The Four Foundations of Mindfulness: Contemplation of Consciousness

The Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness includes four elements of practice focused on the body, feeling states, consciousness, and mental objects.

Four Foundations of Mindfulness

  1. Contemplation of the Body – Being mindful of the breath in the body

2. Contemplation of Feeling – Being mindful of feelings arising

3. Contemplation of Consciousness – Being mindful of thoughts arising

4. Contemplation of Mental Objects – Being mindful of the present quality of mind

This week we will focus on Contemplation of Consciousness. The foremost task with the Contemplation of Consciousness is to ask, “Where is my mind?”  

Central to mindfulness of conscious is how the mind reacts to whatever is occurring. The first three states of mind reviewed in the discourses on consciousness include mindfulness of lust, anger, and delusion. To practice observing these states, notice when a distraction occurs and practice investigating if this distraction involves some form of desire or some degree of aversion or anger.  

We can also notice when our mind is neutral and practice being curious about what arises within a neutral mind state. This neutral state of mind is often described as a manifestation of delusion or a space within which our thoughts or inner narrative can take control and move us away from a clear understanding of the reality before us. In this case, consider the ways we talk to ourselves, our automatic thinking patterns, cognitive biases, and assumptions. From a Buddhist perspective, these are manifestations of delusion because they move us away from an unbiased or clear mind.  

Our goal in practicing mindfulness of consciousness is to discern the underling current of our mind and see through any particular pattern of thought or worry. Practice recognizing your mind state without getting wrapped up in the details of thoughts or associations.  

It is often useful to recognize the feeling tone of our experience when considering our mind states. As we practice recognizing our metal states, we are less likely to be caught up in the details of our thoughts or the biases and assumptions that sometimes dominate our mind. With practice, we can slowly broaden our mental vision of experience and see past the narrow focus that is common to most of us.

Lastly, the addition of this third component of mindfulness offers a point of integration between our feelings or affective experiences, body or somatic experiences, and our overall mental state. First, we can ground ourselves by checking in with the body. Next, we can gather a sense for the feeling tone of the moment by checking in with our feeling states. Finally, we can notice the underlying current of our mental life by checking in with our mind. In this way we can become further grounded in the present as intuition and reasoning come to a point of balance in our daily experience.   

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Published by tlindquistpsyd

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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