What is Mindfulness?
What are the 6 Rs?
Mindfulness (sati) is “remembering to observe how mind’s attention moves moment-to-moment and remembering what to do with any arising phenomena!” Successful meditation needs a highly developed skill of mindfulness. The 6Rs training taught at Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center is a reclaimed ancient guidance system which develops this skill. View a presentation on the 6rs here.
The first R is to Recognize but before we do it, the meditator must remember to use their observation power (mindfulness) for the meditation cycle to start running. Mindfulness is the fuel. It’s just like gas for an engine. Without mindfulness, everything stops! Watch the video from the Japanese conference. Watch a talk on the 6Rs and the beginning Metta Instructions.
Being persistent with this practice will relieve suffering of all kinds.
To begin this cycle “smoothly” you must start the engine and have lots of gas (mindfulness) in the tank!
Meditation (bhāvanā) helps you to let go of such difficult delusional states in life as fear, anger, tension, stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, sorrow, fatigue, condemnation, feelings of helplessness, or whatever the “catch (attachment) of the day” happens to be. (Delusional means here, taking things that arise personally and identifying with them to be “I”, “Me”, “Mine” or “atta” in Pāli.) These states result in suffering that we cause ourselves. This suffering comes from a lack of understanding in how things actually occur.
View Video on the 6rs and beginning Metta Instructions
View Video on the 6rs
Pali words for Six Rs:
Recognise: जानाति Janati
Release: विनेय्य vineyya
Relax: पस्सम्भयं passambhayam
Resmile: पसन्नेन pasannen
Return : पुनरपि punarapi
Repeat: बहुलीकरित्वा bahulikaritva
WHAT ARE THE 6Rs?
The 6Rs are steps which evolve into one fluid motion becoming a new wholesome habitual tendency that relieves any dis-ease in mind and body. This cycle begins when mindfulness remembers the 6Rs which are:
Development of mindfulness (your observation power) observes each step of the practice cycle. Once you understand what the purpose of mindfulness is, keeping it going all the time is no longer a problem, and this makes the meditation easier to understand, plus, it is much more fun to practice. It becomes a part of happy living and this brings up a smile. Remembering the 6Rs leads you to having a wholesome up-lifted mind.
This remembering by mindfulness is very important. Before practicing the 6Rs you have to remember to start the cycle! That’s the trick! You have to remember to gas-up the engine, so it can run smoothly!
Then we begin to:
Recognize: Mindfulness remembers how you can recognize and observe any movement of mind’s attention from one thing to another. This observation notices any movement of mind’s attention away from an object of meditation, such as the breath, sending out Mettā, or doing a task in daily life. You will notice a slight tightness or tension sensation as mind’s attention barely begins to move toward any arising phenomena.
Pleasant or painful feeling can occur at any one of the six sense doors. Any sight, sound, odor, taste, touch, or thought can cause this pulling sensation to begin. With careful non-judgmental observation, the meditator will notice a slight tightening sensation. Recognizing early movement is vital to successful meditation. You then continue on to:
Release: When a feeling or thought arises, you release it, let it be there without giving anymore attention to it. The content of the distraction is not important at all, but the mechanics of “how” it arose are important! Just let go of any tightness around it; let it be there without placing attention on it. Without attention, the tightness passes away. Mindfulness then reminds you to:
Relax: After releasing the feeling or sensation, and allowing it to be there without trying to control it, there is a subtle, barely noticeable tension within mind/body. This is why the Relax step (“Tranquilization” step as stated in the suttas) is being pointed out by the Buddha in his meditation instructions. Please, don’t skip this step! It would be like not putting oil in a car so the motor can run smoothly. The important Pāli word here is “pas’sambaya”. This word specifically means “to tranquilize” and appears as “an action verb to be performed” as described in the suttas and is not “a general kind of relaxing” that is included within other release steps found in other kinds of meditation. This point is sometimes misunderstood in translation, which then changes the end result!
Without performing this step of relaxation every time in the cycle, the meditator will not experience a close-up view of the ceasing of the tension caused by craving or the feeling of relief as the tightness is relaxed. Note that craving always first manifests as a tightness or tension in both one’s mind and body. You have a momentary opportunity to see and experience the true nature and relief of cessation of tightness and suffering while performing the Release/Relax steps.
Mindfulness moves on by remembering to:
Re-Smile: If you have listened to the Dhamma talks at DHAMMA TALKS LIBRARY you might remember hearing about how smiling is an important aspect for the meditation. Learning to smile with mind and raising slightly the corners of the mouth helps mind to be observant, alert, and agile. Getting serious, tensing up, or frowning causes mind to become heavy and your mindfulness becomes dull and slow. Your insights become more difficult to see, thus slowing down your understanding of Dhamma.
Imagine for a moment the Bodhisatta resting under the rose apple tree as a young boy. He was not serious and tense when he attained a pleasant abiding (jhāna) and had deep insights with a light mind. Want to see clearly? It’s easy!
Just lighten up, have fun exploring and smile! Smiling leads us to a happier more interesting practice. If the meditator forgets to Release/Relax, rather than punishing or criticizing yourself, be kind, Re-smile and start again. Keeping up your humor, sense of fun exploration and recycling is important.
After Re-smiling, mindfulness recalls the next step.
Return or Re-Direct: Gently re-direct mind’s attention back to the object of meditation (that is the breath and relaxing, or Mettā and relaxing) continuing with a gentle collected mind and use that object as a “home base”. In daily life, having been pulled off task, this is where you return your attention back to releasing, relaxing, and re-smiling into the task.
Sometimes people say this practice cycle is simpler than expected! In history, simple things can become a mystery through small changes and omissions! Doing this practice develops better focus on daily tasks with less tension and tightness. Mind becomes more naturally balanced and happy. You become more efficient at whatever you do in life and, actually, you have more fun doing all of the things that used to be a drudgery. Nearing the end of the cycle.
Mindfulness helps with the final remembering to:
Repeat: Repeat your meditation on your object and keep it going as long as you can, and then repeat this entire practice cycle as needed to attain the results the Buddha said could be reached in this lifetime!
Repeating the “6Rs cycle” over and over again will eventually replace old habitual suffering as we see clearly for ourselves what suffering actually is; notice the cause of it and how we become involved with the tension and tightness of it; experience how to reach a cessation of that suffering by releasing and relaxing; and discover how we can exercise the direct path to that same cessation of suffering. We achieve this cessation each time we Release an arising feeling, Relax and Re-Smile. Notice the Relief!
In summary, mindfulness (sati) is very relevant to Buddhist meditation and daily life. Sharpening your skill of mindfulness is the key to simple and smooth meditation. The process of remembering keeps the six steps of the practice moving. Practicing this meditation as close to the instructions (found in the suttas) as possible will lighten life’s experience. A very similar practice was taught to people in the time of the Buddha. It was taught as Right Effort. Within the 6Rs we have added a couple more steps to make things a little easier to understand.
The remarkable results of doing the meditation in this way are “immediately effective” for anyone who diligently and ardently embraces these instructions. When you have an attachment arise this practice will eventually dissolve the hindrance, but it does take persistent use of the 6Rs to have this happen.
When you practice in this way, because it is found to be so relevant in daily life, it changes your perspective and leads you to a more successful, happy, and peaceful experience. As mindfulness develops, knowledge and wisdom grow naturally as you see “how” things work by witnessing the impersonal process of Dependent Origination.
This leads to a form of happiness the Buddha called “Contentment”. Contentment is the by-product of living the Buddhist practice. This meditation leads to balance, equanimity, and the dissolution of fear and other dis-ease. With less fear and dread you find new confidence. Then Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity can grow in our lives.
Your degree of success is directly proportional to how well you understand mindfulness, follow the precise instructions, and use the 6Rs in both your sitting practice and daily life. This is the way to the end of suffering. It’s interesting and fun to practice this way and certainly it helps you smile while changing the world around you in a positive way.
When you are practicing TWIM, you do not suppress anything. Suppression means we would push down or push away or not allow certain types of experience. This would temporarily stop hindrances from arising. Instead, when a hindrance arises, you must work to open your mind by seeing clearly anicca (impermanence, it wasn't there and now it is), dukkha (suffering or unsatisfactoriness, you see that when these distractions arise they are painful), and anattā (not taking it personally, seeing the hindrances in the true way as being an impersonal process that you have no control over and not taking these hindrances as “I am that”).
You then let go of this obstruction, relax the tightness in the head, calm mind and finally, redirect your craving-free attention back to the practice of “Mindfulness of Breathing”.
As a result, you begin to see clearly how mind works and this leads to the development of wisdom. Instead of identifying with them, when you allow them and relax, these hindrances will naturally fade away. Mind becomes more clear and bright. Every time you let go of the ego attachment of “I am that”, mind naturally becomes more expanded, alert, and mindful.
Thus, one of the main reasons for this book is to show that whenever you suppress anything, you are not purifying mind or experiencing things as they truly are. At the time of suppression, you are pushing away or not allowing part of your experience. Thus, mind is contracted and pulls the tension even tighter instead of expanding and opening. As a result, this is not purifying mind of ignorance and craving. You are actually stopping the purification of mind!
It is impossible to experience the unconditioned state of the supra-mundane Nibbāna when one does not let go of everything that arises, and in that way purifies mind of the ego belief of “I am that”.
The Buddha never taught suppression of any experience nor did he teach a meditation that causes mind to fix on or become absorbed into the meditation object. Remember, he rejected every form of “concentration meditation” as not being the correct way. Actually, any kinds of pain, emotional upset, physical discomfort, and even death must be accepted with equanimity, full awareness or strong attention without identifying with these states or taking pain personally.
Real personality change occurs when you open and expand your mind and let go of any kinds of hindrances, pain, suffering, and tension even in your daily lives. This means that you open and expand your awareness so that you can observe everything with a silent mind free from tightness and all ego-attachment. You gradually lead a happy and calm life without a lot of mind chatter, especially during your daily activities.
When you practice “concentration meditation”, you will feel very comfortable and happy while in the deep meditation. But, when you get out of these exalted stages, your personality remains the same. Old anger, fears, or anxiety remain. This means when the hindrances attack you, you do not recognize them and open your mind and allow the hindrance to be there without taking it personally. Thus, you contract your mind and become even more attached! You might even become prideful and critical! This is because whenever a hindrance arises during the meditation, you let it go and immediately go back to the object of meditation again. You do this without calming and relaxing the tightness caused by the distraction. While in meditation, your mind tends to close or contract and tighten around that experience until mind becomes more deeply “concentrated”.
As a result, although this suppresses the hindrance, you have not completely let go of the ego-attachment to that distraction. Your mind is also tight and tense because you are not seeing clearly. You are not opening and allowing, but instead you are closing and fighting with that distraction.
This explains why nowadays meditators complain that they have huge amounts of tension in their head. Actually, if you truly let go of any distraction, there will not ever be any tension in the head. It is as a result of this suppression that there is no real purifying of mind, and thus, personality change does not occur.
Talking About Words
Now, we are almost ready for the Ānāpānasati Sutta. But before we go into that, let’s look at some words which have been simplified so that their meanings in the texts become clearer.
For instance, the word “rapture” is replaced by “joy”; the word “pleasure” is changed to “happiness”; the word “concentration” is replaced by “stillness”, “collectedness”, or “unified mind”; the phrase “applied and sustained thoughts” is replaced by “thinking and examining thoughts”, which seems to be more immediately understood; the word “contemplation” has, in most cases, been changed to “observation”.
When you practice according to the Buddha’s instructions, as described here, afterwards, you will be able to confirm your experiences by reading the suttas. As a result, there will arise a better understanding of these profound texts.
One last note: In these few opening chapters, the author has touched on some controversial views about the practices of absorption or fixed concentration (appanā samādhi), access concentration (upacāra samādhi), and momentary concentration (khanika samādhi). Thus, the author would appreciate it very much if the reader finds any mistake; they should indicate the suttas, which mentioned these various concentration practices by e-mailing the author.
When you practice TWIM there is only opening, expanding of mind, and allowing, then relaxing the tightness caused by the hindrance or distraction, before going back to the object of meditation again. This opening and allowing helps you to be more aware of the things which cause pain and suffering so that you can open up and expand even further. With this kind of awareness, there is personality change and only then can you fulfill the Buddha’s admonition of “We are the Happy Ones”
Advice on the 6Rs and Meditation Practice from a meditator
"The 6Rs are crucial and in the experience, the most profound is the Relax step. Many people seem to glaze over the Relax step, not really taking time to understand what it is. It is the relaxing of the mind, body and tightness in both. This we understand.
But what does that feel like? I have a suggestion that people on live retreats and possibly online retreats take the time and preparatory step to understand what it feels like to relax.
Relaxing the bodily, mental, and verbal formations - it feels like a clear space, a pristine, thoughtless space with no craving. Body is relaxed but not slouching. Mind is clear, like a cloudless sky, and thoughts are gone, barely wisps if they are present at all.
When people learn to pinpoint the relaxing of the formations in this manner, they can immediately understand the Relax step, as I have understood it and as it has helped me. The suggestion here is to just let mind be and then intend the relaxation. Relax, relax, relax - then, one is able to see what it means to have that open spacious mind so one can quickly go to it as one lets go of the distraction, then sees that open mind.
Some people seem to associate the relax step with a sharp intake of air and a letting of breath. This is a reactionary aspect of the Relax step, but not the relax step of stilling formations in and of itself.
So, once one understands the feeling of relax, this is what happens.
One's object is Metta. One suddenly thinks back to a time with nostalgia or considers the future or thinks about anything other than the Metta. One RECOGNIZES, seeing the distraction. RELEASING is the immediate letting go of the distraction - not attending to it, turning mind's attention now to the RELAX step - the stilling of formations. Mind is now clear, ready to attend to RE-SMILING, or checking if one is still smiling, then RETURNING to the object of meditation, then REPEATING every time one sees mind has been distracting. All of this, as I've once said before, happens in less than 5 seconds. It is a flow as we've seen, a rolling.
Now, the other thing to consider is that mind attaches itself to the Metta, or Karuna, or Muditā, or Upekkhā.
Here, it's important to pay attention to mind observing - just watching, not becoming the Metta. It's an object, therefore, one is watching it, not becoming it. The feelings that come up from the object must be observed, and 6R'd if they distract. Likewise, one observes that one was distracted - not becoming the distraction by fighting it or ignoring it. Any such effort will only cause more craving and clinging.
Allow the mind to do its work. It will unravel itself.
Observation is not focus - it is the mere watching and seeing what occurs, not becoming involved or identifying with the feeling or the object. This then becomes absorption concentration, too much focus, pushing down insights to arise naturally.
This is why relaxing is important - it provides the mind space required for insights to arise. This is how it is seen from my experience.
Of course, one caveat - one mustn't just relax during the actual meditation. Once understand what it feels like, one uses it as part of the 6R effort. Then, there is development and progress as it is intended. Besides, one mustn't just relax, relax, relax in the beginning because mind then will become dull with no object. It's only after one's mind has reached stability through the jhānas that mind can then watch its own clarity, luminosity, and radiance - the bright, quiet, clear mind, where at this point all crude formations have been relaxed, and now one lets go of the subtler formations.