Fluffing-Up Our Understanding of Right Mindfulness

In a talk given during a recent workshop at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, Chip Hartranft observed that many contemporary dharma teachers present a flattened version of what mindfulness is about. The right mindfulness of the Noble Eightfold Path as we find it in the early Buddhist texts has dimension, texture, complexity.

The popular casting of mindfulness as simply meaning ‘the bringing of an attitude of acceptance to awareness of present experience’ may well offer a fine starting point, but if we fail to appreciate the role of the other factors included in the Buddha’s teachings on right mindfulness we miss out on its depth, richness and power.

Our understanding of what the Buddha means when he uses the word ‘mindfulness’ benefits from folding in an appreciation of the contributions of each of the following dimensions (and probably others). We will explore these dimensions in upcoming posts. The purpose of these explorations will not be to arrive at a new flattened version of mindfulness, but rather to fluff up our relationship to these teachings so that what they mean to us has room to grow as we develop on the Buddha’s path.

Eight Fluffing-Up Dimensions of Right Mindfulness

  • Right mindfulness is to be understood as a developmental process.

  • There is value in practicing the seven practices for developing right mindfulness that are found in common across all known transmissions from early Buddhists sources as a set of related exercises.

  • Right mindfulness should be explored in its relationships to the Noble Eightfold Path as a whole as well as to its individual factors.

  • In order to fully develop meditation practice, it is necessary to practice and understand right mindfulness in relationship to right effort and right samadhi.

  • Right mindfulness develops in tandem with clear comprehension (alertness).

  • Working with right mindfulness practices strengths the mind’s capacity to experience both tranquility and insight.

  • The ability to remember relevant teachings and experiences plays a key role in cultivating right mindfulness, and is, in turn, supported by the development of mindfulness.

  • The practice of Mindfulness of Breathing can fulfill the development of right mindfulness.