Peter Carlson is leading a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat in Jacksonville on Saturday, September 17, 2014. Download the retreat flyer for details.
Buddhist Meditation Classes & Practice
I recently proposed that the next series of meetings that I’ve called the “Tuesday Night Intensive Study Group” will be themed around exploring what are called the “five hindrances” in Buddhist practice. The announcement about this course is posted on the website with the pertinent information about the group.
What I want to present with this article is why this topic is important for improving the quality of life. First, what are the hindrances? Classically, there are five: sense desire, aversion and ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and, finally, skeptical doubt. I’ve been talking about them on Wednesday nights for a few months now, so I don’t want to elaborate on their particularities here, because you can look them up through our website. The goal of the series of 12 meetings is to be able to relate to life with more clarity, confidence and patience.I perceive two levels of approach to and understanding and overcoming the hindrances, and this is what I want to describe here. The first level is what I call the process of personality integration, and the second level is what I call personality transcendence.
PERSONALITY INTEGRATION initially involves carefully observing the flow of internal subjective experience to notice how different circumstances stir up different self-states, creating stress, confusion and interpersonal conflict. For example, I might perceive that I’m a competent driver in traffic, and as I drive, I feel relatively relaxed and confident in my choices while driving. However, under different circumstances, there might be someone in the car whose opinion of my driving is critical, telling me to slow down, speed up, warning me about situations that I’m already aware of, and so on. My self-state when driving with this person is in conflict with my previous sense of my competency, and there’s a strong urge to protest, become agitated, and so on.
This example illustrates the hindrance of aversion and ill-will. Buddhist concepts and meditation practices counter this disturbance in the flow of experience. When mindfulness isn’t operating, the urgency of the agitated feeling, combined with the almost automatic identification with the critical comments as requiring protest, seems irresistible. When mindfulness is operating, then there’s a spacious non-reactivity occurring during these events that buffers against the urgency.
When we practice mindfulness of breathing meditation, we’re training to notice any feelings or thoughts that deviate from the benign experience of noting sensations while inhaling and exhaling. Upon noticing them, we train to be mindful of them and set them aside, going back to the breath without reacting to the feelings or thoughts. This is setting aside the hindrance, in this case, aversion and ill-will. This routine is brought to any feelings and thoughts other than breath awareness with such persistence and clarity that, with sufficient practice, we can experience flows of inner awareness that aren’t affected by any hindrance.
This state of mind is called access concentration. Without elaborating on what is being accessed, what is experienced is calmness and clarity. This calmness and clarity is actually modifying the neural networks of the brain, increasing internal awareness and the ability to regulate emotional reactivity. For the purposes of this article, this level of calmness and clarity produces personality integration on a temporary basis. There is no noticeable self-state conflict, and reactivity to the criticism of the “back seat driver” is minimal or non-existent.
Of course, we aren’t going to normally be in access concentration conditions in everyday life, but having this awareness while meditating has a residual effect, sort of like building muscle—It becomes easier to not be annoyed or rattled.
PERSONALITY TRANSCENDENCE is the next stage of internal development. The difference between the stages is not like drawing a line between one and the other. Rather, it’s an increasing ability to see that what used to be self-defining (that is, either the self-state “I’m a competent driver” or “I can’t stand to drive the car with this critic!”) is not so. The terms of comparing one self-state with another lose potency and are seen as mental constructs. As the ability to not take compliments or criticisms personally increases, the ability to be kind, compassionate, generous and patient with the events of life increases, and this is the transcendent function of spiritual practice.
My hope is that the participants in the study group will use the structure of the group meetings, combined with the commitment to daily 45 minute sitting practice, to learn how to integrate the conflicted self-states, setting the stage for more spiritual development. If you’re interested in this training, please contact Peter at 407 339-5444 or via email.
We will begin the group as soon as there are at least 6 committed to the study group; as of this writing, there are 3 commitments
I wish you well. Peter
As many times during the year as is reasonable, Peter offers a 12 week study group, focusing on one or more topics for practice. The next study group will systematically address the five hindrances: sense desire, aversion and ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and skeptical doubt. The emphasis will be on practicing identifying and setting aside the hindrances. The group will meet Tuesday nights from 7:30 to 9, in a seminar format, that is, Peter will interview each participant about their practice the previous week, with the intention of fostering a deeper and more productive practice experience, with the participation of others present.
Each participant will commit to at least one 45 minute meditation a day for the duration of the meetings. The fee for the study group is $300, and can be paid in one payment or two, which would be due the first and sixth night of the group meetings. The meetings will be in Peter’s office in his home; the meditation hall we meet in is in the back yard.
This is an excellent opportunity for meditators to get expert feedback and suggestions from a teacher who’s been practicing over 30 years. The group meetings will begin as so0n as at least 6 people commit to the group, hopefully in early June. Any questions or stated commitments should be addressed to Peter via email. Participation will be on a “first come, first served” basis.
taught by Peter Carlson
Basic teaching of Buddhist meditation to develop:
- A gentle, open heart
- Compassion and forgiveness
- Support for the happiness of others
- Acceptance of what life has to offer
Peter has practiced Buddhist meditation since 1982 and is the founding teacher of the Orlando Insight Meditation Group. As a psychotherapist, he facilitates integrating meditation practices into life to develop and maintain good mental health as a support for spiritual development.
When: Mondays from 7 PM – 9 PM | April 7 -28, 2014
Bok Tower Gardens provides a peaceful setting for a day of meditation. Participants will enjoy:
- Introduction and Dharma talks with time for questions and discussion
- Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators
- Easy access to outside garden space as an alternative for walking meditation
- Covered dish vegetarian lunch coordinated by members of the Central Florida Insight Meditation Society. Drinks and paper goods provided.
Course Taught by Peter Carlson
Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida.
When: Saturday, April 19, 2014 | 9AM – 5PM
Where: Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853
Fee: $25 includes entrance into Bok Tower Gardens
Please bring a vegetarian dish to share with the group
To register, please contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600