Peter’s 2021 Year End Retreat Report

Peter has committed to two-week self-retreats for the last 15 years.  This talk reviews that experience during the retreat last December, using excerpts from Analayo’s “Mindfulness of Breathing–a practice guide and translations” to complement what occurred during the retreat, as that book was the primary reference source during the retreat.  The intention of this review is to provide ways to understand how a meditative progression through the Four Tetrads of the Anapanasati Sutta, the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse, was useful for deepening his practice and insights regarding the process of Awakening during the retreat.  This presentation also includes questions posed by those participating in the meeting regarding the information in the Sutta.

Here are the extensive excerpts from the book provided by Peter for reference during the talk and for further inquiry by those interested in the approach used by Analayo to improve understanding and practice issues regarding this important discourse:  2021 Year end retreat review  Analayo can be considered as one of the preeminent authorities of our era regarding the doctrines and practices found in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.

The topic for next week’s discussion will be a review of Lovingkindness, the first of what are called the Four Divine Abidings.


Cultivating Breath Body Tranquility January 23 2019

This talk continues exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta, the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse, with specific focus on the 3rd and 4th stanzas, describing how cultivating breath awareness integrated with full body awareness through a variety of methods, fosters tranquility in the body.  Peter emphasized that a goal of these two of the sixteen steps in the sutta is to be able to cultivate alert physical relaxation in order to clearly discern the difference between sensory awareness and how the mind creates fundamental misperception, the fabrication of an enduring and autonomous self.  In the process of Awakening, there is a stage called namarupa, with nama meaning what the mind creates and rupa meaning the unprocessed sensory data we all experience.  As one’s practice matures through the remaining 12 steps of the 16 step anapanasati process, the focus of attention is increasingly on the three basic characteristics, as described by Buddhism: anicca (impermanence), dukkha (distress and confusion) and anatta (the absence of and enduring and autonomous self).  Full awareness of this leads to full Awakening through deconstructing the view of an enduring and autonomous self.

The explanatory talk was followed by a lively discussion among the participants regarding the benefits of cultivating tranquility in the body.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Cultivating Breath Body Tranquility

Here is a copy of the Anapanasati Sutta, translated by Gil Fronsdal, that was posted earlier in the series of discussions:  Anapanasati Sutta Fronsdal

Next week’s topic will be focused on how mindfulness of breathing cultivates piti (joy) and sukkha (satisfaction) in stanzas 5 and 6.


Breath Awareness And Diligence January 16 2019

This is the second of a series of talks reviewing the Anapanasati Sutta, the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse.  The first two of the 16 steps in the process of observing the breath involve the application of atapi, a Pali word translated as diligent, or often as ardent.  This entails a persistent, committed application of vitakka and vicara, aiming attention at the beginning of the breath and sustaining attention for the duration of the breath.  This basic function, when practiced diligently, matures into one of the Seven Awakening Factors, Dhamma Vicaya, Investigation of Mental Phenomena.  During the talk Peter also made suggestions to support the level of practice called acquiring the breath, which is the ability to maintain consistent focus on the breath for extended undistracted periods of time while meditating and also integrating mindfulness of breathing into normal daily routines.  These skills set the conditions that promote achieving the remaining 14 of the 16 stages of Awakening through the practice of anapanasati.  This was followed by general discussion about the individual practices of mindfulness of breathing practiced by those at the meeting.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  NOTES FOR ACQUIRING THE BREATH

Next week’s discussion focuses on using acquired breath awareness to become increasingly mindful of sensations throughout the body, the third and fourth stanzas of the Anapanasati Sutta.


Reviewing The Anapanasati Sutta January 9 2019

This is the first of a series of talks about the Anapanasati Sutta, the Mindfulness of Breathing Discourse, MN118.  Mindfulness of breathing is reportedly the meditation practice that Siddhattha Gotama used in achieving Awakening to become the Buddha over 25 centuries ago.  It remains the most widely practiced meditation in the Buddhist traditions.  During this talk, Peter described the setting and structure of the Sutta which contains 16 steps or stages leading to Awakening.  Future talks will focus more deeply into each of the 16 steps, emphasizing ways of understanding and applying each of the steps while meditating.

The explanation was followed by discussion among various participants who had some retreat practice regarding mindfulness of breathing, noting what they were able to experience.

Here are the notes prepared for the talk:  The Anapanasati Teachings

Here is a copy of the Anapanasati Sutta translated by Gil Fronsdal:  Anapanasati Sutta Fronsdal

Next week’s talk will cover Steps 1-4 of the 16 mentioned in the Sutta.


Awakening Factors During A Retreat

During this talk, Peter reviewed his self-retreat from May 9-22.  The experience was related to the previous discussions about the Anapanasati Sutta (the discourse on mindfulness of breathing), and to the sorts of experiences that might arise during an intensive retreat.  He specifically associated the cultivation of the the seven awakening factors–mindfulness, investigation of mental phenomena, energy/effort, joy/interest, tranquility, concentration and equanimity–to the experiences during the retreat.  This was followed by discussion among those present to clarify some of what was described.

Next week, the topical theme will change significantly.  Since Peter has been a psychotherapist nearly as long as he’s practiced and taught mindfulness, there will be discussions about stress in this culture, producing anxiety, depression, addictive behaviors, relationship discord from a Buddhist perspective, with suggestions about how Buddhism may be useful in  providing relief from the stress.