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 their experience during the exercise and discussion of how this practice can benefit the process of awakening. Next week’s exploration will include the contemplation of vedana (feeling) and sanna (perception), with the hope that this information will further the process of understanding the Five Aggregates of 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 that occurs before conscious awareness (the graphic and accompanying notes are posted on the site as well). Without the benefit of mindfulness, concentration and tranquility, perception is biased and distorted by the conditioning factors, with the result that what is transitory and non-self is misperceived as enduring and a self. The practice of vipassana can reveal the misperception and reorient the energy of the mind toward clear awareness and benevolent intention. This is the process of awakening.
during the next dialogue, Peter will describe how a conceptual and experiential understanding of perception and feeling is contained within the doctrine of paticca samuppada, dependent origination. Peter will develop a different translation of this term, as “contingent provisional emergence”
Following on last week’s dialogue, Peter described how the mind “transforms energy into information”, and that the hindrances are “energy dumps” that distort perceptions and create distress. The setting aside of the hindrances through mindfulness of breathing creates a zone of clarity and non-reactivity, preparing for the investigation of emerging self-states that vipassana practice cultivates. The demons are the hindrances and the angels are the manifestations of the freed up energy. These manifestations are recognizable as the increase of compassion, generosity, patience and internal happiness.
As a response to requests from various sangha members, I’ve written an article that includes the graphic regarding the “five powers” and how we can progress our practice beyond the influence of the five hindrances and towards the fostering of the seven factors of awakening.
Click to download: FROM DEMONS TO ANGELS
During this dialogue, Peter and the sangha explored the characteristics of restlessness as an overactivated sympathetic nervous system process combined with rumination about a particular topic related to regret, remorse or possible negative consequences. Peter described the classical description of this hindrance and the antidotes. Cultivating samadhi reduces the activation of the nervous system and vipassana investigates the conditional characteristics of an ongoing worry narrative, seeing it as impersonal and transient. Next week’s talk will focus on the remaining hindrance, skeptical doubt.