The four foundations of mindfulness (Satipatthana)

For a year and a half, from when my son Tenzin was 8 until he just turned 10, he and I meditated most nights, following the Satipatthana Sutta. However, it is not obvious how one follows the Satipatthana Sutta. Various books have been written on the Sutta, but I found no instructions on how to meditate that closely followed the Satipttahna Sutta. Yet the Sutta is closest we may get to how Siddartha Gotama taught mindfulness meditation. Further, it seems richer than many other mindfulness practices I had come across - and richer in useful ways. The Sutta as an original defining document, and a psycholgically nuanced take on meditation, seemed something that would be worth exploring. An extremely useful guide to understanding the Sutta is Analayo's (2004) Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization. That was my main resource. I took each section of the Sutta and attempted to produce a meditation true to the Sutta that my son could follow - and could understand why he was doing it, and I thought would be useful to him in an immediate way. In the end, the set of meditations produced a course on early Buddhism for my son, and I saw Buddhism in a simpler more elegant way than I had before (with a surprising close fitting together of Satipatthana, the chain of dependent arising, the four enobbling principles, the hindrances, the aspects of awakening, the five heaps, and the six sense bases).

I am not sure how much either Tenzin or I have absorbed the principles; and I at least did not become in any way accomplished as a meditator (that would need more than the 20-30 minutes most nights I gave meditation). I have yet to experience a jhana (absorption state). But I hope to have planted some seeds in Tenzin, the blueprint for jhana and some insight into his own mind, should he wish to explore any of this further as he grows up. And in me I have found a number of ways of paying attention in everyday life that I continue to play with.

To start with, we practiced breath meditation, following the Anapana Sati Sutta.

And because the Four Immeasurables ("Brahmaviharas": kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity), form a sort of background knowledge for interpretting Satipatthana, we also followed the Simile of the Cloth Sutta.

Then we were ready. First we were mindful of the body (First Satipatthana) in four different ways; then mindful of feelings (Second Satipatthana); then of the mind more generally (third Satipatthana); then of the systematic ways in which the habits of the mind might be transformed (Fourth Satipatthana). Each exercise is meant to be practiced "internally" as well as "externally"; this may mean one should be mindful (of body, feelings and so on) in oneself, and also in others. I indicate how we practiced mindfulness externally. Apologies for the videos being a bit amateur; I just shot whatever happened on the day we decided to shoot.


First Satipatthana (mindfulness of the body):

1. Mindfulness of breath (see first quartet). Mindfulness of breath externally.

2. Mindfulness of walking (see first quartet). Mindfulness of walking externally

3. Body scan

4. Mindfulness of death


Second Satipatthana (mindfuless of feelings):

1. Mindfulness of feelings; and externally.


Third Satipatthana (mindfulness of mind):

1. Mindfulness of mind.


Fourth Satipatthana (mindfulness of insight):

1. The five hindrances: Part 1 and part 2.

2. The six sense bases: Part 1 and part 2.

3. The five heaps.

4. The seven aspects of awakening.


Ten meditating