Tara Brach Retreat Report

by Peter Carlson on May 19, 2016

It is customary to allow someone who has just completed a significant meditation retreat to review the experience during a meeting.  Brian completed a one week retreat with Tara Brach, a well-respected author and teacher.  After the review, there was a lively question and comments discussion.

Next week’s talk will be focused on “Mindfulness And Relationships”, beginning with a quote from the Buddha’s teaching on the fundamental importance of sangha, that is, interpersonal experience supported by mindfulness and lovingkindness practices.

Mindfulness and Addiction

by Peter Carlson on May 12, 2016

During this talk, the topic of “process addiction” was reviewed, qualifying addiction with 5 criteria: 1) often activated or contemplated, 2) increases in frequency and intensity over time, 3) becomes a lifestyle organizing function, 4) acted upon and defended despite the negative consequences, and 5) discomfort and confusion occurs when access is denied or prevented.  This process can apply to many actions that could also be benign or even healthy, with criteria 4 being the determining factor.

This was related to the first and second Noble Truths, that is distress and the craving and clinging that causes distress.  Addictive behaviors were characterized as maladaptive ways to cope with distress that don’t address the underlying patterns of feeling, thinking and behavior that Buddhist practices and principles address.  The serenity and clarity that emerges from dedicated mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness practices was compared to the 11th step of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is daily meditation and prayer for conscious contact with a higher power.

Peter referred to an article in The Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly Shambala Sun), written by Noah Levine, about attempts to create a parallel system to the 12 steps for those folks inclined towards Buddhist practice.  The article is entitled “A Refuge From Addiction”.  Here is the article posted on this site:  A Refuge from Addiction

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MINDFULNESS AND ADDICTIONS

Next week’s topic will be Mindfulness And Relationships

Mindfulness and Depression

by Peter Carlson on May 5, 2016

This talk continues the exploration of what Peter terms “self-state conflict”, with discussion of the characteristic symptoms of depression in the context of Buddhist concepts and practices.  One of the primary causes of depression is what is called “intrusive negative rumination”; from the Buddhist perspective, this is understood as the manifestation of craving and clinging to a self-organization that is dysfunctional.  Peter mentioned that this consumer culture creates “needs” that were unheard of in the Buddhist world until the 20th century, and that one cause of depression for this era is misconceiving a marketing generated ideal self as real and important.  The application of mindfulness of breathing, noting distracting thoughts and impulses and refusing to feed them with attention will diminish the conditions that produce depression.  These insights were related to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, which modern research suggests can prevent relapse back into depression, provided that the meditation practice is maintained on a daily basis.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MINDFULNESS AND DEPRESSION

Next week’s talk will continue to explore “self-state conflicts”, focused on the prevalence of substance and process addictions in this culture.

Mindfulness and Anxiety

by Peter Carlson on April 29, 2016

Last week’s discussion was organized around how stressful contemporary life is, compared to the largely agrarian cultures that characterized the earliest centuries of what is now called Buddhism.  The results of culturally induced stress in this consumeristic era were emphasized.  This week’s topic was the prevalence of anxiety (18% of Americans were diagnotically anxious in 2007, the latest data found on the internet while preparing this talk; this was before the economic stress of 2008 and beyond!).  Peter described the Buddhist perspective on anxiety, again related to the first and second noble truths, that is, stress and how craving and clinging bring about stress.  This was followed by quotes from a recent peer reviewed research article, “Neural Correlates Of Mindfulness Meditation-Related Anxiety Relief”, published in 2013, which correlated the difference between “state” and “trait” anxiety and the neurological processes that occur.

Suggestions were offered regarding how the regular practice of mindfulness of breathing meditation can reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of anxiety.  Peter also described the varieties of clinical anxiety, which are reviewed in this document:  ANXIETY FROM A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE

Next week’s discussion will focus on depression from a Buddhist perspective.

The First Noble Truth and Stress

by Peter Carlson on April 21, 2016

The Buddhist First Noble Truth, the reality of dukkha, was described in contemporary terms.  The traditional translation of dukkha is “suffering”; modern commentators prefer words such as “stress”, “insufficiency”, and “dissatisfaction”, among others, to describe current cultural experience.  Peter talked of the increasingly stressful characteristic of modern cultures, with the imposed stressors of consumerism and media indoctrination, and the impact stress has on the human body/mind process.  This was related to the Five Hindrances, with emphasis on the hindrance of restlessness/worry.

The ways and means that Buddhism provides relief from contemporary stress was described, followed by lively discussion of what this means to those attending the meeting.

Here are the notes prepared for this presentation:  STRESS AND THE DHAMMA   The notes provide data on the prevalence and impact on contemporary society as a result of stress, derived from the National Institute for Mental Health, a governmental organization.

Next week’s topic will address the issues associated with anxiety, from a Buddhist perspective as well as various levels of clinical anxiety disorders.

Mindfulness And Emotional Intelligence

During this talk, Peter describes how mindfulness meditation supports the development of “Emotional Intelligence”, which is the title of a book written by Daniel Goleman.  Emotional intelligence provides internal resources such as self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation and empathy to foster social competency. Here are the notes prepared for this talk: MINDFULNESS AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE Next week’s […]

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2016 Spring Bok Tower Retreat

After a retreat, we set aside one evening’s talk for reviewing the experience.  Much of what happens during a retreat is not clearly registered in the mind; talking about the retreat with well-informed people helps clarify the gains from the intensive practice and the skills gained are more generally accessible.  It is also often the […]

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