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  • Thomas Bien

Mindfulness of Mental Formation

One time when I had just started my psychology practice and didn’t have many clients, I found myself thinking about the psychologists I knew who were busier and more successful. Then suddenly it occurred to me: this mental state was called envy.

It is important to be able to know what we are actually experiencing and not block awareness even when it is something unpalatable. When we know what is actually going on, our consciousness can flow freely and openly. We don’t confuse what we are experiencing with our stories about ourselves. In this example, I don’t view myself as generally an envious person, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel envious from time to time. Knowing this I have a chance to take care of these feelings and not let them operate in a destructive way. Knowing that I experience such states also helps me to be less judgmental and more understanding of others when they are in the grip of envy or some other unpleasant feeling.

Taking good care of our consciousness is to take care of our most valuable asset and our most precious gift. We can practice gently breathing with the awareness of what is going on, helping to ease the pain of an unwholesome psychological state such as envy. We can also enjoy knowing more wholesome mental states as they arise, such as love, peace, joy, or happiness. Mindfulness strengthens our wholesome mental states while transforming our less wholesome mental states.

This is called the fourth foundation of mindfulness: mindfulness of mental formations.

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