Live Life With Full Attention
An eight week foundation course in mindfulness
An introduction for newcomers, a refresher for regulars
We often feel like we’re not living life to the full. It’s as if instead of directly experiencing life we’re lost in a cacophony of thought, anxiety and confusion. Increasingly people are turning to mindfulness for help with this. But the Buddha’s mindfulness teachings are far more than a way of coping with the stress of the modern world. They are a direct way of seeing deeply into the truth of life and living from that in a way that is much wiser, compassionate and helpful.
This course is based around the Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness in a text known as the Satipatthana Sutta. This is a systematic guide to developing full attention. It teaches us how to cultivate mindfulness, what to be mindful of and how mindfulness (or awareness) can lead us to insight into the True Nature of things. Over the eight weeks we’ll explore, step-by-step, how to practise the Buddha’s four fundamental dimensions of mindfulness, as well as how to apply them to the life we’re actually living.
Each week there will be a meditation, a talk and an opportunity to discuss the theme in small groups. There will also be one or two exercises which can be tried out in the following week.
These eight weeks are based on a book, ‘Life with Full Attention’ by Maitrayabandhu (available from our centre bookshop)
Tere is no charge for this course but a small donation each week of £5 -£10 would be appreciated
TO BOOK: Follow the link at the bottom of the page (Regulars do not need to book)
Live Life with Full Attention - Week One
DAY TO DAY MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness of small things
One of the reasons that we find it hard to to take day-to-day mindfulness seriously is because we generally don’t understand that actions have consequences - for ourselves, for others and for the world.
We can easily overlook small acts of un-mindfulness, thinking, ‘Oh well it doesn’t really matter’. What we don’t realise is that there is a cumulative, negative effect effect on us, on other people, and on the world. Un-mindfulness causes suffering for ourselves and others.
So in this first week we’ll be looking at ways in which we can be more mindful: motivating ourselves, setting up strategies, finding ways to reduce input, noticing the consequences of un-mindfulness, and so on.
Live Life with Full Attention - Week Two
MINDFULNESS OF THE BODY AND ITS MOVEMENTS
In our culture we have a habit of ‘living in our heads’ with a marked tendency to rationalize, ruminate, abstract and complicate.
If we are always in our heads, we may not even feel much of our body, so that, eventually, we can become alienated from it which then leads us to spend even more time in our heads!
So, this week. we are turning to the body and exploring the first of the Buddha’s four spheres of mindfulness: mindfulness of the body and its movements. This can help us to calm the busy mind and can be an effective antidote to stress and anxiety. Body awareness also makes us feel more truly alive and vital. It helps to increase our energy as we are no longer constantly pre-occupied with thinking and worrying and commentating on everything around us.
As we progress through this course we are aiming to see mind and body as interconnected. Each depending on the other, each influencing the other.
Live Life with Full Attention -Week Three
MINDFULNESS OF FEELINGS (VEDANA)
What we can and cannot change
We usually assume that we will find happiness by accumulating pleasant experiences and avoiding unpleasant ones. This would be a brilliant strategy if we could control the world around us. But unfortunately we can’t do that. The world will not always act in the ways we want it to. And even when pleasurable experiences occur, they will come to an end. So, we are forever being blown around by what the Buddha called The Worldly Winds.
This week we will be exploring the Buddha’s second sphere of mindfulness - vedana: the pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings that arise in the body when we don’t get what we want - or when we get what we don’t want! These feelings - vedana - come from our past conditioning and usually we try to ignore them and find a distraction, but, as we’ll see, if we are mindful of them, they can help us to open the door that leads to true and lasting happiness or contentment.
Live Life with Full Attention - Week Four
Experience is mind-made
Everything that we experience, we experience through the mind - our relationships, our perceptions of the world around us, our work, our love life… everything we have ever known, or will know, is mediated by our mind.
The Buddhist word for mind is citta. When we use the word ‘mind’ in English, we usually mean ‘brain’ or ‘thought’. But citta includes the heart as well. States of mind - cittas - have a thinking component, an emotional component, an action component and an intuitive component. It is this mind - citta - that we are cultivating awareness of in the third of the Buddha’s four spheres of mindfulness. We’ll explore how to drop beneath thoughts and emotions in order to experience how these thoughts and emotions feel in the body. And we’ll use what we have learned in the last two weeks (awareness of the body and awareness of feelings) to develop a way of staying with whatever is happening - be it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral - with a sense of kindly awareness.
Live Life with Full Attention - Week Five
DHAMMAS: BRINGING THE TEACHING TO MIND
Playing to our virtues and strengths
We experience a special kind of pleasure when we do something which brings us into contact with our virtues and strengths. It is a deeper, richer feeling than common-or-garden pleasure - it gives us a sense of fulfilment, gratification and self-forgetting.
Mindfulness of dhammas is about training ourselves to notice that when we act out of positive states of mind and emotion we feel happier, more creative, tolerant and expansive. Whereas when we act out of negative states of mind and emotion we are liable to feel destructive, reactive, constricted and unhappy.
Using what we have learned over the last four weeks and the new material in this week, we can now begin to allow mindfulness to unfold naturally. So when we start getting wound up, short-tempered or exhausted a quiet inner voice is there urging us to calm down, take a break, or regain perspective. Mindfulness of dhammas means listening to that voice and correcting our tendency to cause ourselves suffering through unhelpful behaviour and habits.
Live Life with Full Attention - Week Six
ART, OBJECTS, NATURE
Appreciation as a way of life
The Buddha taught the path of awareness in very different times to ours. The world is much more complex, bigger, faster and more challenging. If he was around today the Buddha might well add two extra categories to his four foundations of mindfulness: the environment (in its widest sense) and other people.
By environment we mean countryside and city centre, spaniels and herring gulls, pot plants and artichokes as well as all the everyday objects in life.
So, this week, we are going to explore the value of seeing things, hearing things, touching, tasting, smelling and reading things. We’ll be exploring the value of art and poetry, the need to take care of the natural world, because awareness of the environment is a vital part of living life with full attention.
And, in respect of all the above, we’ll be looking at the difference between wise and unwise attention and how we can cultivate the former and let go of the latter.
Live Life with Full Attention - Week Seven
Love is the Awareness of another person.
Our lives are inextricably bound up with other people. Our parents and grandparents, teachers, work colleagues, lovers, friends and strangers all help to shape our lives. They shape our emotional attitudes, our beliefs and our positive or negative outlook. And everything we do affects other people.
When we talk about ‘experience’, ‘life’ or ‘the world’ what we mean most of all is ‘people’. If we want to understand our life then, first, we need to understand and change our relationships with other people.
So tonight we’ll be looking at how much (or how little) we are mindful of others. How can we become less self-centred, the power of gratitude in life, cultivating true friendship, overcoming indifference and hatred. The positive benefits of forgiveness and the ease that arises from unconditional love of ourselves and others.
Live Life with Full Attention - Week Eight
MINDFULNESS OF REALITY
There are moments in life when a new kind of awareness seems to take us over. They might have been triggered by beauty: suddenly coming across an amazing and spectacular view, your first sight of the Taj Mahal, the indescribable spaciousness and stillness of a cathedral, the tranquillity of a forest or the feeling of deep connection when watching a sunset. These moments might arise after the death of a loved one when suddenly everything seems invested with new significance. It might even have been in the midst of pain.
This new kind of awareness, this other dimension, can be felt as profound calm, complete understanding and a deep sense of connection.
All the above are momentary glimpses of a reality which we miss the rest of the time when our minds go back to focusing on our desires, worries, plans and other everyday concerns. These momentary glimpses can also go beyond a sense of ‘you’ or ‘me’ altogether. They are not ‘God’ or ‘oneness with nature’. This ‘new dimension’ is something else, something beyond our normal understanding, and, ultimately, it is what Buddhism seeks to cultivate.
In this final week we’ll be exploring this Reality, how we might experience it more and, ultimately, how we might in a sense become it.
Although there is no charge for this event we would appreciate a donation of £5 - £10 each week. Please be as generous as you can.