“There is a most wonderful way to help living beings realize purification, overcome directly grief and sorrow, end pain and anxiety, travel the right path, and realize nirvana. This way is the Four Establishments of Mindfulness.”
-Satipatthana Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 10
Meditation is life. It is a path for bringing body, breath, and mind in oneness so that we can be unified - totally ourselves in this present moment. As a discipline, meditation cultivates mindfulness, or skill in observing the moment by moment unfolding of life; concentration, or skill in directing attention and maintaining a calm and lucid awareness; and insight, or a penetrative understanding into the making of and release from suffering. These three qualities together are the soil from which a life of satisfaction and fulfillment sprout.
Gotama, the man known as the Buddha, described the practice of samma sati, comprehensive (or complete, or right) mindfulness in a discourse that has come to be known as “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness” or Satipatthana Sutta. In this discourse, Gotama outlines sixteen specific exercises that he claims “help living beings realize purification, overcome directly grief and sorrow, end pain and anxiety, travel the right path, and realize nirvana.”
Further, each of these exercises can be practiced in the framework outlined in the Anapanasati Sutta (Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing), which is a series of guided meditations the Buddha gave using the breath to develop lucid states of concentration that create the conditions for insight into the nature of the body, the feelings, the mental formations, and consciousness to arise. Joined together, the two discourses provide a complete path of practice for living an awakened and fulfilling life.
1. The Breath
6. Feeling tone
7. Feeling plane
8. The Three Fires
9. Uplifting the mind
10. Concentrating the mind
11. Freeing the mind
12. The Five Hindrances
13. The Five Aggregates
14. The 18 Realms
15. The Seven Factors of Awakening
16. The Four Noble Truths
To experience each of the sixteen exercises from the Satipatthana through the framework of the Anapanasati, these lectures, guided meditations, concrete practices on and off the cushion, suggested readings, and discussion forums are offered to supporting members. In addition to the online content, Sugarplum Sangha residents lead in person sessions on each of the exercises at The Mariposa Institute and Yoga Mendocino in Ukiah, California that anyone can join for free.
It is suggested that you spend at least a month on each exercise, really taking the time to develop proficiency in the technique and experience it’s fruits. For beginning meditators, you’ll benefit from clear guidance in basic meditation practices from bare awareness of the breath up to contemplation of the Four Noble Truths. For more experienced meditators, it may help to cultivate some structure and focus in your practice and return to familiar exercises with fresh eyes.
Practitioners will benefit the most from this course if they have copies of the suggested readings. Thich Nhat Hanh has written insightful, practical, and accessible commentaries on both the Satipatthana and Anapanasati Suttas. The lectures, guided meditations, and practices offered in this course will be greatly enriched by these readings. These commentaries can be found in Awakening of the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh. In addition, it is suggested that practitioners supplement the meditation instructions offered here with Thich Nhat Hanh’s manuals for meditation, The Blooming of a Lotus and Present Moment Wonderful Moment.
Suggested readings to start
The Blooming of a Lotus: vii - ix, 1 -7
Awakening of the Heart: 9 - 32, 103 - 121
Please enjoy the introductory talk and meditation before beginning the course