Common Myths About Mindfulness, Part 4

Mindfulness Only Reveals What Is

A common mistake made by many dedicated practitioners of satipathana or other forms of mindfulness as found in various schools of Buddhism, is to believe that mindfulness only reveals what is without altering how experience appears to consciousness.

Mindfulness is not a passive process. It radically changes the way the mind experiences its reality. It does so by developing the Five Controlling Faculties, the Four Jhana Factors and the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. As these various factors and faculties develop, they alter perception, sensitivity thresholds, how we understand our experience and how we relate to it. When consciousness is deeply altered can we say that other aspects of our minds, such as perception, are not? If they are, then in what way can we say that mindfulness only reveals what is?

Hence, we cannot say that in developing satipatthana practice that we are accessing the reality of the five aggregates as they really are in their own objective sphere (if they can be said to have such). Where will we find a hypothetical state of objectivity in which we can stand aside mentally from this process so as to judge it? Both the altered and unaltered consciousness are boundaried by their conditionality, and there is no point of view beyond from which to compare them.

Satipathana practice is definitely a system of mental development engaging and affecting the mind in many ways and on many levels. What we can say is that mindfulness gradually unfolds our subjective experience in such a way as to lead to the reduction of greed, hatred and delusion.

This is not science, nor is what we are doing here to be confused with psychology. Nevertheless, the subjective experiences found within the unfolding of deep mindfulness practice have objective dimensions in that their outcomes can be both predicted, and verified among practitioners. This is because they belong to the greater set of subjective dimensions of the mind that are shared in common. I call this realm of knowledge and experience objective subjectivity.