The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Kindfulness: Kindful Attention

by Ajahn Brahm
January 6, 2016
Wed, 01/06/2016 - 09:00 -- Ajahn Brahm

Excerpt from Kindfulness by Ajahn Brahm.


In this section, I’m going to introduce you in detail to the first part of kindfulness, present-moment awareness and breath meditation.

This kind of meditation unfolds in stages. You may wish to go briskly through the practices described in this little book, but be very careful if you do. If you pass too quickly through the initial steps of learning to meditate, you may find that the preparatory work has not been completed. It’s like trying to build a house on a makeshift foundation—the structure goes up very quickly, but it may come down too soon! You would be wise to spend a lot of time making the groundwork and foundations solid. Then, if you decide proceed to the higher stories of the House of the Buddha, they will be stable.

After you’ve spent enough time with the kindfulness practices in this book that these become stable, solid, and deeply a part of yourself, you may wish to explore the teachings of the jhanas. My book Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond is a great place to start that exploration. But there’s no need to hurry—the practices of kindfulness in this book can be thoroughly transformative in themselves.

Kindfulness is good in the beginning,
good in the middle,
good in the end.

stage one

Come to the Present

When I teach meditation, I like to begin at the simple stage of giving up the baggage of past and future. You may think that this is an easy thing to do, but it is not. Abandoning the past means not thinking about your work, your family, your commitments, your responsibilities, your good or bad times in childhood, and so on. You abandon all past experiences by showing no interest in them at all.

During meditation you become
someone who has no history.
It becomes unimportant whether you are
an old hand at meditation
or just a beginner.

As a person of no-history, you do not think about where you live, where you were born, who your parents were, or what your upbringing was like. All of that history you renounce. In this way, if you are meditating with others, everyone becomes equal—just a meditator.

If we abandon all that history, we are equal and free. We free ourselves of some of the concerns, perceptions, and thoughts that limit us, that stop us from developing the peace born of letting go. Every part of our history is finally released, even the memory of what happened just a moment ago. Whatever has happened no longer interests us, and we let it go.

Mind Like a Padded Cell

I describe meditation as developing a mind like a padded cell. When any experience, perception, or thought hits the wall of this cell, it does not bounce back. It no longer reverberates in our mind. It just sinks into the padding and stops. The past does not echo in our consciousness. Some people think that if they contemplate the past, they can somehow learn from it and solve their problems. But when we gaze at the past we invariably look through a distorted lens. Whatever we think it was like, in truth it was not quite like that at all! This is why people argue about what happened even a few moments ago.

It is well known to police who investigate traffic accidents that two different eyewitnesses, both completely honest, may give conflicting accounts of the same accident. When we see just how unreliable our memory is, we will not overvalue the past. We can bury it, just as we bury a person who has died. We bury the coffin or cremate the corpse, and it is done with. When we sit down to meditation, we do the same with our history.

Do not linger on the past.
Do not keep carrying around coffins
full of dead moments. If you do,
you weigh yourself down with
heavy burdens that do not really
belong to you. When you let go
of the past, you will be free in the
present moment.


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