Could you talk in more detail about being "mindful of the Buddha", and the different things one can be doing internally in this regard?
I'll do my best.
What qualities of the Buddha are reflected on, and how do you reflect? i.e. bringing forth a sense of awe/thankfulness/etc.
In the Agamas/Nikayas this meant the 9 qualities of the Buddha, which are described here
. In the Amitabha Sutra, it starts talking about the qualities of the Pure Land, which correspond to the 37 limbs of enlightenment
, and we should be mindful of these. In the Amitayus Sutra, it's all about the 48 vows of Amitabha
. In the Visualization Sutra, they give various qualities of the Buddha to be reflected on
(just scroll down to the numbered section in that link).
Hsuan Hua's directions on how to be mindful of the Buddha can be found here
. Looking through that, at least at the beginning Hsuan Hua focuses more on the qualities of Amitabha and less on pure, non-discriminative awareness.
Traditionally, the Buddha's represented (especially in statuary) with the 32 marks of a great man, each of these marks has meaning and isn't just a physical phenomena. There are various different meanings given for the marks in the different schools; but Alex Berzin gives a nice accounting of them here
. In the Visualization sutra linked above, they say that Amitabha has limitless excellent marks, so that's meant to say that Amitabha has limitless (84,000) excellent marks, each excellent mark has limitless (84,000) characteristics, and they each emit limitless (84,000 beams of) light - meaning they each lead countless others to wisdom.
As a humorous aside, I never understood Hua T'ous (meditation topics) for the longest time, because the question I was given was "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" and my thought was "I dunno", I didn't realize that the question was supposed to point to me, because I didn't consider myself to be mindful of the Buddha.
I think the original intention is pretty similar to another Hua T'ou “Who is dragging this corpse around?” that Ven Xu Yun liked to use; but your take on it is really interesting with the stress on the mindfulness of the Buddha rather than the actor of the action.
Could you talk a little more about visualizations too? For the last few says I've been spending at least a couple hours reciting the Buddhas name, so it might be good to get some more depth in this area, I'm a total noob here.
Check out that link I gave above to the Visualization Sutra and step through the numbered section, which lists 16 total visualizations to use (the last 3 are about the ranks of rebirth in Sukhavati). The first one is the setting sun in the west, and from there they get a lot more complicated. I don't have too much trouble generating a picture of a setting sun in my imagination, but bringing it forth is hard - I never know if I'm doing it right. I mean I can see a setting sun and the orange sky in my imagination with my eyes open, but I kind of have to turn off my eyesight to do it (if that makes sense). I can kind of day dream it, but I get the vibe that the practice is calling for something more than that.