed as a learning aid by Bhante Vimalaramsi to help people progress more quickly through the stages of meditation to the goal of awakening. It's profusion in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. demonstrates it adoption world wide.
The basis for the Six Rs was originally taught by the Buddha and referred to as "harmonious action" in his Sublime Eightfold Way. The Buddha taught it as 4 sequential actions. Bhante reframed it as 6 easy-to-remember steps using words beginning the letter "R". Beginning and experienced meditators have found it to be effective and enjoyable.
Bhante Vimalaramsi is a distinguished American Buddhist monk with more than 40 years practice in meditation. He is regarded as a master meditation teacher and leads retreats in Europe, Asia, and North America. Bhante is founder and abbot of the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center near Annapolis, Missouri. More at:
Dr. Venerable Bhante M. Punnaji, teacher, author, and founder of Proto Buddhism, offers compelling talks on Youtube and published works available at: http://www.protobuddhism.com
A few topics include:
"Win the highest point in human evolution by mastering the authentic meditation skills of the Buddha. Gain perfection in physical and mental health and happiness. Make a paradigm shift from existence to experience, which will awaken you from the dream of existence and set you free from every suffering including death itself..."
– Bhante Punnaj