Universal and Occasional Mind Conditioners

This talk continues the exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta.  The topic this week is “…sensitive to the mind fabrications…calming the mind fabrications”, regarding the cetasikas, the categorically listed functions of the mind.  Specific attention was given to the universal cetasikas, involved in every moment of cognition, and the particular or occasional cetasikas, which may or may not be involved.  Peter emphasized that these functions were developed over the centuries after the historical Buddha as part of the Abhidhamma, the “higher teachings” of Buddhist psychology.  They can be somewhat dry as a focus of study; their value is in “deconstructing” the belief in a separate, enduring self or soul.

This  was followed by general discussion of how training awareness to discern the emerging formations increases the functional competency of the seven awakening factors, particularly “investigation of mental phenomena”.

Next week’s discussion will review the 14 “unwholesome mind conditioners”.

Calming The Breath Body

During this dhamma dialogue, the exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta was continued, with a focus on the stanzas: “…He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’

Peter described an ongoing debate as to whether “the entire body” simply refers to the totality of the in- and out-breath cycle without interruption, or whether “the entire body” relates the calming effects of enduring breath awareness is coordinated with relaxing “the bodily fabrication”.  The accompanying .mp3 recording of the training meditation that immediately preceded this dialogue orients towards the latter interpretation, emphasizing that the out-breath can coincide with briefly sweeping attention through the body to release and relax any tension that is noted.  This strategy allows the body to become increasingly relaxed, the emotions to become increasingly calm, while the degree of internal investigation of the breath and body tensions actually increases internal alertness.

This explanation was followed by dialogues regarding how those participating in the training meditation experienced the practice of mindfulness of breathing.  It was noted that suggesting that attention is a flow of energy that is simply nourishing either wholesome or unwholesome self-states, and that the breath is a wholesome factor in that process, as it interrupts the escalation of self-talk and fosters calming.

The next scheduled talk will focus on the effects of this mindful calming, the release of energy into awareness as joy and happiness.

Tranquilizing the Breath-Body Process

Here are the notes I prepared for the dhamma dialogue .mp3 file which is posted next: “Calming The Breath Body”.  The next posting after that is an .mp3 recording “Guided Calming The Breath Body Meditation”.  I hope they are useful for your practice of anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing).

I’ve already explored in a previous posted essay “acquiring the breath”, the ability to bring attention to the breath (vitakka) and sustain active interest (vicara) in the changing sensations during the breath cycle. This essay will explore how to make use of the suggestions in the Anapanasati Sutta to promote deeper physical relaxation and emotional tranquility while still maintaining and even increasing alert inner awareness.


Acquiring Breath Awareness

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.

Guided Acquiring The Breath Meditation

This is a guided meditation that supports the practice of mindfulness of breathing, particularly the “mindful of the long…and short…) stanzas at the beginning of the instructions for anapanasati practice.  The recording of a guided 45 minute meditation on Wednesday nights is unusual; this particular meditation included the placing of small amounts of Mentholatum, a salve which includes menthol.  The menthol aroma and the tactile sensation of either hot or cold (depending on the mind condition of the practitioner) serves as a strong and persistent sensation, facilitating developing longer periods of concentration on the breath.  It’s not meant to be a permanent part of mindfulness of breathing practice, but rather a way to support developing stable focus on the breath.