Working With Sympathetic Joy

Sympathetic Joy, Mudita in Pali, is the quality of consciousness that happily celebrates the success and happiness of others, regardless of any material or status benefit for oneself.  The cultivation of mudita involves integrating lovingkindness with the in-born capacity we all have for empathy.  This talk reviews the classical understanding of mudita and how contemporary psychological research supports how this awareness is formed in the brain through the practice of mindfulness, investigation of mental phenomena and Right Effort.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Working With Mudita

Next week’s talk will be provided by Lezlie Laws, one of the teachers who is being mentored by Peter.  The topic she reviews will focus on how the core teaching of Buddhism about impermanence affects our contemporary issues of time management.


Working With Compassion

This talk reviews the characteristics and cultivation of compassion, which results from the developed application of mindfulness, investigation and Right Effort on the built-in capacity of humans for empathy.  Contemporary research shows that the parts of the brain associated with internal awareness and interpersonal empathy, essential components of compassion, are developed and matured through ongoing mindfulness meditation practice.  Following the talk, there was discussion about the usefulness of cultivating compassion in one’s life.

here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Working With Compassion

The topic for next week’s review will focus on the intersection between empathetic joy and generosity.


What Is Secular Buddhism?

This talk provides a review of a contemporary non-religious practice of Buddhism called Secular Buddhism, which represents an attempt to understand the original teachings of Buddhism without the cultural religious add-ons that have accumulated over the centuries that are not appreciated as relevant for these transitional times.  It is well-known that the percentage of the population who identifies with current religious traditions is diminishing significantly, especially among younger people, while this population largely identifies with spiritual inclinations.  An important aspect of this practice that is being reviewed includes the close association between contemporary concepts and practices involving mindfulness and lovingkindness that are being taught and current neuroscientific and psychological research that largely validates the beneficial effects of regular meditation practice for physical, mental and social well-being.  Also reviewed is the impact of the internet on the world-wide dispersal of this information.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  What Is Secular Buddhism

The topic for next week’s talk will be a review of how Buddhism understands and practices cultivating compassion, including contemporary research that demonstrates the benefits derived from this training.


Understanding Dukkha

Typically, the meeting after Peter’s annual year-end retreat is dedicated to his recounting of the retreat experience, with the hope his review will help him integrate the experience as well as provide others more insights about what can happen on retreat.  This retreat was significantly disrupted by the unusually 3-day freeze that occurred over Christmas, as the plants in the yard where the retreat cottage is needed to be covered, and then uncovered after the freeze.  This created the opportunity for Peter to contemplate the nature of dukkha, the First Nobel Truth, a fundamental concept within Buddhism.  There are three aspects of dukkha that are reviewed during the talk: The dukkha of inhabiting a body, the dukkha of experiencing unexpected changes, and the dukkha of how the mind fabricates a self.  The third aspect is the primary focus of mindfulness meditation.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Understanding Dukkha

The topic for next week’s talk will focus on reviewing what is called Secular Buddhism.


Introducing Additional Teachers

This talk introduces several new teachers who are either certified or entering certification training as Dharma teachers: Lezlie Laws, April Koester, Alli Vaknin and Lili Fernandez.  Peter has been looking for additional teachers for our group for quite awhile and expresses gratitude for this opportunity to increase the benefits of Secular Buddhist concepts and practices in Central Florida.  The expanded geographic and demographic advantages of additional teachers is described.  Following this, each person is given the opportunity to describe her background and motivation for teaching the Dharma.


Guided Gratitude Contemplation

This guided contemplation begins with integrating mindfulness of breathing meditation with the repetition of a “short form” lovingkindness meditation.  After this practice is established, a series of gratitude contemplations are offered, for example, the benefits of meditation practice, the convenience of electricity and potable water, the joys of friendly companionship, etc.  The goal is to cultivate a daily appreciation of the simple gifts of life that are often overlooked and taken for granted.