Guided Whole Body Sweep Meditation

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.


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.


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.

Deerhaven 2015 Sixth Night Dhamma Talk

This recording followed a guided body sweep meditation and provided an opportunity for the participants to discuss the experience and receive suggestions about their practice.  Peter emphasized that the goal of this practice is to foster the maturing of vitakka and vicara (aiming and sustaining attention) into the awakening factor of investigation of mental phenomena.  The practice also fosters the cultivation of mindfulness, persistent Right Effort, and concentration.  These factors also foster the emergence of joy, tranquility and equanimity, the remaining factors of the seven awakening factors.  This posting will be followed by the recorded body sweep meditation.

Deerhaven 2015 Post Retreat Reviews

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.