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.
During this talk, Peter explained how these seven factors, led by mindfulness, function. Initially, in their undeveloped, weakest form, they apply a counter to the action of the five hindrances. As the hindrances are set aside and the function of the mind becomes clarified, coherent and energized, the seven factors are matured in their function: “During the first stages of practice, they function to ward of the demons; as that is accomplished, they function to feed the angels!” The angels are mental clarity, compassion, generosity, kindness, etc.
During this talk, Peter described the relationship between the various factors that support the development of yoniso manasikara, wise attention. Attention that is wise manifests as mindful, tranquil, equanimous, tranquil, agile, pliant wieldy, proficient and accurate. This well-developed attention is capable of investigating emerging self-states, turning away from the unwholesome and nurturing the fulfillment of the wholesome.
During this dialogue about the practice of Right Action, Peter again emphasizes the importance of combining a deepening understanding of our internal processes through mindfulness practice with a revisiting of the classic concepts and jargon of the Buddha. Peter offered some information from modern neuroscientific research that suggests how karma is formed through memory consolidation, citing various areas of the brain and their functions. This was combined with how the cultivation of samadhi (concentration/tranquility) and sati (mindfulness/insight) produce a “buffer zone” of non-reactive awareness that allows the application of benevolent intention to emerging behaviors. This was followed by a lively discussion of the implications that are presented through this new understanding of ancient wisdom.
During this dialogue, Tommy reviewed the last two presentations Peter provided on craving and clinging. Tommy’s frequent use of facilitating questions opened up a lively dialogue among the folks attending. Wendy asked for comments from others about how they approach cultivating mindfulness at the start of the day, and received an abundance of reports from various Sangha members that were quite helpful.
During this extensive Dhamma talk, Peter described satibojjhanga, the seven awakening factors: mindfulness, investigation of phenomena, energy/effort, joy/enthusiastic engagement, tranquility, concentration and equanimity. Once the five hindrances have been set aside, the cultivation of vipassana is furthered through the perfection of these factors. Peter explained how the factors co-operate, that is the dynamic interaction between them. Mindfulness is the factor that monitors the process, assuring the activating factors, tranquilizing factors, faith/confidence and investigation are in balance. This balance is dynamic, constantly needing adjustment to accommodate fresh sensory input. Joy and equanimity are byproducts of this balancing. This was followed by another lively group discussion about how this works in experience.
During this first Dhamma talk of the one-week retreat, Robert reviewed the five Precepts: Avoiding hurting others, avoiding hurtful speech, avoiding dishonesty and theft, avoiding hurtful speech avoiding hurtful sexual behavior, and avoiding dulling the mind with intoxicants. He also talked of the three Refuges: Buddha (the potential for all of us to wake up from our delusions), Dhamma (the ways and means for waking up) and Sangha (the supportive community of like-minded people). Then Peter talked of the progressive course of training during the week, that is, increasing concentration and tranquility, then the practice of vipassana, often called insight. He also described two stages of development: first, that of the integration of self-states, then, when the personality is more integrated, the development of spiritual transcendence.