Tempel Smith spent a year ordained as a monk in Burma and teaches Buddhist psychology and social activism in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently part of the IMS/Spirit Rock Teacher Training Program.
To find equanimity within us we can reflect on how we naturally feel when in nature. We rarely judge nature or get rigidly stuck on our preferences. We can see a young sapling, a mature tree, a much older tree, and a fallen tree. We can see rabbits and coyotes, insects and birds who eat them. We let nature have its changing seasons. From these reflections we can find the open heart of caring equanimity, just wishing for respectful contact with the truth. Can we bring this to the human realm?
While the 3rd and fourth foundations of mindfulness can be taught as their own separate topics, it can be very useful to look at the language and instruction given in both of them together. In the 3rd foundation we rest mindfully in all cognitive and emotional states as they arise and pass with the courage not to change them. In the 4th foundation of mindfulness we use this deeper intimacy from the 3rd foundation to act most skillfully in how we let go of suffering states and welcome wholesome states.
After receiving many dharma talks and and expanding mindfulness into the 3rd and 4th Foundations of mindfulness, it is important to intentionally return every now and then to 1st and 2nd foundations of mindfulness. This keeps us grounded in the body as a continual pillar of our practice.
In truth we are in a stream of every changing experiences, both internally and externally. AS we develop greater mindfulness and concentration we see through our direct experience everything which arises also passes away. This is the true nature of all conditioned phenomena. Waking up on our Buddhist path reveals our streaming nature, and this is one way of describing the process of becoming a stream enterer.
In daily live many of our actions are habitual and unconscious. The Buddha asked us to be increasingly aware of our motivation and intention behind each action so we can better sort out what is wholesome and helpful, and which actions are connected with greed, harm and ignorance. On a silent retreat we have a chance to see the habits we have and how they drive our behavior.
Every being experiences loss, pain and fear, and often feels the additional suffering of isolation. Our process of waking up gives us increasing awareness of our own vulnerability and that of others. Practicing compassion strengthens our hearts to stay conscious and even move lovingly towards ourselves and others when we are in pain.
At some point we can fully let go of all our concerns to give our full attention to the breath and body. As we build faith and devotion to this simple fullness of attention we can feel the mind healing from its habits of being scattered and exhausted. This practice develops into full absorption and becomes the basis for liberating wisdom.
The Buddha stated we are often lost in craving and aversion when we are not mindful of our bodies. In a discourse named the Six Animals (SN 35.247) the Buddha strongly encouraged developing the concentration of body mindfulness as a pillar to collect and calm oneself, and learn to have a conscious relationship to the six sense. From developing calm and collectedness mindfulness of the body continues to liberate us from our confusions towards having a body. As both a refuge of samadhi and a place for deepening wisdom, mindfulness of the body is considered the central foundation to the buddha's path to freedom here and now, and ultimate liberation.