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The Art and Science of Mindful Living

MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Sati, Seventh Element, RI, Priscilla Szneke.

– Sylvia Boorstein

"Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of
the present experience. It isn’t more complicated
than that."


Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.
-Allan Lokos



Sati is from the Pali language; a Middle-Indo-Aryan language that is in the Prakrit language group, which was used by the Buddha. It is translated to the English as mindfulness or awareness. Mindfulness cultivates a sense of wholeness that brings us into the experience of “things-as-they-are” moment by moment. Cultivating awareness of breath, body, and the processes of heart and mind, mindfulness offers insight into the transient (impermanent), unsatisfactory (suffering) and universal (selfless) nature of reality.

Mindfulness practice develops clarity of understanding and allows grasping, judgment, and fear to all fall away. As these obscurations lose their hold on us, one discovers loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity, joy, and wisdom as the qualities of our true nature.

Mindfulness training is based on the teachings of the Buddha, but is not a religion. It is a philosophy and psychology of the mind that relieves suffering and its techniques have been incorporated into therapeutic practice, schools, corporations, and healthcare settings.

“Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience. Often such stories treat a fleeting state of mind as if it were our entire and permanent self.

― Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation

The history, concepts, and foundations for these practices are found below.


Vipassana is a technique that has been practiced in Asia for over 2,500 years. At the core of Vipassana or Insight meditation is right mindfulness (samma sati). We begin with the concept of right mindfulness to remind us to pay attention. And then we can use this attention to begin to notice how the mind works.

The Insight or Vipassana tradition is not a system of beliefs, but rather a guide to see clearly into the nature of the mind. In this way, we can really see the way things are, without looking through the lens of our opinions, theories or construed beliefs. It is a direct experience, which has its own vitality and validity. It also gives rise to the sense of deep understanding that comes from knowing something for oneself, beyond any doubt.



The intention of Dhamma (Dharma) practice is to end suffering, as exemplified by the Four Noble Truths.

  1. There is suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is craving.
  3. There is an end to suffering.
  4. The path that leads to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Buddha described the end of suffering as freedom.


The Path begins with Right Understanding (or View) and each component supports and directs the other. But if we consider these from the standpoint of practical training, the eight path factors divide into three groups:

  1. The moral discipline group, made up of right speech, right action, and right livelihood;
  2. The concentration group, made up of right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration; and
  3. The wisdom group, made up of right view and right intention.

These three groups represent three stages of training: the training in the higher moral discipline, the training in the higher consciousness, and the training in the higher wisdom.

As Bhikkhu Bodhi explains “Wisdom unfolds by degrees, but even the faintest flashes of insight presuppose as their basis a mind that has been concentrated, cleared of disturbance and distraction. Concentration is achieved through the training in the higher consciousness, the second division of the path, which brings the calm and collectedness needed to develop wisdom. But in order for the mind to be unified in concentration, a check must be placed on the unwholesome dispositions, which ordinarily dominate its workings, since these dispositions disperse the beam of attention and scatter it among a multitude of concerns. The unwholesome dispositions continue to rule as long as they are permitted to gain expression through the channels of body and speech as bodily and verbal deeds. Therefore, at the very outset of training, it is necessary to restrain the faculties of action, to prevent them from becoming tools of the defilements. This task is accomplished by the first division of the path, the training in moral discipline. Thus the path evolves through its three stages, with moral discipline as the foundation for concentration, concentration the foundation for wisdom, and wisdom the direct instrument for reaching liberation.”

For more on the Noble Eightfold Path (and the Four Noble Truths) go to Access to Insight.