Peter’s 2015 Year End Retreat

by Peter Carlson on January 7, 2016

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.

Here are the notes Peter prepared for the talk:   Peter’s 2015 year end retreat

Benefits Of Investigating Emotions

by Peter Carlson on October 22, 2015

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.

Lojong And Wholesome Speech

by Peter Carlson on October 15, 2015

This week’s discussion broached two aphorisms: Don’t speak about others’ defects, and Don’t become preoccupied with the opinions, behaviors and motivations of others.  These aphoristic commitments focus on activating Wholesome Speech, Action and Livelihood from the Eightfold Path.  Peter emphasized the practical steps for cultivating the mental clarity and constraint necessary to check one’s speech, avoiding anything that may create a sense of separation and diminishment of others, most exemplified by gossip.  He also commented on the common human mistake of “mind reading”, that is, the inclination to jump to conclusions about what someone’s intentions are.  This was followed by discussions among those present of  examples of gossiping and mind reading, along with what benefits regular daily meditation and memorizing the aphorisms can bring to interrupting hurtful and thoughtless behaviors.

Here are the notes developed for the talk:   AVOID FOCUSING ON THE DEFECTS OF OTHERS

Next week’s talk will focus on the benefits of intentionally investigating the emotionally charged self-states with mindfulness and equanimity.

Training The Agile Mind

by Peter Carlson on August 27, 2015

This talks reviews the lojong mind training aphorism “In order to take unexpected conditions as the path, immediately join whatever you meet with meditation”.  The emphasis of this practice is to train the mind to become quickly, mindfully aware of what is emerging in consciousness, and essential competency to cultivate in vipassana practice.  Peter described recent research regarding which areas of the brain are associated with mindfulness, and how these neural pathways are enhanced to increase self awareness and the ability to regulate emotional reactivity.  After these descriptions, ways that agile and accurate inner awareness can be cultivated, not only by regular meditation practice, but also through finding ways to remind oneself to be mindful during the day.

This talk followed a guided meditation just posted “Agile Mind Guided Meditation”.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MAKING THE MIND AGILE AND ACCURATE

Four Applications For Spiritual Growth

by Peter Carlson on August 20, 2015

This talk reviewed the progressive steps from initial establishment of stable focus and internal tranquility through to last week’s exploration of how to work with confusion.  The new aphorism involves four applications to further spiritual development: cultivating a more integrated series of self-states motivated by lovingkindness and compassion, maintaining an ongoing investigation of emerging self-states, taking corrective action when a previous life experience has produced confusion and disturbance, particularly in relationships, and actively seeking and making best use of those whose studies and practices warrant trust and respect.  This was followed by discussion of how these four applications can be developed and maintained.

Here are the notes Peter prepared for this discussion:  FOUR WAYS TO TURN POISON INTO MEDICINE

Next week’s discussion will focus on the next aphorism: “In order to take unexpected conditions as the path, immediately join whatever you meet with meditation.”  This involves learning how to remember and quickly bring the investigation of emerging self-states into daily life experience.


Turning Poison Into Medicine

During this talk, Peter introduced one of the lojong aphorisms, classically stated  “When evil fills the world and its inhabitants, change adverse conditions into the path of awakening.”  He suggested an alternative: “Be mindful whenever possible so everything provides an opportunity for practice.”   The talk provided an opportunity to review the progression of the training: […]

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Lojong Introduction

This talk introduces a new topic, the Tibetan Buddhist Lojong trainings.  These trainings were developed around the year 1,000 C.E. to support integrating Buddhist principles and practices into daily life routines.  The core of Buddhist teaching is compassion, that is, the path leading to liberation from distress.  This core practice is integrated into Lojong through […]

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