Turning Poison Into Medicine April 15 2020

This talk was preceded by the posted guided meditation “Overcoming Impulsive Reactivity”, which follows the training indicated in the Second Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Feelings; the meditation can be found on the Audio Recording page of this site.  Feelings are the “driver” of how the mind makes meaning from what we see, hear and feel in the body, and cultivating clarity and equanimity of feelings is an important skill for acquiring stress resiliency, particularly as we are dealing with the disruptions caused by the pandemic.  Peter used the Four Noble Truths concepts in relating to Post Traumatic Growth, an area of contemporary research that focuses on how we can emerge from this difficult time with more gratitude, appreciation for the simpler things of life and more enriched relationships.  The talk was followed by discussion among those attending the Zoom meeting about how mindfulness can be beneficial for not only coping with stress but also for reevaluating our goals and aspirations in ways that are more optimistic and positively adaptive.

Here are the notes prepared for the talk:  Turning Poison Into Medicine  Here is an additional document, an interview with Jack Kornfield from the New York Times about mindful and compassionate coping with the pandemic:  Jack Kornfield NYT interview


Overcoming Impulsive Reactivity Meditation

This meditation focuses on the Second Foundation of Mindfulness, Vedanupassana (vey-duh-nah-nu-pah-sah-nah), Mindfulness of Feelings.  In Buddhist psychology feelings are not emotions per se, but are the urgency and impulsivity of the body in response to a stimulus; the modern psychological term affect is more appropriate, as it is the immediate response of the body/mind process to the experience.  From a Buddhist perspective, feelings are the bridge between what the body senses and the meaning-making that the mind fabricates in response to the feeling.  The more mindful and equanimous a person is as the feeling is investigated, the more opportunity there is to modify the meaning-making in more adaptive ways.  This ability is essential for a person’s resilience to stressful, even traumatic experiences, such as the current pandemic.  The topic for the Dharma talk which will be posted after this one is “Turning Poison Into Medicine” and develops what some contemporary researchers are calling Post Traumatic Growth (Look up the term on Wikipedia!), which is the ability to become more grateful regarding life and relationships and optimistic despite difficult circumstances.  During the meditation, Peter made various comments that encourage investigating how the feeling of urgency (craving) is a different quality of experience than the meaning-making narrative that accompanies it (clinging); craving and clinging are core characteristics of dukkha.  One can train attention to mindfulness of breathing or the body to interrupt the narrative, cultivating equanimity and increasing stress resilience.