This meeting involved a review by some of the participants in the nine day retreat from March 13 to the 22nd. First Peter reviewed the structure of the course, which blended practices found in the Anapanasati Sutta (mindfulness of breathing discourse) and the vedanupassana (body sweep) practice that Peter was trained in by his first teacher Ruth Denison and several retreats during which he was trained in the tradition taught by S. N. Goenka. The benefit of the body sweep was explained as a way to cultivate the seven awakening factors, especially mindfulness, investigation of mental phenomena, effort/persistence and concentration. the remaining three factors, joy, tranquility and equanimity, emerge more effectively as practice deepens.
Following this post, the dhamma talks recorded during the retreat will be posted as .mp3 files, along with some of the notes Peter referred to.
During this dhamma dialogue, Peter fostered discussion of the preceding guided “acquiring breath awareness” meditition practice, posted just prior to this posting. He explained the importance of the practice of vitakka and vicara, that is intentionally bring focus to the sensations of breathing, then to sustain that awareness. Peter described the maturing of the practice of “aiming and sustaining” into one of the seven factors of awakening, dhamma vicaya, the investigation of mental phenomena. The experience of those present for the preceding guided meditation was explored, particularly any benefits from the application of Mentholatum, a mentholated salve, at the rim of the nostrils. The practice was intended to enhance sensations at the rim of the nostrils to create a more vivid target for the practice of vitakka and vicara.
This was followed by suggestions from Peter about ways to integrate mindful awareness of the breath into daily routines in order to provide a stable routine for interrupting unnecessary inner chatter.
Next weeks dhamma dialogue will explore the stanzas in the Anapanasati Sutta that encourage training the mind to experience a buoyant interest in breath awareness.
This is a guided meditation that supports the practice of mindfulness of breathing, particularly the “mindful of the long…and short…) stanzas at the beginning of the instructions for anapanasati practice. The recording of a guided 45 minute meditation on Wednesday nights is unusual; this particular meditation included the placing of small amounts of Mentholatum, a salve which includes menthol. The menthol aroma and the tactile sensation of either hot or cold (depending on the mind condition of the practitioner) serves as a strong and persistent sensation, facilitating developing longer periods of concentration on the breath. It’s not meant to be a permanent part of mindfulness of breathing practice, but rather a way to support developing stable focus on the breath.
During this guided meditation, the participants were invited to “look closer, to feel the texture, the details of sensation” in the areas of breath awareness ranging from the outer upper lip, through the nasal passages, down into the upper soft palate and hard palate areas, the upper gums, the teeth and inside of the upper lip. The intention of this practice is to nurture a stronger and more continuous practice of investigation of phenomena, as well as to introduce the participants to the dynamics of the body scan practices.
As is the custom, this evening’s talk is a review of Peter’s two week self-retreat. During the talk, he quoted from Achaan Chah: “Life brings suffering. The untrained mind turns suffering into more suffering. The trained mind turns suffering into the path that leads to the ending of suffering.” He described his practice of integrating the “noting” strategies with the “body sweep” strategies taught by S. N. Goenka. The importance of using breath awareness to stabilize the mind, then using the body sweep to nurture a “curtain” of body awareness cultivates increasing levels of dhamma vicaya, the investigation of emerging self-states. As this practice deepens, a level of internal process awareness emerges that is “just knowing” without the need for noting.
Continuing the ongoing discussion of the Seven Factors of Awakening, this week the focus is on two of them: dhamma vicaya (Investigation of mind states) and viriya (Energy, or Right Effort). Peter pointed out that investigation, effort and joy are energizing factors, while tranquility, concentration and equanimity are calming factors; mindfulness monitors their action and […]