If you are wondering what sattaking is in the context of Buddhist teachings, it can be explained as “pausing between two states.” This can either be viewed as a separation of self and the external world or as a condition that is neither separate nor external but both simultaneously present. In some cases this condition is identified as existence. For example, when you step on a crack you feel pain. But the crack in your foot may also be a reference point for your mind to recognize that you have stepped on something hard, so you stop yourself with the “pausing” function.
The satta king function is most often used in Dogen Zen (Duality, Wisdom, and Action) as a means of intensifying the moment of enlightenment. The sattaking practice is part of the development of bodhicitta or your sense of rightness. Bodhicitta is the state of being at one with yourself and thus in the presence of all things and without any separation. Sattakinsagdha literally means “the mindful stilling of the attention.” The sattakinsagdha is not an awareness or a separation of any kind, but simply and gently allowing your attention to settle on the object of your attention without any attempt to change it (because it is already there). This slow and deliberate allowing of your attention to shift from your attention to an object of your choosing will often times lead you into sattakinsagdha.
The sattakinsagdha practice is often associated with an approach called shakti yoga. Shakti yoga is a system of postures developed by the Indian yogis in the early Twentieth century that seek to manipulate your nervous system to shift you into a meditative state. I can’t speak to the effectiveness of shakti yoga as a way of developing your mindfulness, but I will say that it does seem to have some correlation with sattakinsagdha. The idea is that as you achieve a certain meditative state through shakti yoga, you then use shakti yoga as a method of achieving sattakinsagdha.
I would also like to address what I call the “no-mindfulness” state. This state of mind may not be similar to most Western conceptions of awareness, because it is sometimes described as being neither aware nor aware of anything. It has the quality of not absorbing information or images, or being aware of the past or the future. Your awareness is simply alert to the things around you. It does not allow thoughts to enter your consciousness, nor does it experience inner peace.
The problem with this sort of mindfulness is that it can be very easily distracted. You may notice that you start to pay more attention to a conversation or a person, and you aren’t even sure what you are talking about. As your attention wanders, you begin to hyperfocus on one detail. What was once a momentary distraction, now becomes a full-time activity. This can lead to a more serious issue: you might begin to think of nothing at all.
If this sounds like something you want to avoid, you should try a different way of paying attention. Make sure you aren’t constantly looking for new experiences or ideas, and don’t let your attention wander too much. Instead, focus your attention and energy on one thing at a time. Make lists of things you wish to remember and think about them. These simple strategies will help you put aside your attachment to distractions and allow you to focus fully on the present moment.