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

by Peter Carlson on July 30, 2015

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: First, establish a regular meditation practice to cultivate stability of focus and relief from the influence of the five hindrances, then to realize during meditation that all thoughts are transient “fantasies”.  During regular daily routines, cultivate an attitude of perceiving life’s roles as a “game”, rather than as having certainty.  Practice transforming unwholesome self-states into compassionate awareness (the tonglen practice).  The current topic involves integrating the training mentioned above sufficiently so that every difficulty encountered becomes an opportunity for liberation from confusion and distress.

Those present during the evening were provided with a copy of the aphorism and invited to write opportunities that come to mind for turning “poison into medicine” in their lives.  This provided opportunities to relate the progression described at the outset of the discussion to the incidents reported.

Here are the notes prepared for the presentation:   TRANSFORMING ADVERSITY INTO OPPORTUNITY

Next week’s discussion will involve the aphorism “Focus on your responsibility for alleviating suffering; don’t displace it to outside sources.”

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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Buddhism And Anxiety

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 […]

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