Once again, I’ve found inspiration for my practice from the Satipatthana series of Joseph Goldstein.
One simple suggestion is made with reference to “bare knowledge” of an object. It is suggested that we regard any sense object simply as “… being known”. This is deliberately a passive construction. In practice, registering each sight, sound, sensation, thought, taste and smell with the label “…is being known” has some unique qualities. Here are some that seem very useful/helpful so far:
(1) As a mindfulness label, this is the lowest possible bar. Anything that comes into awareness “.. is being known”. There is no other requirement; everything is included.
(2)The simplicity of it seems to avoid a layer of doubt that can occur when noticing very subtle experiences. Instead of using thoughts to understand the object of awareness before acknowledging it, it can “be known” just as it is, with it’s ambiguity or it’s clarity.
(3) This passive construction avoids calling out a subject. There is no “I” needed. The very subtle, but nearly all pervasive selfing process is not supported by labeling in this way. Only the object being known and the knowing of it are present, and eventually these two may collapse as well.
(4) The mind’s movements and overall state “can be known”, though it is hard to place this into any of the six classic senses. The activity of the mind seems distinct from the thoughts and images that comprise the “thought” category, or sixth sense gate. Rather than being a sense gate, noticing the mind’s shifts and searches or it’s steadiness; it’s wide focus or narrow focus; the presence or absence of desire, etc. points directly at the 3rd foundation of mindfulness: the mind.
(5) As the mind settles and becomes more concentrated, Knowing itself becomes the object. This has the One Taste of seeing into one’s own mind, or doing a koan.
(6) Anything that is “being known” is necessarily in the present moment. It’s not possible that something from the past or future “.. is being known”. It becomes quite evident that any such thought of something from the past is a thought and that it’s the thought that “is being known”. Likewise, any thought of the future is known immediately to be a thought. Any fear, desire, confusion or other reactions to this thought are also “being known” just as they are during this practice–because the arising of the known and the knowing of it are being laid bare. Thus exposed, these reactions and stories have less power to distract awareness and spin the mind into another fantasy, perpetuate the story, and reinforce the conceit of self.
This has been a very simple, direct and effective tool in service of mindfulness. I am very grateful for concepts like this that can really help the practice unfold.