Roots of Mindfulness: Foundational Attitudes - Talk 6

Talk 6 - October 21, 2017 - Beyond the Foundational  - Prepared Talk by Robin Boudette & Tim Burnett © 2017

Talk 6 recording


Talk 6 notes 


Brahma Viharas:

Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Upekka

In many Buddhist traditions, the teachings are said to have two wings, like the wings of a bird: wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom — clearly seeing

comes from the practice of mindfulness, training the mind to attend to direct experience,

Cutting thru of delusion, or subjective bias, stories we tell ourselves

With the clarity, wisdom arises understanding interconnectedness of everything — when we see that we are all connected, complicated intricate web

People, trees, earth, beings, compassion naturally arises

compassion embedded in mindfulness training, not separate

            nonjudgmental attitude:   kind and friendly

compassion practices, heart practices

to cultivate compassion, we train in the Brahma Viharas,

            heavenly abodes, 4 immeasureables

Heavenly Abodes

incompatible with a hating state of mind, and in that they are akin to Brahma, the divine 

they are called abodes (vihara) because they should become the mind's constant dwelling-places where we feel "at home"; they should not remain merely places of rare and short visits, soon forgotten. 

Hatred can never cease by hatred.

Hatred can only cease by love.

This is an eternal law.  –the Buddha

When we see, feel, know that we are all connected, hatred can only cease by love, compassion is the only wise response, not right or wrong, wise

Heart practices

4:  l-k, compassion, sympathetic (appreciative) joy, equanimity

We all have the potential to abide in loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

When we train in these qualities, they become an inner resource, gift, like wealth, more valuable than any outer riches.

Love, kindness, care, peace don’t have to be dependent on ideal circumstances; rather, we can learn to awaken and develop these qualities so they so they  becomes the natural dwelling place of the heart.

All these capacities are said to be of the “heart” because they are deeper and more stable than thoughts about loving.

Deep, not entangled in the shallowness of selfishness

stable when not compromised by fear, aversion, and craving

            caring for a child, protecting a child

            quality of devotion arising viscerally from the heart

heart practices:  relational, practice for ourselves but also others

benefactor, friend, neutral, difficult, all beings

involve attitudes and intentions that arise out of instincts embedded in our physiology, neurology, and psychology.

they appear easily when we are at ease, they can feel like the natural working of our inner life.

  • ·      How do you feel when you see a puppy?
  • ·      And if that puppy were to get hurt?
  • ·      Having fun playing?
  • ·      First time it gets chased by a cat?

Review each

 “near enemy” quality or experience that can be mistaken for a helpful quality or experience.

The near enemy is a kind of counterfeit of what we’re actually aiming for, and it’s unhelpful because while the genuine article helps free us from suffering, the counterfeit doesn’t.

Far enemy or opposite

phrases:  inclining the mind, planting the seeds of intention, over time, see that qualities of unconditional friendliness and compassion arise naturally

whatever the mind ponders upon becomes the inclination of the mind

neurons fire together wire together

metta:  loving-kindness, unconditional friendliness, gentle friendliness

Metta is exemplified by the bond between a mother, parent, and her newborn child

offering friendliness to everyone

not just friendly to those we like, those we know, people who are us, but to everyone without discrimination; we like, don’t like, similar to us and different, kind and unkind

gentle rain:  non selective, falls everywhere, evenly

near enemy:  selfish affection, conditional love, I love you, what you do for me. 

            Codependent, out of needing you to be, or do something

far enemy: ill-will, road rage, easily triggered


“May all beings be well; may all beings be happy; may all beings find peace.”

wish to be happy

Becoming kind

is the ultimate growth of a person. 

It is becoming softer in your words

in the sound of your voice

and in your whole being.

The gaze from your eyes

becomes a warm "feeling into"

because in the people around you

you recognize yourself.

It has nothing to do with weakness

it is much deeper.

It is the power

that causes you to wake up and live.

People who become gentle on the inside

realize who they are themselves.

You don't judge others anymore

you're no longer hard.

You don't need to prove yourself all the time

at the expense of others

you listen

because every "other"

is an ongoing miracle

you enjoy the sun and the rain

and all the small things.

Often you can see this kindness

in people who suffered a lot

they see and hear things differently

They who become gentle

have won over themselves.

A grateful breath of freedom

rises up inside of you

you love the people

because you have learned

to love yourself,

Not the way you would like to be

but just the way you are.

compassion:  Karuna: when metta meets suffering 

love in face of suffering

quiver of heart: 

feel visceral sensation, quivering of the heart followed by a move to act

mother child relationship that remains undisturbed by fear and aversion when the child is suffering.

allows for sustained and unobstructed presence of mind, knowing what to do, taking action

not always easy, arises from willingness to come close to suffering

see a person living on the street- turn away, block out, detached, not see

because it hurts

 need equanimity for balance

near enemy of compassion: feel pity, sentimentality, overwhelm; 

open to suffering without drowning in it

self and other circles, no compassion separate

compassion connected circles

not lose self in other

come from place of equanimity , where wisdom and l-k meet

unconditional steadiness of heart

practice is the transformation of consciousness that increasingly makes compassion the response to suffering our default setting

 not turn away, not melt in sentimentality

Compassion's far enemy is cruelty. Cruelty is devoid of mercy. 

“May all beings be free from suffering; May all beings have joy and ease.”

Sympathetic Joy, unselfish joy

Appreciative joy for ourselves

Parent-child connection when the child begins to express its own creative nature. Mudita is the ability to join and support this expanding spirit

Hardest to cultivate, we often have the thoughts…

Jealousy, carried away by it or turn away


Incline to wholesome

Near enemy:  exuberance, hypocrisy, insincerity, 

Far enemy: Resentment, jealousy

I’m happy that you’re happy.

May your happiness continue.

May your happiness increase. 

May your good fortune shine.

May all your dreams come true.

Equinimity Inner Peace

And in the particular circumstances when we have no role in the welfare of others, upekkha is the wish that we ourselves not become agitated while keeping our hearts open and responsive, perhaps available for when we can help.

the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught by what we see. 

Equanimity's exemplar is the mother child relationship as the child leaves home. The parent's roll is fulfilled and, now, it is time to cut the ties that bind. She now belongs to the universe of her own karma. With a heart full of good will, compassion and appreciative joy we stand at the threshold of her departure.

Equanimity may be seen as the balancing factor that keeps us stable in the opening of the heart.

Upekkha is the quality of remaining stable in the midst of everything.

As a quality of heart, equanimity helps us not completely base our happiness on the actions and feelings of others.

Equanimity is a container of balance that helps hold all of the other Brahma-viharas.

We are able to separate our wishes for someone from reality, and not cling to how somebody else should act.

Although we may have compassion or wish well for somebody else, this doesn’t mean it will “cure” them or take away all of their suffering. Rather, the heart practices are about opening our own hearts.

Equanimity is the ability to dwell equally with

pleasure and pain,

loss and gain,

praise and blame,

fame and disrepute.

It means that we are able to move equally in both directions as the need arises, without clinging and aversion toward one or the other polarity.

Joseph G

Equanimity doesn’t mean not caring.  When we open our hearts, we can

connect to all things, and that’s as it should be.  The point of equanimity is not

to lose one’s heartfelt connection with the things going on around us.  Rather,

it means balancing that connection with a clear recognition of the way things

are.  So, for example, we see what we genuinely cannot control, no matter

how obsessed we might become with trying to.  We see how much things are

constantly changing.  Even in the midst of intense devoted activity, we can be

served by seeing such truths clearly and remaining balanced.

Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. Indifference is the pretense of equanimity.

Instead of releasing attachment to a preference of how we want things to be (Equanimity), when we are indifferent we are detached from the way things are. It is the quality of apathy that pretends not to care. It is a cold distance from a heartfelt sense of life.

Sense of superiority, disconnection

The far enemy of Equanimity is restlessness or agitation, as we cling desperately to the way we want things to be, or try to push away the things we don't want.

Clinging, striving, pushing, forcing

·       All beings are the owners of their karma. Their happiness and unhappiness depend upon their actions, not upon my wishes for them.

·       May we all accept things as they are.

·       May we be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events. 

·       I will care for you but cannot keep you from suffering.

·       I wish you happiness but cannot make your choices for you.

 “May I be open and balanced and peaceful.”

Things are as they regardless of how I want them to be

“Your happiness and suffering depend on your thoughts and actions and not my wishes for you.”

“May we learn to see the arising and passing of all things with equanimity and balance.”
“May you have true equanimity.”
“May you be balanced and peaceful.”

When developed, these qualities help to balance one another. Because love, compassion and joy can lead to excessive attachment, they need to be balanced with equanimity. Because equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, it needs to be balanced with love, compassion and joy. Together, they express optimal mental harmony.

May you be safe

May you be healthy and happy

May you be free for suffering

May you know peace

may my mind turn in this direction

wish not prayer


benefactor:  easy to feel friendly, loving, kindness towards—person you know, a pet, a teacher who has been an inspiration

self:  learn to be our own friend

friend, maybe someone you know suffering

neutral person

difficult :  not the most difficult, start with easy, edge into unconditional

conditional unfolds into unconditional,

stands right at the edge of unconditional and conditional

establish concentration, restful awareness followed by the phrases





difficult person

victims of human trafficking

males and females

near and far

born, yet to be born

all beings everywhere

let go of phrases, resting in awareness

I teach one thing and one thing only:  suffering and the end of suffering.  – the Buddha

Compassion knows we are in this together.

We are practicing with and for everyone.

Thich Nhat Hahn

You are me, and I am you.

Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?

You cultivate the flower in yourself,

so that I will be beautiful.

I transform the garbage in myself,

so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you; you support me.

I am in this world to offer you peace;

you are in this world to bring me joy

The Path

If anybody asks you what the Path is about,

 it’s about generosity.

It’s about morality.

It’s about concentration.

It’s about gaining insight through focused self observation.

It’s about the cultivation of subjective states

of compassion and love based on insight.

And it’s about translating that compassion and love into actions in the real world.

Shinzen Young

The Buddha first taught the meta-meditation as an antidote to fear a group of monks were afraid of spirits in the woods the Buddha gave them the method meditation and they believe this would protect them they believe the tree spirits became moved by the beauty of the energy feeling the forest and resolve to care for and serve the monks

What unites us as all human beings is an urge for happiness which is at heart yearning for union for overcoming our feelings of separateness the opposite of meta-is hatred

Meta-is the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves as well as all parts of the world


Over time Jon like everyone else has changed and grown in his understanding. Nothing is fixed, everything's changing,  perhaps there are some  truths that are deeper and more stable than others but nothing is fixed and perfect as it is.

 Jon's 7 attitudinal factors and beginnig attitude towards the practice strongly emphasize the wisdom side of the teachings. The wisdom of being present, the wisdom of awareness, the deep freedom that comes from a wiser discernment around how to direct our attention and where to put our energy and our focus.

 In the Buddhist traditions they say that the great bird of awakening flies with two wings: one wing is wisdom and the other wing is compassion.

 Wisdom without compassion can be flat. A little heartless. Like the way you can say something to someone that's completely true and clearly said but you aren't feeling a connection with the person and where they're at with this and you end up hurting them. Sometimes quite badly. Wisdom without compassion.

 But compassion without wisdom is off balance too. We can have all kinds of other sympathetic and empathetic interactions that may have elements of compassion but are off balance and sticky in all kinds of ways. we can help in ways that don't help, that even harm.

 Jon was aware that he'd made this somewhat narrow selection I think - he felt this was the side of these teachings he realized would be accepted and embraced by the sociey of the time. And he was right. He certainly modeled compassion in his teaching ofmindfulness. If you watch that Bill Moyer's TV show about him from 1992 you'll see some very touching compassionate interactions between Jon and the ordinary suffering people in his class who are meeting all of this for the first time.

 And Jon also started changing his language a bit over time. Saying it's not "mindfulness" but "heartfulness".  Riffing on an interesting aspect of the Chinese-based languages that the same character - shin or kokoro - means both mind and heart.

And research has shown that the linking of wisdom and compassion happens organically which is great news for those of us who want to trust in some kind of inherent goodness in people.

 Research by Shauna Shapiro and others has shown that people increase in compassion from taking an MBSR class - and MBSR doesn't mention compassion particularly in the curriculum. It's all implied. But opening our minds to what's really happening seems to naturally open our hearts. We can deeply see that we all want happines and we all don't want to suffer. But mindfulness also shows us an essential pre-condition for practicing compassion: that we all do, in fact, suffer. Without mindfulness of suffering there can be no compassion.

 I can relate to this as my own Zen tradition also  emphasizes wisdom and leaves compassion largely implied - and lived through the realtionships of people in the community and teacher and student.

 But later on when Jon revised his great book on MBSR FCL in 2013 he adds a kind of postscript to his list of 7 attitudinal foundations:
[read Full Catastrophe Living, p. 31]

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