Lojong Introduction

by Peter Carlson on July 16, 2015

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 Tonglen, which is a Tibetan compassion meditation.  The most famous contemporary representative of the benefits of Lojong is Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

The talk provides an overview of the training; over the next several weeks, different training points will be explored.  Peter’s approach to this training is an attempt to make the archaic nature of the training aphorisms more understandable for contemporary American meditation students.

The notes prepared for this talk will be posted after this posting.

Buddhism And Anxiety

by Peter Carlson on June 11, 2015

During this talk, Peter provided an overview of the diagnostic categories related to anxiety, describing the common characteristics and symptoms of modern psychological understanding regarding anxiety disorders, which are at an epidemic level in this culture.  This was followed by descriptions of how the cultivation of mindfulness and lovingkindness provide ways to alleviate or at least reduce anxiety.  After the descriptions, those attending asked questions or made comments about the topic.

Next week’s discussion will focus on depression and how Buddhist practices can provide a buffer against depressive episodes.

Following this post is a document containing the notes Peter prepared for this talk.  Part of the document provides a more in-depth description of significant anxiety disorders from a contemporary psychological perspective.

Calming The Breath Body

by Peter Carlson on January 29, 2015

During this dhamma dialogue, the exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta was continued, with a focus on the stanzas: “…He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’

Peter described an ongoing debate as to whether “the entire body” simply refers to the totality of the in- and out-breath cycle without interruption, or whether “the entire body” relates the calming effects of enduring breath awareness is coordinated with relaxing “the bodily fabrication”.  The accompanying .mp3 recording of the training meditation that immediately preceded this dialogue orients towards the latter interpretation, emphasizing that the out-breath can coincide with briefly sweeping attention through the body to release and relax any tension that is noted.  This strategy allows the body to become increasingly relaxed, the emotions to become increasingly calm, while the degree of internal investigation of the breath and body tensions actually increases internal alertness.

This explanation was followed by dialogues regarding how those participating in the training meditation experienced the practice of mindfulness of breathing.  It was noted that suggesting that attention is a flow of energy that is simply nourishing either wholesome or unwholesome self-states, and that the breath is a wholesome factor in that process, as it interrupts the escalation of self-talk and fosters calming.

The next scheduled talk will focus on the effects of this mindful calming, the release of energy into awareness as joy and happiness.

Cultivating Samadhi and Passadhi

by Peter Carlson on August 14, 2014

This dialogue is the first of two explorations of samma samadhi, right concentration.  Peter explained the terms samadhi and passadhi, and why he groups them together.  Six considerations were illustrated to support the cultivation of samadhi-passadhi.  The value of samadhi-passadhi in the practice of vipassana was explored.  The explanations were followed by dialogue about the supportive considerations and the value of samadhi-passadhi in daily life.  There is a post following this one containing the notes used for the evening’s discussion.  the notes include a link to a website where Richard Shankman’s book “The Experience Of Samadhi” can be downloaded free in .pdf format.  Next week’s dialogue will explore the practice of jhana.

Domestic Vipassana Practice

by Peter Carlson on July 24, 2014

While Peter’s wife is away for a week, he decided to practice integrating mindfulness more thoroughly into daily life routines.  The primary changes included more meditation periods and more reading about Buddhist practices; otherwise, the routines were the same as before.  During the talk, he reviewed various ways to increase the application of mindfulness during the day: the cultivation of samadhi/passadhi (concentration and tranquility) as a buffer against impulsive reactivity, using body awareness to interrupt intrusive unnecessary thoughts, and simply reflecting “Is _______ really that important or valuable right now?”, focused on distractions and intrusive thoughts.  This was followed by dialogue with sangha members regarding ways to enhance daily practice of mindfulness.  Next week’s talk will focus on understanding what sankhara (mental conditioners) are, related to understanding one of the Five Aggregates of Clinging, sankharakkhanda.

Grounding The Five Aggregates

This dialogue is a continuation of the previous week’s discussion.  During the discussion, Peter led a guided meditation on how to use the four elements contemplations to provide a consistent focus for interrupting the elaboration the mind creates in the “selfing story.”  This exercise was followed by a sharing from the attending Sangha members regarding […]

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Five Aggregates Affected By Clinging

Continuing the ongoing exploration of the Four Noble Truths, Peter described the concept of the Five Aggregates affected by clinging, which is referred to in the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness teaching.  Using a graphic illustration, he showed how the factors of perception and feeling create a “bridge” between incoming sense data and the further processing […]

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