Cultivating A Compassionate Relationship

This discussion continues to explore the application of mindfulness and compassion to interpersonal conflict resolution.  Peter introduced some points from the website focused on procedures developed in Gregory Kramer’s book “Insight Dialogue-The Interpersonal Path to Freedom”.  Kramer’s work closely parallels what has been explored in previous discussions on this topic, in this case specifically related to fostering close relationships in the context of current political conflicts.  These approaches were also related to discussions in previous meetings of the Tibetan Buddhist lojong mind training and conflict resolution.

Here is the handout downloaded from the website that Peter distributed to those who attended the meeting:  GREGORY KRAMER INSIGHT DIALOGUE GUIDELINES

Overcoming Comparing Mind

During this talk, the lojong mind training commitment “Don’t aim to win” was related to the Theravaden concept of “comparing mind”, that is, the tendency in this culture to emphasize competition and material acquisition, with the achievement of “Awakening” as the prize.  Peter explored the Zen concept of the “Gateless Gate” as pointing to the experience of awakening as a process, not a thing that can be owned.  The ongoing practice of mindfulness meditation is just that, practice, and not a test.  During the ensuing discussion, several comments by the participants talked of how important it is to just practice being mindfully present, during formal meditation practice or otherwise.  Setting up awakening as a measurable, substantial thing is a fundamental misperception of the process.

Here are the notes accompanying this talk:   Overcoming Comparing Mind

Next week’s topic will combine three lojong training commitments:  “Don’t revert to magic”, “Don’t reduce a god to a demon” and “Don’t seek pain as a component of happiness”.

Releasing Unrealistic Expectations

During this talk, the lojong commitment “Don’t Put A Horse’s Load On A Donkey” was reviewed.  The emphasis of the commitment is to avoid idealizing expectations of self or others, that is, to avoid perfectionism.  One of the benefits of being relieved of the stress and confusion of the five hindrances is the release of energy into the process of awareness.  This can manifest as overreaching one’s capabilities, or displacing responsibility on others, thereby expecting too much of their capabilities.  This leads to contempt and a feeling of disconnection from self and others.  A goal of this practice is to become clearly aware of how self-organization either leads to clarity or to confusion, and eventually understanding how to release the “hardened” expectations that result from craving and clinging.

Here are the notes for the discussion:  MANAGING THE BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY

Here is the worksheet provided for those attending the meeting:  Relationship Responsibility Worksheet

Avoiding Toxic Ego Food

During this evening’s discussion, modern neuroscientific research was reviewed which suggests that activated neural pathways become more richly connected when “fed” by increased blood flow.  When unwholesome self-organizations are repeatedly enacted, the result is toxic.  A distinction was emphasized regarding external and internal “ego food”, that is, how modern entertainment and distractions provide external stimulation, while internal processes are either enhanced or depleted in their power by the amount of attention given to them in the mind.  Peter read the excerpt from the Four Foundations of Mindfulness discourse that describes being aware of the transitory nature of self-organizations (fourth foundation, regarding the arising and passing of the five aggregates of clinging).  These principles support the awareness qualities found in the lojong mind training commitments.

This review was followed by a lively discussion regarding the prevalence of external “junk food media” and how  being mindful of how the internal processing of the stimulation can be used to practice tonglen, that is, the ability to transform internal processes with compassion.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  BENEVOLENT EGO FOOD

Next week’s discussion will focus on the lojong aphorism “Don’t rely on consistency.”

Cultivating Self Responsibility

During this talk, Peter reviewed the progressive development this training represents: first establishing stable focused attention informed by  benevolent intention, then using vipassana skills to see the transient nature of internal self-states, followed by the practice of tonglen (compassionate transformation of unwholesome self-states to wholesome flows), and the ability to integrate this into self-responsibility, that is, not displacing responsibility for one’s distress on others.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk: CULTIVATING SELF-RESPONSIBILITY

The focus for next week’s discussion will be on skillful ways to resolve confused and conflicted self-states.