There are two initial stages in the practice of mindfulness of breathing meditation: persistently maintaining present-moment awareness of the in- and out-breath, followed by increasing investigation of phenomena that emerge into awareness during the breathing cycle. During this meditation, training attention to investigate the breath cycle was cultivated by inviting a primary investigation of the physical experience of breathing, then letting the breath awareness become secondary while investigating and “looking closer” at other predominant sensations in the body, or investigating the nature of attention while attending to physical sensations to discover the self-fabricating nature of the mind. An important goal of vipassana practice is to investigate the interactions between physical sensory experience and how the mind makes meaning of the sensations. In the progressions of insight during the process of Awakening, this awareness is called namarupa, with nama relating to the mind’s function and rupa to the physical sensations that occur.
One of the key factors involved in the process of Awakening is Dhamma Vicaya, translated as Investigation Of Mental Phenomena. It is the second of the Seven Awakening Factors, and the cultivation of this factor is described in the Satipatthana Sutta, the Four Foundations Of Mindfulness Discourse. Peter explained that the cultivation of this factor begins with the fundamental instructions for mindfulness of breathing practice, that is, intentionally bringing attention to the beginning of the inbreath (vitakka in Pali), then sustaining awareness for the duration of the inbreath (vicara ‘vee-chah-rah’, in Pali). The development of this process continues as one notes the arising of a hindrance and redirects attention back to the breath. When attention stabilizes on breath awareness unencumbered by the hindrances, the maturation of Dhamma Vicaya is attained, and this is a key element in the practice of vipassana, the goal of which is the liberation of the mind from dukkha.
Here are the notes prepared for this talk: Investigating The Mind
There is mention of the cetasikas in this talk, so the cetasikas chart is reposted here: CETASIKAS POSTER
This meeting involved a review by some of the participants in the nine day retreat from March 13 to the 22nd. First Peter reviewed the structure of the course, which blended practices found in the Anapanasati Sutta (mindfulness of breathing discourse) and the vedanupassana (body sweep) practice that Peter was trained in by his first teacher Ruth Denison and several retreats during which he was trained in the tradition taught by S. N. Goenka. The benefit of the body sweep was explained as a way to cultivate the seven awakening factors, especially mindfulness, investigation of mental phenomena, effort/persistence and concentration. the remaining three factors, joy, tranquility and equanimity, emerge more effectively as practice deepens.
Following this post, the dhamma talks recorded during the retreat will be posted as .mp3 files, along with some of the notes Peter referred to.
During this dhamma dialogue, Peter fostered discussion of the preceding guided “acquiring breath awareness” meditition practice, posted just prior to this posting. He explained the importance of the practice of vitakka and vicara, that is intentionally bring focus to the sensations of breathing, then to sustain that awareness. Peter described the maturing of the practice of “aiming and sustaining” into one of the seven factors of awakening, dhamma vicaya, the investigation of mental phenomena. The experience of those present for the preceding guided meditation was explored, particularly any benefits from the application of Mentholatum, a mentholated salve, at the rim of the nostrils. The practice was intended to enhance sensations at the rim of the nostrils to create a more vivid target for the practice of vitakka and vicara.
This was followed by suggestions from Peter about ways to integrate mindful awareness of the breath into daily routines in order to provide a stable routine for interrupting unnecessary inner chatter.
Next weeks dhamma dialogue will explore the stanzas in the Anapanasati Sutta that encourage training the mind to experience a buoyant interest in breath awareness.
This is the second in a series of discussions regarding the seven factors of awakening, focused on dhamma vicaya bojjhanga, the investigation of mental phenomena factor of awakening. This factor is a core element of the practice of vipassana, operating in tandem with mindfulness, Right Effort and concentration. Peter described the maturing of investigation from the rudimentary mindfulness of breathing practice of vitakka and vicara, that is, aiming attention at the beginning of the in-breath and sustaining that attention for the duration of the in-breath, then repeating that procedure for the out-breath. This basic practice develops the ability to cultivate concentration and tranquility, setting the stage for the practice of vipassana. This description was followed by a brief guided meditation focusing on investigating the breath and noting any variations of attention that might occur. There was some discussion following this meditation to associate the investigation factor with truly understanding the Four Noble Truths.
Here are the notes accompanying this evenings dialogue: The Awakening Factor of Investigation of Mental Phenonemena Next week’s dialogue will continue exploring the awakening factors with a focus on the awakening factor of energy, that is, Right Effort.