The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Ever wondered about mindfulness and what the four foundations of mindfulness are? If so, this post is for you! Before I share the four foundation of mindfulness, let me share with you what mindfulness is.


What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness in everyday life is the ultimate challenge and practice. It is a way of being, of seeing, of tapping into the full range of our humanity – often seen in playful children fully experiencing life in the here and now. Mindfulness is described by Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994)

“as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally” (p.4).

Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein (2010) report “in Sanskrit, it’s known as smrti, from the root word smr, meaning “to remember” and in Pali, the language of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, it’s known as sati (mindfulness)” (p.15).

The Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkely say –

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”

Through the practice of mindfulness, individuals can become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the present moment. This observing, non-reactive perspective enables you to consciously respond with clarity and focus, rather than react out of a habitual pattern. It opens up the possibility of working more wisely with difficulties in life and choose what is nourishing to ourselves and others.


What are the Four Foundations of Mindfulness?

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness came from a teaching talk given by the Buddha (Gunaratana, 2012). The talks were known as the Satipatthana Sutta. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness –

  • mindfulness of the body,
  • mindfulness of feelings,
  • mindfulness of mind, and
  • mindfulness of Dhamma.


Explanations of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Following is a further explanation of each of the four foundations of mindfulness.

Mindfulness of the Body –

Mindfulness of the body is the first foundation of mindfulness. This is recognising the body as body – something that is experienced as a collection of parts, not a solid unified thing. Some ways to experience mindfulness of the body include –

  • being mindful of the breath,
  • being mindful of walking, sitting, lying down and standing,
  • being aware of the 32 parts of the body, and
  • clearly comprehending what is beneficial and not beneficial.


Mindfulness of Feelings –

Being mindful of feelings is the second foundation. Mindfulness of feelings is being aware of the feelings as –

  • pleasant, unpleasant or neutral,
  • worldly and spiritual. and
  • arising, disappearing or manifesting.


Mindfulness of Mind –

The third foundation is mindfulness of the mind. This means understanding the quality of the mind and creating awareness of the background –

  • is it greedy or not?
  • is it with hate or without?
  • is it with delusion or without?
  • is it expanded or contracted?
  • is it developed or not?
  • is it freed or bound?
  • is it concentrated or scattered?


Mindfulness of Dhamma –

The fourth foundation is where we pay attention to what is arising. In the book, The Foundations of Mindfulness, Gunaratana refers to them as –

  • Five Mental Hindrances of sense desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry and skeptical doubt;
  • Five Aggregates of Clinging – material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness;
  • Six Internal and Six External Senses – eye and form, ear and sound, nose and odour, tongue and flavour, body and touch, mind and mental objects;
  • Seven Factors of Enlightenment – mindfulness, investigation of Dhamma, energy, joy, tranquilly, concentration and equanimity;
  • The Four Noble Truths – suffering, the origin of suffering, cessation of suffering and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering; and
  • Noble Eightfold Path – skilful understanding, skilful speech, skilful thinking, skilful livelihood, skilful effort, skilful concentration and mindfulness.


I hope this post has given you some initial insight in to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. I recommend The Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English book to discover more.




If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heart, why not join our Toolkit?


Reference –

Gunaratana, H. (2012). The Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English. Somerville, USA: Wisdom Publications.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York, USA: Hyperion.

Stahl, B., & Goldstein, E. (2010). A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, USA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


  • chris ortner

    Reply Reply June 1, 2022

    What is missing on the Eight Fold Path? Intention? Thank you for your summary of the Satipatthana Sutta.

    • Jane

      Reply Reply June 6, 2022

      Thanks Chris – yes interesting intention is not there, maybe it is linked in with one of the other ones?

  • Kendra

    Reply Reply October 18, 2018

    Thank you! This information is very helpful.

    • Jane

      Reply Reply October 18, 2018

      Glad you found it helpful Kendra!

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