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4 Foundations of Mindfulness

Sep 6th, 2023 jessica Uncategorized

The Buddha's Four Foundations of Mindfulness

"I wish I was more present in my life." How many times have you wished this? Life is exhausting and chaotic (especially in 2020's!), and it's so easy to become disconnected from our inner selves and the present moment. Mindfulness is the path back to ourselves. It provides us with the tools to cultivate awareness and presence in our lives.

At the heart of any mindfulness practice are the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, or Satipatthana. Satipatthana is a compound of sati, mindfulness, and paṭṭhāna, "foundation" (or upaṭṭhāna, "presence"). These foundations are laid out for us in the Buddha's teachings as the “one-way path” to overcoming suffering and achieving nirvana.

Let's dive into these four foundations and explore how they can transform our relationship with ourselves and the world around us!


Foundation 1: Mindfulness of the Body

The first foundation, Mindfulness of the Body, invites us to ground ourselves in the physical sensations of the body - the feeling of the breath, the weight of our body on the ground, the sensations of touch, etc. When we practice mindfulness of the body, we observe these sensations without judgment or analysis. By doing so, we learn to be present with our bodies, fostering a deeper connection to ourselves.


Here's a couple mindfulness practices we can use on and off the mat:

  1. Yoga: Yes, we do this every time we come to our mats. It's kinda the whole point. 😉
  2. Body Scans and/or Guided Meditation: Isolating our attention to each individual part of our bodies helps us recognize the body as exactly what it is, a collection of parts working in unison.
  3. Breathwork: Breathwork heightens our body awareness by helping us notice our body's response to our breath. During breathwork, we can notice areas of tension or discomfort in our bodies, or even areas of pleasure!


Practicing Mindfulness of the Body allows us to become better listeners to the signals our bodies communicate to us, helping us manage stress, alleviate tension, and enhance our overall well-being!


Foundation 2: Mindfulness of Feelings

Next is Mindfulness of Feelings. This second foundation asks us to observe our emotional landscape, again with non-judgemental awareness. Mindfulness of Feelings involves acknowledging our feelings - whether they're pleasant or not - without clinging to them or pushing them away, but simply, recognizing them.


Here's a couple mindfulness practices we can use on and off the mat:

  1. Yoga: On the mat, we learn to acknowledge and continue to move through feelings that come up rather than judging them or being overwhelmed by them.
  2. Mindful Breathing: Feeling a strong emotion? Pause, take a few mindful breaths, and focus your attention on the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body to help you stay grounded.
  3. Labeling Emotions: When you notice an emotion arising, label it. "I am feeling anxious," "I am feeling joyful," or "I am feeling scared." The simple act of naming your emotions can make it easier to observe without getting swept away.


With mindfulness practice, we can learn that emotions are transient, they will inevitably come and go, and we can get better at choosing how to respond to them rather than being controlled by them. When we cultivate this emotional intelligence, we can enhance our relationships and better equip ourselves to handle life's challenges!


Foundation 3: Mindfulness of the Mind

The third foundation focuses our attention on the nature of our thoughts. So often we allow our thoughts to become our identity, and, in doing so, limit ourselves. We take that annoying voice in the back of our head that says, "I'm not strong enough" as truth, and we don't even attempt an arm balance, for example, because we believe that it's just not possible for us to achieve. Mindfulness of Mind encourages us to observe our thoughts while recognizing that we are not defined by them.


Here's a couple mindfulness practices we can use on and off the mat:

  1. Yoga: Yup, you guessed it! Yoga is rooted in an attitude of non-judgment and self-acceptance. Instead of striving for "perfection" in poses, yoga encourages us to meet ourselves where we're at in each moment. In your yoga practice, it's not about what it looks like; it's about what it FEELS like in YOUR body!
  2. Meditation: When we meditate, we focus our attention on our breath, allowing thoughts to come and go as they please without becoming overwhelmed by them.
  3. Journaling: When we journal, we give our brains a break, allowing them to dump all their thoughts onto the page rather than storing them in our heads. It can also be helpful to see your negative thoughts written out to give yourself the perspective to be able to realize how silly or wrong they may be!


By becoming aware of our thought patterns, we can learn the difference between helpful and unhelpful ones. In doing so, we can take away the power of negative self-talk, and open ourselves up to more possibilities and opportunities for growth!


Foundation 4: Mindfulness of Phenomena

Last, but absolutely not least, is the Mindfulness of Phenomena. In the Buddha's writings, this is written in Pali as dhamma (the Sanskrit equivalent is dharma), and is often translated to "phenomena." This fourth foundation focuses on the broader "phenomena" of life and invites us to contemplate the impermanent nature of all things and recognize that attachment and clinging lead to suffering.


Here's a couple mindfulness practices we can use on and off the mat:

  1. Yoga: You already knew we were gonna start here! In our asana practice, we learn the truth that nothing lasts forever. A particular pose may put you into a state of being uncomfortable, and the practice teaches us that this is not only inevitable but okay! And it will not last forever. The same is true for life!
  2. Walks & Hikes: Spend time in nature and immerse yourself in the beauty of the natural and ever-changing world! The changing seasons (although we don't get much here in LA, they do still change!), the growth and decay of plants, the flow of water in a river, etc. are all ways that the impermanence and interconnectedness of all living things show up in nature.
  3. A Gratitude Practice: Writing or naming the simple yet profound everyday things we're grateful for helps us develop a sense of gratitude for the phenomena of life!


By embracing impermanence, we learn to appreciate the present moment and let go of the need for things to be permanent or unchanging. This profound shift in perspective can lead to a deep sense of liberation and contentment.

These Four Foundations of Mindfulness are the comprehensive framework for cultivating presence, self-awareness, and inner peace in our lives. When we mindfully observe our body, feelings, mind, and the phenomena around us, we transform our relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

If you're looking to cultivate a deeper mindfulness practice on and off the mat, join Sam Akers (C-IATY, E-RYT500, MFRT, Certified Mindfulness Teacher/Trainer) for our upcoming 18hr Mindfulness Weekend training that combines these four foundations of mindfulness with a deeper look into their connection to Compassion!


👉 Advanced Training: Mindfulness Weekend

🗓️ September 29th - October 1st

📍 One Down Dog Silverlake


The heart of the training is learning to practice and teach an Introduction to Mindfulness class as well as weave mindfulness into different professional settings. This training is only for those who have completed a 200-hr yoga teacher training!


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