This Meditation trains the mind to move investigating attention mindfully and systematically throughout the body, sensitive to subtle body vibrations similar to the experience of one’s leg “going to sleep”, but much milder in sensation. The goal of this training is to cultivate a whole body “vibrational” awareness that supports stabilizing attention and the process of vipassana, insight into the transitory and non-self characteristics of experience.
During this guided meditation practice, the participants were introduced to vedanupassana, the meditation practice taught by U Ba Khin and S. N. Goenka. More understood as body sweep or body scan, this involves a systematic, in-depth examination of whatever sensations are evident over the body. Due to the amount of time available for the demonstration, only the areas of the head were explored. The purpose of the practice is to enhance the “aiming and sustaining” process, supporting increasingly precise and insightful awareness of body sensations; this investigation can then be used to bring emerging thoughts and impulses into awareness sooner and with more clarity.
As is the custom, this evening’s talk is a review of Peter’s two week self-retreat. During the talk, he quoted from Achaan Chah: “Life brings suffering. The untrained mind turns suffering into more suffering. The trained mind turns suffering into the path that leads to the ending of suffering.” He described his practice of integrating the “noting” strategies with the “body sweep” strategies taught by S. N. Goenka. The importance of using breath awareness to stabilize the mind, then using the body sweep to nurture a “curtain” of body awareness cultivates increasing levels of dhamma vicaya, the investigation of emerging self-states. As this practice deepens, a level of internal process awareness emerges that is “just knowing” without the need for noting.
Mindfulness of the body is a fundamental practice in the Buddhist tradition. Body awareness includes physical sensation as well as hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting. There’s nothing imaginative about sensation-mindfulness is most important as the process of mental association emerges. During the body sweep meditation, the attention is persistently focused on whatever sensation emerges on the surface of the body. Beginning with sensational awareness at the rim of the nostrils, in this guided meditation, Peter repeatedly suggests progressive awareness of sensation, moving over the facial area, then the scalp, the neck and so on, ending with the sensations noticeable in the feet. Finally, the meditator is invited to sit with open awareness for whatever sensations appear in the body. The value of this practice is that, when practiced repeatedly, sensations become evident all over the body, subtle tingling or vibrations, and this awareness provides a stable and ever-present foundational focus, from which the meditator can note the emergence of thoughts and emotions through vipassana practices.
This recording provides training in the practice of “body sweep” meditation, which Peter received training for during a retreat with S. N. Goenka’s assistant trainers. They call this practice vedanupassana, mindfulness of feelings, which is the second of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. This training, an hour of practice, provided prompts for aiming attention at a particular spot on the body and sustaining that attention to develop the Awakening Factors of Investigation of Phenomena, Energy, and, of course, Mindfulness. It requires a lot of preparation through developing concentration to the level of upacara samadhi, access concentration. It can be quite frustrating for a beginning meditator, as the power of investigation is initially quite weak; it’s important to recall that this is meant to cultivate investigation, and not a test of willpower.