Since Peter plans to attend a retreat led by Steve Armstrong, and values the retreat experience, he described the life circumstances that prompted beginning to practice mindfulness meditation in 1982. He then described the various meditation practices in other faith traditions around the world, citing Daniel Goleman’s book, “The Meditative Mind”. Peter’s subjective experience regarding regular meditation practice and the benefits that build from repeated retreat experience were reviewed.
This was followed by the accounts of others attending the meeting regarding the benefits they experience as a result of meditation practice.
Here are the autobiographical notes prepared for the talk: WHY I MEDITATE
Since Peter is on retreat next week, the talk will be given by Daniel Goleman, a member of the teacher’s mentoring group. Daniel has been meditating for many years, and is also actively practicing hatha yoga. His topic will be the integration of mindfulness and yoga, and he will be assisted by Mitch Sullen.
During this final review of the lojong mind training aphorisms, Peter described how the lojong tradition is a revisiting of the Four Noble Truths from a Mahayana perspective, with emphasis on tonglen, the practice of compassion. The last stage of the lojong listing is a reminder of the important things to integrate into meditation practice and daily lifestyle routines in order to further the process of awakening.
It is customary in this sangha to provide those members who have completed a significant retreat the opportunity to process the experience during a regular meeting. Peter annually experiences a two week self-retreat, this one lasting from December 18 until January 1, 2016. He described the retreat schedule he established and reviewed a book he used to further his insight practices: “The Mind Illuminated-A Complete Meditation Guide”. The book analyzes the Anapanasati Sutta, the discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing, a classic teaching from the Pali Canon, from the perspective of neuroscientific and systems theory research. It describes 10 stages of enhanced mental stability and introspective investigation, leading towards experiences of awakening from what are termed the “three poisons”: greed, aversion and ignorance/self-delusion. Peter described how passages from the book enhanced his vipassana practice. Even though this recording is longer than most, the information has the potential to significantly increase insights into the process of awakening.
During this talk, Peter reviewed 3 lojong mind training commitments: “Don’t revert to magic”, “Don’t reduce a god to a demon”, and “Don’t seek pain as a component of happiness”. The common theme of these three commitments is to be mindful of mental rigidity, which produces “magical thinking” (Misperceiving one’s beliefs to be “things”, that is, accurate personality defining characteristics). This consequence of craving and clinging can create a rigid, doctrinaire, “holier than thou” approach to life, comparing and judging others harshly for their beliefs. This rigidity can manifest as a punitive approach to life, that is, relishing the suffering of others.
The review was followed by discussion by various persons attending regarding how this rigidity is experienced and what aspects of the Four Noble Truth can bring resolution to the rigidity and harshness.
This review is the last focused on the commitments of lojong mind training. Peter will be on a two-week self retreat over the holidays. The first meeting in January will review the retreat process he experienced. The following meeting will summarize the lojong mind training with a review of the remaining aphorisms, which emphasize the importance of various elements of the lojong mind training system.
During this talk, the lojong mind training commitment “Don’t aim to win” was related to the Theravaden concept of “comparing mind”, that is, the tendency in this culture to emphasize competition and material acquisition, with the achievement of “Awakening” as the prize. Peter explored the Zen concept of the “Gateless Gate” as pointing to the experience of awakening as a process, not a thing that can be owned. The ongoing practice of mindfulness meditation is just that, practice, and not a test. During the ensuing discussion, several comments by the participants talked of how important it is to just practice being mindfully present, during formal meditation practice or otherwise. Setting up awakening as a measurable, substantial thing is a fundamental misperception of the process.
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