The following is a summary of The Science of Enlightenment Session #5, by Shinzen Young.  We are currently reviewing this series as a group in the Individuals Anonymous Facebook group, and you are encouraged to join if you have not done so already. 

You may also purchase The Science of Enlightenment audiobook on Amazon, here

Mindfulness: Working With the Feeling Body

In the sciences, a very common strategy is to take a very complex phenomenon and break it down into its components.  This allows for deeper understanding and also allows us to work with the phenomenon, control it, etc…

One very complex phenomenon is our experience.  Experience is complex and can only be understood by breaking it down into its individual components.

Breaking Experience of the Feeling Body Down into Components

There is a way to break experience down into much simpler components.  In doing this, our experience is much easier to understand and much more manageable.

All experience is made up of a combination of the 6 senses.  In the West, we generally refer to 5 senses but in the East, there are 6.  This is more useful when it comes to breaking down this experience.

Looking at the experience from the 6 senses tends to be more helpful in this process.  For the sake of this practice, we are using the 6 senses listed below.

  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Smelling
  • Tasting
  • Feeling in the Body
  • Thoughts in the Mind
    (In the West, these last two are rolled into ‘feeling’ – obviously.)

In the English language, there is a lot of confusion between the thinking and the feeling process.  If somebody shares their ‘feelings’ with you, do they share physical sensations with you?  No, they share concepts going on in their mind.

Being Mindful of The Categorical Sensations of the Mind

Each of the senses can then be broken down into categories and types of sensations.

Thought, for instance.  Some categories include:

  • Judgment
  • Planning
  • Worrying
  • Memory
  • Believing
  • Fantasizing

Most thoughts come in terms of internal conversation, internal imagery.  If thinking in conversation, these thoughts may come in sentences, paragraphs, etc… If you are multilingual, these thoughts may come as a combination of these languages.

Another mode of the thinking process is imaging.  Sometimes these thoughts come on a type of internal screen in which thoughts are presented as images.

There are additional types of thoughts which are neither words or images.  These kinds of thoughts can be more difficult to pin down in terms of what category they fall into.  These thoughts are generally fleeting and, for the sake of this exercise, can be referred to as suttle processing.

To what extent are you thinking in terms of image?  To what extent are you thinking in terms of words?  To what extent are you thinking in terms of suttle processing?

The thinking process is distinct from the feeling process.

One way to clarify the thinking process is to be aware moment by moment as to what type of thinking one is doing.

The essence of mindfulness is to discern between the types of thoughts one is having.  To see distinctly what types of thoughts one is having could be referred to as vipassana.

Discerning Sensations of the Feeling Body

There are only a handful of flavors of feeling that one needs to become familiar with.

One has to learn how to have complete experiences of fear, anger, sadness, physical pain, fatigue/tiredness, etc…

One also has to learn how to have a complete experience of relaxation/bliss, sexual/erotic sensation,

There are also a variety of various feeling sensations.  It is important to be aware of these various intensities, as well as the shapes these feelings take on, in addition to the movement qualities each of these feelings have.

We have a feeling that these feelings are in our mind, but in becoming mindful of these feelings, it becomes clear that even when the thinking and feeling qualities are no longer, there are still feelings that take place in the body.

Once feeling can be made tangible in terms of body sensation, we have the capacity to experience feeling completely.

Being Skilled at Feeling is Having the Ability to Meet Feeling Sensations With Mindfulness and Equanimity.

Mindfulness is the ability, in real time, to keep track of some aspect of the experience.

Equanimity is the non-interference with the natural movements and components of experience.

The ‘job’ is to first keep track of the flavors of sensations.  What are the qualities of the sensations?  Where are they centered?  Sometimes sensations will have impacts on the body in a variety of areas but these are hard to detect unless you are paying attention.

Then what?

Infuse with equanimity.  Allow what is, to be.

Insight and purification arise as a result of this process. In experiencing pain without resistance, the beneficial aspects of pain remain and the detrimental aspects of pain are no longer.

If one fails to see pain with mindfulness and equanimity, then the pain and the resistance are experienced as the same thing.  This is not ideal because the resistance is causing suffering and suffering is always optional.

It’s one thing to read this, it’s an entirely different thing to understand this through direct experience.  This cannot be understood by reading this or believing that one understands, without experiencing this directly. 

The more one becomes directly aware of their resistance giving rise to suffering, the more it becomes clear that the suffering is only there because of the resistance, the more one will let go of their resistance, eliminating suffering entirely.

If a sensation is not moving, then accept that there is zero movement to it.  There are generally two times in which sensations do not move.

  1. If it has stillness and tranquillity to it.
  2. The sensation has a pressure associated with it.  This is likely going to be less pleasant, however, if one is to inquire deeper into the nature of this type of sensation, and one can figure out which direction the pressure is directed, by going with it, one will generally find the capacity to enable the sensation to move.This may exacerbate the sensation, temporarily, which is likely to not be enjoyable.  But, by doing this you are doing what is necessary to enable the sensation to pass.  Most sensations are associated with directional pressure but sometimes it’s not so obvious as to which direction.  Slowing down and paying attention is the way to developing a complete understanding, thus allowing for the sensation to do what it wants to do, and pass.