What Are the Four Foundations of Mindfulness?

The four foundations of mindfulness is the Buddha’s fundamental teaching on meditation common to all Buddhist traditions.

Lion’s Roar
20 April 2024
Illustration by Ray Fenwick.

The four foundations of mindfulness, presented most prominently in the Satipatthana Sutra, is the Buddha’s fundamental teaching on meditation. Common to all Buddhist traditions, it is a systematic guide to practicing mindfulness in progressive stages.

1. Mindfulness of Body

Full awareness of the experience of being in a body, including the sensation of breathing, posture, movement of and within the body, the weightiness of one’s body, its impermanence, and so on. This grounds you in the present moment.

2. Mindfulness of Feeling (vedana)

Paying attention to and noting pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feelings. This is the most rudimentary level of feeling, not the kind of “feelings” we identify as emotion. Being mindful of feeling at this level allows you to develop nonjudgmental awareness of whatever comes up.

3. Mindfulness of Mind

Being aware of thoughts and emotions as they arise, dwell, and pass away. This allows you to see the transient and insubstantial quality of the thought processes and emotional filters that guide our actions.

4. Mindfulness of Mental Objects

Paying attention to the totality of our experience, encompassing whatever mental qualities and phenomena (dharmas) emerge moment by moment. By seeing how we attempt to construct a coherent world from a series of mental events, we come to understand the impermanent nature of existence.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

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