Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mindful Hypothesis - A Guided Contemplation: Part 1 of 2

 ~part 2 of this post:

The Mindfulness Hypothesis: The causes of happiness and suffering come from within your own mind, and understanding them allows you to determine the result yourself.

My teacher often describes the path of meditation and wisdom he is presenting as a science of mind. In science we often start with a hypothesis about nature which we wish to test. If we observe a cloud in the sky and infer from observation that the sun's heat has something to do with the formation of the cloud, then we devise an experiment to see if this is so. Taking a scientific approach means that we don't just accept things as they appear or as we infer them, rather we form an hypothesis and then test it first. If our hypothesis stands up to reason and experimentation, then we can take it be true. This can be repeated over time as other insights come to light and our hypothesis can be challenged again. New information can shed further light on old knowledge, which is often expanded upon or sometimes deemed no longer true. Physical science, however, is generally focused on the external world and the rigors of modern science often require large samples of data under the right conditions to verify these physical truths.


We can look at mindfulness with a similar approach, yet also understand that the approach of physical science need not apply in its entirety to our approach of working with and understanding our mind. There are plenty of studies which will tell you that meditation is good for you and that mindfulness is an important part of modern approaches to health and healing, yet what we need as individuals is more specific to ourselves and our own mind and life. We may find that a study with a sample size of 1000 other people we have never met will not help us understand our own life and mind directly. In order to do that we need to be the scientist and the subject in a study with a sample size of one. Others may help us confirm the results, but working with our own mind is a practical form of inner science specific to ourselves.

This leads us to a mindfulness hypothesis. If we were to take the perspective that our own experience of mind and life is of primary importance in determining happiness or suffering, then how would we go about seeing this mind and directing it to get the results we want? First of all we need to be willing to test the hypothesis that happiness comes from within, and the same with suffering. You could observe your experiences through time, today and throughout life to see if this is true. How many things, relationships and events happen outside of ourselves that lead to a lasting experience of happiness? How many things, relationships and events that happen outside ourselves are there that lead to a lasting experience of suffering? Once you have looked into this you could test another hypothesis. What if our experiences of happiness and suffering actually originated within? How often have our own mental attitudes, events or emotions been responsible for joy in our lives or for periods of happiness? What kinds of internal qualities and experiences of mind have lead to positive outcomes? How often have our own mental attitudes, events or emotions been responsible for unhappiness our lives or for periods of suffering? What kinds of internal qualities and experiences of mind have lead to negative outcomes?

If you go through this process it is quite possible that you might come to a certain conclusion that points to the power of your own mind to create your experience of the world. Yet, don't take my word for it. Please test it for yourself. And if you do come to that conclusion then maybe we could think of the implications or come up with another hypothesis. If it does stem from mind, then how do I take care of it, and how do I direct it?

Follow up post to this article:


  1. I practice mindfulness daily to keep a calm perspective and I just recently practiced this and I cant imagine being able to go through everyday without it. I wonder though if there are some times that as you practice mindfulness, you find that your thoughts are just empty? I'd like to know what you think. Thanks.

  2. Hi Salinya,
    Yes I would agree that when thoughts themselves are examined there is nothing really there. When we see that it can be liberating as well. We can let the non-substantial nature of thought free itself. They are like letters drawn on the surface of the water with your finger.
    Thank you,