Whole Effort, Whole Concentration, and Whole Mindfulness make up 1 of the 3 spokes of the 8 Fold Noble Path: Samadhi (mental discipline).
If whole concentration is the focused attention one gives to a single object (such as you’d give to a car if it were about to run you over), then whole mindfulness is the all-encompassing broad-view that one allows for the world (such as you’d give while on holiday at the beach, taking in the sights around you, the sounds, the sensations, the smells).
The is a text called the Satipatthana Sutta that gives a comprehensive explanation of mindfulness, describing it as The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, which are:
- Body (What sensations is your body experiencing?)
- Feeling/ evaluation (Do you find your experience at this moment pleasant, unpleasant, or unpleasant?)
- States of mind (What quality would you give your mind – blurry, frantic, blissful, stirring, etc?)
- Objects of mind (What are you thinking about?)
Together these four give rise to the human experience. If you are wondering what it means to be human, what it means to be you, stop a moment and see if you can find anything other than these four foundations of mindfulness that can describe who you are in any given moment. Is it possible?
Mindfulness of these four is done with a large amount of friendly inquiry and attitude of welcoming whatever arises. Mindfulness does not choose what it notices, it simply notices what is there without judgement or preference. The purpose of practicing these four foundations is that you eventually come to experiential wisdom that you are nothing more than body sensations, evaluations, states of mind, and thoughts. All which change.
Though this may seem a negative, it is a liberating truth that allows any person to become unbound by the tethers which make up your self identity. Without clinging to a self identity, a person is able to flow through life and ultimately be much more flexible and effective in a broader range of situations with a diverse mix of people. It is possible to do more good.
Right Mindfulness (or Attentiveness) is to be diligently aware, mindful and attentive with regard to (1) the activities of the body (kaya), (2) sensations or feelings (vedana), (3) the activities of the mind (citta) and (4) ideas, thoughts, conceptions and things (dhamma).
The practice of concentration on breathing (anapanasati) is one of the well-known exercises, connected with the body, for mental development. There are several other ways of developing attentiveness in relation to the body as modes of meditation.
With regard to sensations and feelings, one should he clearly aware of all forms of feelings and sensations, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral, of how they appear and disappear within oneself.
Concerning the activities of mind, one should be aware whether one’s mind is lustful or not, given to hatred or not, deluded or not, distracted or concentrated, etc. In this way one should be aware of all movements of mind, how they arise and disappear.
As regards ideas, thoughts, conceptions and things, one should know their nature, how they appear and disappear, how they are developed, how they are suppressed, and destroyed, and so on.
These four forms of mental culture or meditation are treated in detail in the Satipatthana Sutta (Setting-up of Mindfulness).