Buddhist Philosophy

Extending Mindfulness: How to Train


Extending Mindfulness

Extending mindfulness is a type of training. How do we maintain our practice?  Phakchok Rinpoche in this video teaching explains that we cannot begin by maintaining mindfulness for 24 hours. Extending is a skill that we need to develop. Right now, being mindful in every moment is beyond our capability. That’s okay! We can aspire to develop carefulness and conscientiousness.

Extending Mindfulness: Exercise–How to Begin

So, how do we train? Start slowly by thinking that we want to remind ourselves of mindfulness every hour.Extending

We might use a visual reminder such as a note on our computer or our fridge. Or, we might tie the reminder to a physical movement such as entering a different room or simply standing up from our current seat. Experiment with finding something that works for you.

Then, we continue that reminding for a period–such as for a month or so.  Allow ourselves to really get into a rhythm. But, we do have to be honest with ourselves in this process. Are we pausing and reminding? We engage in non-judgmental self-reflection to observe our own minds.

Extending Mindfulness: Exercise–Increasing Effort

After developing some stability we can remind ourselves to be mindful every half-hour.  Try that for another month or so.  And ask yourself–am I becoming more mindful?  When you can answer honestly–“Yes!  I really, am”–then you can remind yourself more frequently.  Gradually reduce the amount of time between reminders.

After some more training, we can remember every 15 minutes. We train that way for some time.  Next, we recall every 5 minutes. That means that every 5 minutes we are bringing our attention back!  And we can congratulate ourselves–look how we are slowly improving!  And then, after a period of time, we can reduce that time to every 1 minute. Gradually, maintaining mindfulness becomes easier and easier. And eventually, we won’t have to look at the clock to remember.


Rinpoche uses the metaphor of running to explain how we need to train. When we start running, we begin with a short distance. We don’t immediately run a marathon, do we?  But, over a period of time, we can slowly build to longer and longer distances. Extending or maintaining mindfulness is very similar.  Don’t be excited to go too fast–go slowly, and the progress will be smooth!

Related Teachings

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.