I browsed through "Mindfulness in Plain English" for the first time in many years and was surprised by something: Of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, he emphasizes almost exclusively Mind States and the 5 Hindrances. I was also reminded of something else: He strongly downplays the practice of "mental noting," advocating it only in difficult circumstances, and stressing it should be disposed of soon after.
I was wondering if this is also your impression of his book, and, if so, do you think this is the best way to teach beginner or "casual" meditators.
I'm beginning to think so, based on my experience. I followed Gunaratana almost exclusively when I first started to meditate, and I had very good results in terms of concentration and mindfulness.
I took a break from regular meditation for a few years. When I decided to come back to it, a teacher recommended Kornfield's "Path With Heart". I also got into reading some of the Sutta's and commentaries, especially regarding the Satipatthana and Anapanasati suttas. What I gathered from both of these was: 1. mental noting, and 2. intentionally attending to all the four foundations, with an initial bias towards body and feelings. (It is important to note that I've never attended a residential retreat)
Since then, I've found concentration and mindfulness relatively harder to obtain than under Gunaratana's guidance. Specifically, I feel like it's much more easy for me to get hijacked by thoughts, even though I'm very aware of the effect it has on my body as well as the co-arising feelings.
Having now read through "Mindfulness", I'm wondering if I got the 4 Foundations mis-prioritized. Taking the advice of Gunaratana, I should be foremost vigilant about the 5 Hindrances, then mindstates. In a sense, this is "reversing" the order of the Four Foundations. The rationale is thus: Mindstates/hindrances are more likely to derail you than are body or feelings.
I know the Anapanasati Sutta instructs a sequential 1,2,3,4, order of the foundations, but I suspect this is only useful for long retreats or for someone who has already cultivated strong mindfulness.
On top of this, for what ever reason, my "mental noting" practice has always seemed to result in a superficial mindfulness, as well as a distraction. I regret getting into doing it, especially since it has created a habit that is hard to break.
I know I'm misunderstanding a lot here, especially, how the 4F are supposed to be used. Especially in regards to whether I should intentionally focus on a foundation, or simply attend to whatever foundation is more prominent.
Anyway, just interested in your thoughts or advice.
My disposition now is to go back entirely to Gunaratana's method.