'MINDFULNESS' and 'CONCENTRATION'. Tolle vs these teachings?

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'MINDFULNESS' and 'CONCENTRATION'. Tolle vs these teachings?

Postby krakenhh » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:07 am

So I've read other books on Eastern spirituality, the most recent being Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and he uses the terms 'Mindfulness' and 'Concentration'. I am trying to reconcile these other teaching with Tolle's teachings and verbiage. What I'm trying to figure out is whether or not these teachers and the words they use are pointing to the same thing, the same place.

Tolle speaks about being 'Present' and present to the moment.
And Kabat-Zin talks about being mindful.

And what I'm trying to figure out is - are these two the same thing? Is the state of mindfulness that state that you enter when you observe your own thoughts? This state that Tolle describes as 'being present'?

Another thing. Kabat-Zin also speaks about concentration - and this is where I really get tripped up. Concentration, to me, seems to be : 1. Being present/mindful 2. In combination with being present/mindful, holding one thing in awareness.

Tolle though, never really talks about concentration though. Why is this?


Final question - If you are present... is it possible to be concurrently thinking? Or are the two mutually exclusive. Does being present break you out of thought? Or is being present to the moment simply the act of 'concentrating' on the environment, and not your thoughts? This new 'concentration' term is really tripping me up. And where does 'mindfulness' fit into all of this? Or is 'mindfulness' just another term for presence?
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Re: 'MINDFULNESS' and 'CONCENTRATION'. Tolle vs these teachi

Postby Webwanderer » Sun Apr 23, 2017 5:47 pm

krakenhh wrote:Tolle speaks about being 'Present' and present to the moment.
And Kabat-Zin talks about being mindful...

...I am trying to reconcile these other teaching with Tolle's teachings and verbiage. What I'm trying to figure out is whether or not these teachers and the words they use are pointing to the same thing, the same place.

I can only speak for my perception of this, and to be clear, I have not read Jon Kabat-Zinn. My sense is that presence and mindfulness are essentially the same, but I am certainly using my own perspective on mindfulness.

Is the state of mindfulness that state that you enter when you observe your own thoughts? This state that Tolle describes as 'being present'?

Yes, as well as observing the content of the moment in general. It may be thoughts under observation or the wind in the trees. It's whatever is present in the context of a larger reality.

Another thing. Kabat-Zin also speaks about concentration - and this is where I really get tripped up. Concentration, to me, seems to be : 1. Being present/mindful 2. In combination with being present/mindful, holding one thing in awareness.

Tolle though, never really talks about concentration though. Why is this?

I would suggest that when Kabat-Sin speaks of concentration he is referring to focus of attention. Your description above seems accurate. To the degree that we hold focus on any given thing or thought or perception, we endow it with energy toward manifestation. Once a belief is established the subconscious will continue the underlying focus without any ongoing effort from a present conscious perspective.

Final question - If you are present... is it possible to be concurrently thinking? Or are the two mutually exclusive.

It is indeed possible and is often the case. When you are consciously aware of the choices you make in the present moment, whether it be to explore this thought or that, this condition or that, or whatever happens to be present in the moment, you can be present to the experience itself. Even a review of an experience can be a present moment experience. Being possible however, does not mean it is always the case. We all know what it means to be 'lost in thought'. The loss here is a reference to the loss of clear presence.

I would also make the case that imagination is a valuable tool in life, and while engaging in an imaginary journey, a temporary loss of focus on presence is common. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Balance here matters. One is wise to have an anchor and familiarity to present moment awareness so as not to become 'lost' in thought to the degree one lives there more so than in presence.

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Re: 'MINDFULNESS' and 'CONCENTRATION'. Tolle vs these teachi

Postby krakenhh » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:16 pm

Thank you Webwanderer.

Also, I was watching this video of Tolle, and he clarifies it himself at 5:00. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTFDfR47dl4. Presence is his term for mindfulness. He thinks its a better term for the same faculty, and I'm inclined to agree.
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Re: 'MINDFULNESS' and 'CONCENTRATION'. Tolle vs these teachi

Postby Sighclone » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:42 am

Welcome krakenhh.

I do not like the term "mindful" either. It kind of means "aware," as in "be mindful of that rattlesnake in front of you." The problem with the word is that when you transcend thinking, you are essentially "mind-empty." Regarding "concentration," I think the closest Eckhart comes to that is when he asks us to concentrate on the "inner body." But it's really a kind of passive concentration. On the other hand, self-inquiry of the sort that Ramana Maharshi encourages is also a kind of concentration on "who am I?" And the Advaita Vedantists also encourage mantra meditation in which you concentrate on the mantra.

Here's Barbara O'Brien on the Buddhist take on Concentration:

In modern terms, we might call the Buddha's Eightfold Path an eight-part program toward realizing enlightenment and liberating ourselves from dukkha (suffering; stress). Right Concentration (in Pali, Samma Samadhi) is the eighth part of the path.
It's important to understand , however, that the Eightfold Path is not an eight-step program. In other words, the eight parts of the path are not steps to be mastered one at a time.

They are to be practiced all together, and each part of the path supports every other part of the path.
Three parts of the path -- Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration -- are associated with mental discipline. These three aspects of the path might sound somewhat alike, especially mindfulness and concentration. Very basically,
Right Effort involves cultivating what is wholesome and purifying oneself of what is unwholesome.
Right Mindfulness is being fully present and aware of one's body, senses, thoughts, and surroundings. It is the opposite of being lost in daydreams. 
Right Concentration is focusing all of one's mental faculties onto one physical or mental object and practicing the Four Absorptions, also called the Four Dhyanas (Sanskrit) or Four Jhanas (Pali).
Developing and Practicing Concentration
The various schools of Buddhism have developed a number of different ways to develop concentration.

Along with many powerful meditation techniques there are also concentrated chanting practices, such as what is found in the Nichiren school. 
Even so, Right Concentration is most often associated with meditation. In Sanskrit and Pali, the word for meditation is bhavana, which means "mental culture." Buddhist bhavana is not a relaxation practice, nor is it about having visions or out-of-body experiences.

Very basically, bhavana is a means to prepare the mind for realizing enlightenment, although this is true of Right Effort and Right Mindfulness also. 
Because of the popularity of mindfulness people often assume mindfulness and Buddhist meditation are the same thing, but it's not that simple. Mindfulness can be a meditation, but it also is something that can be practiced all the time, not just when sitting on a pillow in the lotus position. And not all Buddhist meditation is mindfulness meditation. 
The Pali word translated into English as "concentration" is samadhi. The root words of samadhi, sam-a-dha, mean "to bring together." The late John Daido Loori Roshi, a Soto Zen teacher, said, "Samadhi is a state of consciousness that lies beyond waking, dreaming, or deep sleep. It's a slowing down of our mental activity through single-pointed concentration."
The levels of mental concentration are called the dhyanas (Sanskrit) or jhanas (Pali). In early Buddhism there were four dhyanas, although later schools expanded them into nine and sometimes several more. Here I'll just list the basic four. 
The Four Dhyanas (or Jhanas)
The Four Dhyanas, Jhanas, or Absorptions are the means to experience directly the wisdom of the Buddha's teachings.

In particular, through Right Concentration we can be freed from the delusion of a separate self.
In the first dhyana, passions, desires and unwholesome thoughts (see akusala) are released. A person dwelling in the first dhyana feels rapture and a deep sense of well-being.
In the second dhyana, intellectual activity fades and is replaced by tranquility and one-pointedness of mind. The rapture and sense of well-being of the first dhyana are still present.
In the third dhyana, the rapture fades and is replaced by equanimity (upekkha) and great clarity.
In the fourth dhyana, all sensation ceases and only mindful equanimity remains.
In some schools of Buddhism, the fourth dhyana is described as pure experience with no "experiencer." Through this direct experience, one perceives the individual, separate self to be an illusion.


Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce
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Re: 'MINDFULNESS' and 'CONCENTRATION'. Tolle vs these teachi

Postby Rob X » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:14 pm

Hi krakenhh

Mindfulness, presence, bare attention, open awareness etc. all point (in their own way) to the same ‘condition’ of being present with what is as it is (as opposed to being ‘lost in the head’.)

When we are deeply present with life as it happens something remarkable can occur, there can be the realisation that there is only life as it happens - past and future are simply ideas - there is only THIS however it appears. With this the sense of separation recedes and the ‘natural state’ of wholeness is revealed.
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