During this discussion, Peter related the lojong aphorism, “Work on the stronger disturbing emotions first,” relating it to the second Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of feelings as feelings, not a self. The integrated operation of the lojong aphorisms was reviewed, emphasizing the importance of regular mindfulness meditation practice to cultivate the emotional self-regulation required to benefit from mindful investigation of feelings, separate from the narrative “selfing story”, which reinforces “buying into” a sense of self that is distressed and confused.
This approach to alleviating suffering is similar to a modern psychotherapeutic intervention, “Exposure Therapy”, which combines progressive relaxation with direct investigation of the distressed emotional tone that a person suffers from. This exposure, over time, reduces reactivity to the distress, provided the person does not align with a narrative associated with the distress.
After the discussion, there was a lively dialogue among the participants regarding concrete experiences that the practice of desensitization can be applied to.
Here are the notes prepared for the discussion: THE BENEFITS OF INVESTIGATING EMOTIONALLY POTENT ISSUES
Next week’s topic will explore the importance of non-judgmental reflection on the application of a lojong aphorism.
This is the second of two talks about the importance of the practice of mindfulness of feelings. During this talk, Peter reviewed paticca samuppada, usually translated as dependent origination. A new rendering of the term was explained, that is, contingent provisional emergence, with clarification of the non-linear, mutually influential functions that affect how the mind overlays a provisional interpretation of raw sense data input, thereby creating a “selfing moment”. In this creative process, attention becomes fixated on a particular feeling and perception, creating the craving and clinging dynamic that is the driving force of our distresses about life. Mindfulness of feelings as feelings allows the skilled meditator to avoid “personalizing” the emerging self-organization, providing relief from craving and clinging.
During this dialogue, Peter began to discuss the second Foundation of Mindfulness, vedanupassana (mindfulness of feelings). He talked of how feelings are not emotions as we might describe them in the West, but rather what in psychological terms is affect, the pull towards pleasant experience or away from unpleasant experience. Feelings are the bridge between physical sensations and the mental creations of meaning and self-organization we experience. He read a translation of the second foundation, and then led a brief guided meditation that illustrates concretely what to notice as a feeling, a perception and the mental formations that create what the Buddha called “the tyranny of I, me and mine”. This was followed by dialogues that further clarified the experiences of the guided meditation.
During this first of a series of talks exploring the Satipatthana Sutta, Peter talked of the mutually supportive functions of samadhi (concentration) and vipassana (insight). This was followed by a lively discussion regarding how different meditators cultivate these qualities, both during formal meditation and normal daily routines.
Much of the transformation in the brain during a retreat occurs outside of conscious awareness. We’ve realized over the years of retreat experience that talking about it, “thinking out loud”, with a group of well-informed people helps integrate the learning and insight, making it more clearly understood and accessible in daily life. This dialogue reviewed various retreat participant’s experience during the retreat and upon returning home.