Week 6: Bare Knowing

This week, Joseph continues his discussion of the refrain of the Satipatthana Sutta, specifically the line that states, “Mindfulness…is established…to the extent necessary for bare knowledge and continuous mindfulness.”  Regarding bare knowledge, we are encouraged to watch our minds “objectively, without getting lost in our stories.”  Analayo calls this “alert but equanimous observation.” This practice lengthens the time between the first ‘hit’ of knowing and the naming, conceptualizing and reacting to mind objects that habitually follow. Joseph states that knowing does not change regardless of what is known, and that knowing and the object always arise simultaneously.

We sat for a few moments in ‘bare knowing.’  As Joseph predicted, many of us felt a temporary slowdown or halt of the ‘story machine’ in our minds.  As a result of this exercise, group members reported ‘relaxation,’ a sense of ‘delicacy’ or ‘tenderness’ regarding the knowing process, and short periods when self seemed absent or when the ‘evaluating’ mind kicked in.

Joseph spoke at length about ‘continuity of mindfulness,’ which requires practice beyond bare attention. He suggests using the mind’s natural tendency to construct concepts to aid in this continuity.  Although rushing to concepts, as our minds readily do, can erase the nuance and individuality of experiences, ‘rallying the concepts’ reigns in this tendency for the purpose of mindfulness.  To this end, Joseph suggested using concepts for mental noting, for awareness of the ‘tone’ of our noting (are we impatient, bored, sleepy, etc.?), and as a feedback system (are we mindful at this moment?). In addition, concepts can strengthen ‘freedom now’, by curtailing our tendency to identify with and ‘own’ our thoughts; thus, we begin to recognize ‘no-self.’

Group members suggested further possible methods for strengthening the continuity of mindfulness:

*do one thing at a time

*choose one time of day or one activity to practice this continuity

*ask: what is my attitude right now?

*pare down distracting habits, such as reading while eating or listening to the radio in the car

Joseph reminds us that practiced mindfulness is relaxed and graceful.  He suggests that bare knowledge and continuity of mindfulness remind us of “the selfless nature of phenomena—with no ‘you’ there,” preparing us for next week’s lesson on non-clinging,

Suggested Practices:

* Practice, bare knowing or mental noting, whichever seems most useful, on a daily basis.  Keep a record of your practice for the week.

* Reflect regularly during the week on your level of continuity of mindfulness, either during your sitting practice of off the pillow.

*  Apply one of Joseph’s suggestions for using concepts or one of the practices offered by group members (see above) to help cultivate the skill  of continuity of mindfulness. 

- MW