We’ve covered the first three Foundations of Mindfulness: body, feelings, and mind. That leaves Mindfulness of Phenomena, the fourth and final Foundation of Mindfulness. The first three involve investigating within ourselves. Investigating phenomena asks us to shift our focus to the world around us.
The word “phenomena” makes us think of extraordinary or impressive people or supernatural events. In this context, phenomena refer to the observable occurrences or circumstances around us. They could be extraordinary, or they could be normal occurrences of daily life.
Fortunately, we don’t have to travel anywhere to start this Mindfulness of Phenomena exploration. We can begin by observing the world around us. For example, a sunset. A sunset occurs as the sun drops below the horizon as the Earth rotates. In other words, a sunset occurs under certain conditions and ends when the conditions change. Then it is dark with no evidence of the sunset. Thus, the sunset isn’t inherently existing on its own. If we mentally zoom out, we can see that this is the same for all phenomena around us—they occur under specific conditions. If everything around us is occurring in a cause-and-effect process, there is nothing solidly existing to grasp. As we meditate on this impermanent existence of phenomena, our likes and dislike can slowly melt away.
Our Vipassana journey is the integration of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. As we investigate each foundation and integrate them, we begin to see ourselves and the world as they are. This can be misinterpreted as non-existence of the self and the world around us, which may lead to insecurity about a meaningless existence. However, that is a mistaken view. We exist, and the world around us exists. A better question is, “How am I existing in this moment?” or, “How is the world around me existing in this moment?” To find the answers, you can examine your body, mind, feelings, and surroundings. We can do so at the beginning of each day and from moment to moment throughout our days. This newfound awareness leads to our responding to the reality of situations around us, rather than reverting to our immediate reactions. We learn to respond rather than react.
The hope is to find comfort and freedom in knowing that these states of existence are impermanent. Rather than grasping them as absolute truths, we see them, accept them, and watch them pass as we would a sunset.
Mastering Vipassana through the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is a lifelong journey. You can share your journey with others by attending a Namchak retreat. Click here to see upcoming Vipassana retreats.