Mindfulness - sitting in the high tower

This was a response from me to a person also criticizing the bare-awareness understanding of mindfulness. I am curious what do you think of it. This is my understanding of mindfulness so far.

That’s exactly the point of mindfulness in the first place. Most understand it as bare attention for the sake of developing bare attention like one would develop a good tendency, or develop muscle at the gym. And maybe this is why some have a trouble understanding why listening to the dhamma is considered mindfulness by the Buddha.

The way I understand mindfulness, it is like staying in a tall tower and seeing everything below. For example when one is walking his mind might go off towards thoughts that come to ones mind, or be led away by signs of things (for example by seeing a particular place, starting to remember memories from it an daydream etc.). Or for example one might be reading something on the internet, then get cought up in reading or doing something and then get cought up in that and be led ashtray, forgetting he was supposed to work or do something else or simply use his minutes more productively. When one is sitting in the tall tower of mindfulness, he is seeing all things and remembering what he is supposed to do, remembering his interest and so push away these things that drag him to the side. “Mindfulness” actually comes from “to remember”. These are gross examples but things go down to much more subtle levels, the second level where it gets to “investigation of states”.

When on is mindful, he is keeping himself in the high tower and pushing these things to the side. When one is doing bare attention, he is not really in the high tower and not doing what a person sitting in a high tower would do. One can much more easily get dragged to the side in such a state and maybe even keep doing this bare attention a little when being already dragged to the side, not remembering what he is supposed to do.

The reason why paying attention to the body is required is for helping one stay in this tall tower. If one is paying attention to thoughts that come up to ones mind or random things, he will fall down from the high tower much more easily then when having walking or breathing as an anchor. But the bare-attention camp believe the whole point is to pay attention to the body or breath and stay as focused on that as possible, like a hammer in look of a nail, not understanding the whole point of that is just to help one stay in the high tower.

Those who do not agree fill free to contradict me, but the way I understand minfulness it is sitting in this high tower and remembering to do what one planned to do, or judging every moment what is in ones best interest, and deciding weather to do it or not. For example one might not know if it is productive to give attention to a particular sign/aspect of a thing or to another sign/aspect of a thing and he might decide in that moment what to do. This is how mindfulness is developing the second factor: investigation of states.

Note: The best way to practice this is when walking alone. It will be 20 times more effective than in day to day life or when walking with somebody else and talking.

I see it in this way as well. But what about bare-awareness from the tall tower? The bare-awareness is spotlight that shines down on it all.

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Well it certainly has an awareness component to it, but when people use “bare awareness” they usually refer to a specific understanding of mindfulness popular in the west. Something like developing bare awareness while not necessarily sitting in the high tower and not using it for what this awareness is supposed to be used. And it is not only awareness, it is awareness + understanding + inverstigation, all this with a specific goal in mind, a goal that is not simply developing awareness like one would develop a good tendency or develop muscle at the gym. There is no point for having a spotlight shining from the tower if nobody understands what is seen by the spotlight and how to react to it.

Maybe it will be more clear if I also quote the post that I responded this to:

By being mindful (not letting bad khandhas in) - by not grasping at the attributes (nimitta) - and by restraining the indriya.
From the stilling of the synergy (between the external āyatana and the internal āyatana), comes the relinquishing of all acquisitions (sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo) (AN 3.32), and the destruction of craving - of which the 18 external rovings are summarized by:
“I am; I may be; may I be; I shall be - (whatever) - because of this”. (AN 4.199).
The “mine” part.

Now, as usual, these constraints are going to be quickly swept under the attractive rug of “bare attention” (viz. a “bare attention” devoid of the true meaning of mindfulness; of the avoidance of grasping at the attributes; and of any restraint of the indriyāni).
Or maybe this is going to be called once more, … “preaching”.

Have you noticed, you readers, how the restraint of the indriyāni is so taboo on practically all buddhist forums?
As soon as you say that, there is red-herring flowing from all sides.

note: this was in a topic that was not actually about mindfulness but about weather there is any distinction between internal and external in the suttas, since Nanananda and other solipsists claim there is none, and that you need to unite the internal with the external and some hinduist monist ideas like that.

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What strikes me is that in the EBTs mindfulness (sati) is almost routinely defined along with its objects ie the four foundations (of mindfulness), and rarely on its own. I think this is quite significant as attention on just any old thing, in any old fashion isn’t going to reap liberation.

With metta


One way I think about satipatthana is observing the movement of senses and mind from a point of stillness. I think it’s possible to view satipatthana as a stand-alone activity ( eg in MBSR ), but in the suttas it works in conjunction with other factors of the 8-fold path. And of course satipatthana represents only two of the seven factors of enlightenment.

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