The second foundation of mindfulness, the contemplation of feelings, presents a clear distinction between pleasant worldly feelings and pleasant unworldly feelings (i.e. pleasant feelings associated with renunciation and practice) and has brought about a clarity with regards to the practice and the path that has been very inspiring.
Seeing the benefits of practice directly has always been tricky. I know it’s good for me. I know that somehow I have better days when I’m sitting more often. I know it’s ‘informed my being’, as I like to say, over the many years. But how? What can I point to? Well, now there is some clarity around it. I’m experiencing the joy that comes not from gaining anything, but from the natural state of the mind that is letting go and allowing the stream of experience to flow without as much interference. There is a joy inherent in the process of letting go–of not grasping, of generosity, of opening to what is.
Clearly seeing this profoundly different kind of happiness is inspiring for practice. Last night, I sat for 45 minutes. At first I felt concentrated, but then by the end, my energy lessened some and my mind felt more contracted. I was able to stay mindful of the contracted quality of the mind, though, and remained alert through the sitting period. This morning, I was lucky enough to have the possibility to sit for half an hour (before catching the bus to work). The mind was focused on the simple in-and-out breathing, knowing it as either long or short. This simple focus is enough to maintain mindfulness and by the end of the period, I was experiencing the “unworldly pleasant feelings” of a calm and open mind and a happy and loving heart. This isn’t something you can buy. This isn’t something you can “gain” in any way. This is the joy of practice.