Introducing - The Path to Awareness!

Discussion Facilitator: Bruce Cantwell. March 23, 2019

The other day I was embarrassed to discover that I've been studying and practicing the Satipatthana Sutta for over seven years. 

I chose this practice because:

Vipassana, which means abiding or attending,[1] seems the simplest, if not necessarily easiest way of looking at this mind and body. It is a way to see the causes of suffering in one’s life and the possibility of being free[2], without accumulating the development of concentration.

That last part was key for me, because I don't know about you guys, but I still have trouble sticking with my breath. 

The sequence of the satipatthana contemplations leads progressively from the grosser (body) to more subtle (qualities of mind) level.

A central characteristic of satipatthana is awareness of phenomena as they are, and as they occur, so actual practice will vary from the original order.[3]

It's a state similar to listening to music.

Two ways of cultivating mindfulness are directed awareness (one pointed, focus on breath) and choiceless awareness (momentary samadhi) mindful focus on whatever arises through the five senses or conceptualization.

It is good to focus on a single object if your mind is either sluggish or distracted. When the mind is collected, we open up to choiceless awareness.

Without mindfulness, we are simply acting out all of our habit patterns.[4]

Vipassana is often called insight meditation, so I’m relying on your insights to help us all attain “enlightenment,” whatever that means to you.

Here's my current understanding of the instructions pieced together from various teachings and the experience of doing the practice itself.


Friends, this is the direct path for fulfilling human potential, for overcoming sorrow and complaint, for the disappearance of discontent at life's slings and arrows,[5] for attaining nibbana, namely the four fields of awareness.

What are the four? Here, friends, one sees the body's constituents, wholeheartedly, clearly comprehending their ever changing nature, vulnerabilities, and interdependence, having temporarily calmed longing for youth, beauty, health, height, weight, color, shape, agility, or the body's being any other than it is in this moment.

One repeatedly looks at emotions and bodily sensations, vigilantly, observing their subtle and unsubtle shifts, their comings and goings, and our complete helplessness in controlling them, having momentarily set aside a preference for happiness and pleasure over sadness and pain.

One closely observes one's mind states, keenly aware of their flightiness, irrationality, and stubborn resistance to behave as we would like, cultivating dispassion toward social comparison, money and possessions, and praise and blame.

One cultivates awareness of sensory experience and mental interpretations, suspending craving for pleasant flavors, tactile sensations, sounds, sights, aromas, or thoughts, and revulsion at unpleasant ones. One simply notes their shifting, short-lived, and inconsistent qualities.

For each of these fields, contemplate its occurrence within our inner world, or contemplate its occurrence in our outer world, or contemplate the relationship between our inner and outer world.

Or contemplate in each field its nature of arising, or its nature of vanishing, or its nature of both arising and vanishing.

Or else keep in mind that nothing in our inner or outer world is any more or less than constituents, feelings, mental states, and experiences to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and continuous mindfulness.

Study independently, without craving anything in the world.  

This is how to contemplate each of the four fields of awareness.[6]

Join us for the discussion: Saturday, March 23, 2019. Meditation starts 9:00 a.m. Discussion: 9:50. Snacks at 10:30!

[1] Fronsdal, Gil. “Satipatthana Sutta.” Audio Dharma, www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1742/.

[2] Goldstein, Joseph. “Joseph Goldstein on Satipatthana: The Four Establishments of Mindfulness : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, archive.org/details/satipatthana-joseph-goldstein.

[3] Anālayo . Satipaṭṭhāna: The Direct Path to Realization. Windhorse, 2014.

[4] Goldstein, Joseph. op.cit.

[5] Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1 :|: Open Source Shakespeare                , www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=hamlet&Act=3&Scene=1&Scope=scene.

[6] “MahāsatipaṭṭhānaSutta.” Mahasatipatthana Sutta - The Great Discourse on the Establishing of Awareness, www.tipitaka.org/stp-pali-eng-parallel.shtml#24.

Bruce Cantwell