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Buddhadharma : Winter 2013
40 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 3 of humor about one’s own mental foibles. By practicing this simple external mindfulness, we protect our own minds from the various defile- ments that might arise. Although attending to the breath is mostly internal, the instruction to be mindful of the body externally could be particularly helpful on retreat when someone else’s breath may be loud and disturbing. At those times, being mindful of another’s breath—whether it is in or out, long or short—can actually be part of our own path to awakening. Being mindful of the body externally has another advantage. Have you noticed that when you’re mindful of someone else moving very carefully, without distraction, that you yourself become more concentrated? This is one reason the Buddha suggested that we associate with those who are mindful and concentrated: it’s con- tagious. In this way, our own practice becomes a real offering to our fellow practitioners. The last part of this instruction is to contem- plate both internally and externally. The German bhikkhu and scholar Analayo suggested that this is not just a simple repetition, but rather reflects a more profound understanding that we should contemplate experience without considering it to be part of one’s own experience or that of another, but just as an objective experience in itself. Being mindful internally, externally, and both reminds us of the comprehensive nature of mindfulness practice—to be aware of whatever there is, whether it is within us or without. And, in the end, to go beyond this division altogether. Arising and Passing Away The second part of the refrain tells us to abide contemplating the nature of arising, the nature of passing away, and the nature of both with each object of awareness. Ledi Sayadaw, one of the great Burmese meditation masters and scholars, said that not seeing arising and passing away is ignorance, while seeing all phenomena as impermanent is the doorway to all the stages of insight and awakening. The Buddha emphasized the importance of this in many different ways. • Establishing enough mindfulness to recog- nize simply what is unfolding moment to moment—without mental commentary— and to remain mindful of what’s happening; • Abiding without clinging to anything that enters our realm of experience. In the sutta, the refrain first appears after the instructions on the breath. For this reason, and for the sake of efficiency, the examples that fol- low focus on the body. As you read, however, bear in mind that the important and explicit ele- ments of practice outlined in the refrain apply as well to all the aspects of our experience men- tioned in the other three foundations of mindful- ness: feelings, mind, and dhammas. Internally and Externally Contemplating the body internally seems obvi- ous; it is mostly how we practice. It is the present- moment awareness of what arises in the body. It might be the sensations of the breath or of differ- ent sensations arising throughout the body, such as heat or cold, tightness or pressure. But what does contemplating the body externally mean? There are some interesting aspects here that medi- tation practitioners don’t often make explicit. Contemplating the body externally can mean being mindful of the bodily actions of others when they draw our attention. Instead of our usual tendency to judge or react when we see other people doing something, we can rest in the simple mindfulness of what the other person is doing. We can be mindful that they are walk- ing or eating, without getting lost in our own thoughts of how fast or slow, mindful or careless they might be. An ironic and useless pattern that I’ve noticed on my own retreats is that my mind comments on someone not being mindful—or at least not appearing to be in my eyes—all the while being oblivious to the fact that in that very moment I’m doing exactly what it is I have a judgment about: namely, not being mindful! It usually doesn’t take me long to see the absurdity of this pattern and then just to smile at these habits of mind. It’s always helpful to have a sense EVANHENRITZE