Reviewing Mindfulness of Feelings

Mindfulness of Feelings is the second area of focus within the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse.  During this review, the importance of understanding the way pleasant or unpleasant feelings drive thoughts and behaviors through direct observation is emphasized.  Contemporary psychological research uses the terms affect approach to describe pleasant feeling and affect avoidance in describing unpleasant feeling.  Being able to mindfully investigate the experiential urgency of affect with detachment and a wholesome non-reactive response is essential for cultivating the skills required in the process of Awakening.  The neurological processes involved in the experience of affects and the effective regulation of them are also reviewed.  Peter describes how he practiced mindfulness of feelings regarding his current experience of Covid-19 and the process of recovery.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MINDFULNESS OF FEELINGS

The topic for the next talk will be the Third Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of the Mind.

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Mindfulness Of Feelings Review

This talk reviews the Second Foundation of Mindfulness, Vedanupassana, which focuses on various manifestations of feelings described in the Satipatthana Sutta.  During the presentation, a thorough review of traditional understandings of the contemplations as described by Bhikkhu Analayo in his books, accompanied by contemporary neuroscientific research that supports the centuries-old views of Buddhist practitioners.  The talk is followed by a brief question-and-answer exchange among those present.

There is a accompanying “Guided Mindfulness Of Breathing Meditation”, posted the same day and found in the Archives.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MINDFULNESS OF FEELINGS

The focus for next week’s talk will be a review of the Third Foundation of Mindfulness, Cittanupassana, Mindfulness of the Mind.

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Understanding Feelings

This talk focuses on the Second of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Vedanupassana, Mindfulness of Feelings.  The Buddhist view of feelings isn’t just about emotions; more emphasis is placed on affect, the potency or impulsive urgency associated with any moment of experience.  When unskillfully managed and conditioned by clinging, affect manifests as craving, that is, for pleasant experience to arise and continue or for unpleasant feeling to be avoided or gotten rid of.  Peter described some of the important neural brain structures associated with affect and cognition, emphasizing that affect is the “driver” of cognition, as suggested by traditional Buddhist doctrine and current neuroscientific research.  This makes mindfulness of feelings a crucial skill to develop, that is, to perceive feelings as just mental phenomena, not a self, not “my feelings”.  Modern research demonstrates that mindfulness of breathing meditation develops areas of the brain that function to regulate the degree of reactivity to affect, thereby interrupting craving and clinging.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Understanding Feelings

Next week’s talk will focus on a review of paticca samuppada, dependent origination, a key concept of Buddhism describing how the selfing process operates and demonstrating the crucial role mindfulness of feelings plays in the process of Awakening.  Peter will explain a different view of this concept that he calls contingent provisional emergence, which combines traditional Buddhist views with a contemporary complexity theory of personality organization.

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Benefits Of Investigating Emotions

During this discussion, Peter related the lojong aphorism, “Work on the stronger disturbing emotions first,” relating it to the second Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of feelings as feelings, not a self.  The integrated operation of the lojong aphorisms was reviewed, emphasizing the importance of regular mindfulness meditation practice to cultivate the emotional self-regulation required to benefit from mindful investigation of feelings, separate from the narrative “selfing story”, which reinforces “buying into” a sense of self that is distressed and confused.

This approach to alleviating suffering is similar to a modern psychotherapeutic intervention, “Exposure Therapy”, which combines progressive relaxation with direct investigation of the distressed emotional tone that a person suffers from.  This exposure, over time, reduces reactivity to the distress, provided the person does not align with a narrative associated with the distress.

After the discussion, there was a lively dialogue among the participants regarding concrete experiences that the practice of desensitization can be applied to.

Here are the notes prepared for the discussion:  THE BENEFITS OF INVESTIGATING EMOTIONALLY POTENT ISSUES

Next week’s topic will explore the importance of non-judgmental reflection on the application of a lojong aphorism.