The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

addiction awareness dukkha four noble truths karma master your becoming mindfulness samsara three marks of existence Feb 07, 2021

In the first foundation of mindfulness the benefit or the hallmark is achievement of stability and vividness or pliancy. In the second, you have response flexibility. In the third, you have meta cognitive awareness and in the fourth, you have what we're calling meta cognitive insight. You can just say insight which is some recognition about the nature of things that are arising in your mind.

Normally when things arise in your mind, you treat them as if what the mindfulness based cognitive therapists are calling real outputs of reality. The story comes up in your mind and you treat that story as if it's a real output of reality that you must respond to. If someone said something nasty and you have a long car ride, you're stewing and brewing, working it out in your head. You're responding as if it's a concrete reality and your body is coming along for the ride. It's starting to get huffy and puffy.

The moment of recognition that this is impermanent and that it doesn't have any substantiality, it's a construction is a deep moment of insight. That would be a byproduct of the fourth foundation. You are recognizing the actual nature of the phenomenon that's arising in your current experience. That doesn't mean just thoughts. You can have the actualization of the impermanence of a sensation. You can see that the body posture is also impermanent. The sensation of unpleasantness is also impermanent. The state of mind is impermanent and if that dawned on you, the nature of it to be impermanent, that would be a profound insight.

Seeing that it's impermanent, that it lacks substantiality, that it's course could only contribute to your own suffering, these are considered the three hallmarks, the three characteristics of phenomena. It doesn't matter what frame of reference. The object itself, in the first foundation will be your body and the breath. In the second foundation it will be sensations occurring in the present moment. In the third foundation it will be your mental attitude or mental state. In the fourth foundation it will be all of experience, the totality of the experience coming to bear. There will be a recognition of what are called the Three Characteristics, that things lack permanence, they're impermanent. Why are they impermanent? They lack substantiality. They're insubstantial and pursuing them as if they are permanent and substantial leads to suffering. These are the three qualities.

I don't know what that looks like for you. Maybe you have an addiction history. Maybe somebody hurt you. You feel angry, observing the anger arising you're resisting the urge to react to the anger. The thought arises, 'I really want a drink.' You can see all of this happening in your mind and you have the presence of mind to choose not to let that carry you into activity. You're neither able to arrest it, it's not like you can just short circuit the karmic momentum or charge that it carries, but you're also not following it and amplifying or magnifying it, giving it credence, giving it weight, legitimizing it. Then it dawns on you, there is a recognition that this is my samsara making apparatus. This leads to more pain and suffering for me. This is not helpful. That insight is the recognition of dukkha, the first noble truth.

You could also have the experience of 'I am free of this.' This is arising but I don't need to make that call. I don't need to stop at the bar. People that are in recovery know that there's a big difference, where they have to white knuckle their urges and then the day comes when they don't have to white knuckle their urges. There comes a day where there is a cessation of that. With that comes the presence of mind or the recognition that there is a cessation, Third Noble Truth.

Maybe there is no day where there's no more urge but there is confidence, I don't have to respond to it or the urge doesn't create more vibration or luring sense in the mind, doesn't snare you. You don't become preoccupied. It comes up and it passes and there is a recognition there's a sense of freedom here. There is a shoulder bent here. There's a pain signal here. There is a sense of freedom here. That's the recognition.


From the course Master Your Becoming