SBI Study Group July 3, 2010
(notes based on teachings given by Dr. B. Alan Wallace)
Meditation First Session: Mindfulness of Breathing in three phases of ease, stability and vividness of attention, beginning with discursive cultivation of personal vision of genuine happiness as motivation to practice
Review of recommended reading pp. 1-34
1. Foreword by HH Dalai Lama and Intro By Dr. Alan Wallace
· Why does HH recommend meditation?
Growing older with more serious problems and challenging responsibilities, mind is calmer due to meditation, and the result of a calmer mind is that he is happier. Meditation a tool for transforming the mind with tranquility and insight as the fruit of such practice
· Why does the author?
Because we all have “ eternal longing” to find real satisfaction that fills the heart, and meditation is directly and skillfully tapping into that natural resource within ourselves.
· Define genuine happiness.
Genuine = inborn, innate, native, authentic, true, real, coming from source of origin
Happiness = Aristotle “eudaimonia”, Augustine “truth given joy”, not stimulus driven, as opposed to 8 mundane concerns (p 4). Rather cultivate spirit of emergence to achieve optimal mental health, balance and spiritual freedom.
· And in what context are the teachings of this book presented?
Universally and timelessly, engaging no creed, the book explores an authentic path to inner fulfillment, human flourishing and the realization of our deepest nature, drawing from the greatest aspects of Buddhist contemplative practice: 1) shamatha or quiescence, 2) contemplative insight, 3) four immeasurables, 4) dream yoga and 5) dzogchen or the Great Perfection which identifies the deepest source of genuine happiness as primordial consciousness (yeshe), buddha nature or pristine awareness (rigpa)..
2. Part One: Refining the Attention (Shamatha)
Buddha: “One whose mind settles in equipoise comes to know reality as it really is.”
Shamatha develops and refines the instrument of the mind like a telescope for directly observing mental phenomena and mental awareness.
1. Mindfulness of Breathing – Quiescence with a Sign
· Buddha cited this practice as especially effective for highly discursive minds
· Control Method of focusing continuously upon the chosen neutral object of the breath without distraction, monitoring quality of attention with faculty of introspection
· Contemplative cultivation of attention is a deliberate, balanced, and sequential practice of ease or relaxation, coherent continuity or stability, and clarity or vividness, as opposed to habitual concentration involving contractual arousal followed by lax fatigue.
· Mindfulness in practice is remembering to remember the chosen object with bare attention, a simple witnessing mode of perception, without mental analysis, letting thoughts go as they arise
· Mindfulness in daily life weaves meditative composure into the fabric of life with the simplification and prioritization of desires. Critically examine one’s daily life and consciously allow hedonic well being to serve genuine well being, cultivating the mind to pristinely unveil itself as its own true source of happiness, joy and fulfillment.
· From the start of spiritual practice, cultivate the single motivation of bodhichitta: “May I realize perfect awakening for the benefit of all beings.”
2. Settling the Mind in its Natural State
Buddha referred to this practice as “unfastened mindfulness.” And Dudjom Lingpa referred to this as “taking the mind and appearances as the path.”
· This shamatha practice highlights vividness and the 6th domain of mental perception. Buddhism proposes 6 modes of observation, all equally and empirically real, whereas western science has marginalized introspection as less real. (p 29)
· The object of attention in this practice is the space of the mind and the contents of that space.
· Practice cultivates stability of subjective awareness and is subtler still than mindfulness of breathing, settling in the stillness of space while mindfully observing the movement of mental phenomena within that space.
· Resting in mode of passive observation, dispassionate presence, or “naked awareness” “without distraction and without grasping”, without intervention, preference, reification, or any cognitive fusion, as appearances and thoughts arise, simply letting them be, allowing them to pass, as mind settles in natural state or substrate, the relative ground state of the ordinary mind.
· Define habitual state versus natural state of mind. Working hypothesis of Buddhism is that ego is a habitual and delusive mental construct.
· This is a shamatha practice because it does not entail any investigation into the nature of the mind, but “it has the special advantage of leading to insight into the relative nature of consciousness.”
· What is the personal value of such practice? Pragmatic ideal that the truth shall make us free, and that this practice, where we can begin to probe the true nature of our minds, and the root causes for suffering and happiness, is the practice of genuine well-being.
· Meditation techniques need to practiced within the context of a supportive life style
Meditation Second Session: Settling the Mind in its Natural State foreground and background
Dedicate Merit with traditional Prayer of Dedication:
“Wherever the precious, supreme spirit of awakening, has not arisen, may it arise,
And where it has arisen, may it never decline, but grow stronger and stronger.”
May what we have studied and practiced here today be of benefit,
May we each realize the fulfillment of our most meaningful aspirations for our own sake and the sake of all sentient beings, and
May all beings be well and happy.
Suggested reading for next meeting of Saturday, August 7th , is review of pp 35-46, and note any questions for Part One, Refining the Attention.
You are invited to join the SBI Study Group for Weekly Meditation practice at Unity Church Sanctuary, 227 Arrellaga St, SB., every Monday, from 7-8:15 p.m.
First Meditation—Mindfulness of Breathing
1. Be physically comfortable, assume either seated or supine position, mindful that this is a formal posture for meditation. If seated, spine is straight, sternum slightly lifted, abdominal muscles relaxed and loose to enable an easy flow of breath. Especially relax the shoulders, the neck, face, and particularly soften the eyes, forehead is open and spacious, release the jaw, and allow the tongue to gently rest up against the upper palette.
2. Set the welcome mat of ease and letting go, and begin this practice by taking three slow deep breaths, inhaling through the nostrils, breathing deeply into the abdomen, then the diaphragm, and finally expanding the chest, and then releasing the breath completely. Enjoy this easy practice and gently soothe the field of the body with the breath like giving an internal massage as we settle the body in its natural state imbued with 3 characteristics of relaxation, stillness like a mountain, and vigilance of attention.
3. Invite you now for a few minutes to personally cultivate your motivation to practice, to contemplate what genuine happiness means to each of us, and to envision realizing such well being and flourishing for ourselves in our lifetimes, and for the mutual benefit of those near and dear to us, for those that are invisible but who support our daily lives, for those distinctive and difficult ones who challenge us, and then collectively for all beings.
4. And now, allow all aspirations and appearance to dissolve as we begin shamatha practice, taking the breath as our object and practice mindfulness of breathing beginning with the field of the body.
5. Let awareness be diffuse and permeate the field of the body, mindfully present throughout the body with a very quiet mind, letting the mind dissolve into present awareness, and letting awareness descend and settle at ease into the field of the body, this region of space in which tactile sensations of the different elements arise and pass.
6. Settle the respiration in its natural rhythm and be mindfully present in the moment here and now, clearly illuminating the sensations of the breath throughout the body.
7. Continue breathing naturally, effortlessly, egolessly if you will, releasing all control of the breath, and with each outbreath, let go of and release involuntary thoughts, like a nonstick teflon mind, immediately. Without trying to control or concentrate the mind, simply release the contraction of thinking with every outbreath and mindfully return to the silence of the space of the body and the sensations of the in/out breath.
8. With awareness resting in the simplicity of the quiet field of the body, gently attend to the sensations of the breath wherever they arise. Like watching waves roll in and out at the shoreline, just observe the natural ebb and flow of the breath, simply noting whether the breath is long or short, deep or shallow, while establishing a deep soothing relaxation, as if the body were fast asleep, yet the attention is mindfully vigilant.
9. Occasionally monitor the quality of attention, and see whether the attention has been carried away by thoughts or distractions, has fallen into excitation. If so, relax more deeply with each exhalation, and gently corral the attention once more to the breath here and now within the field of the body. If the attention becomes lax or dull, spaced out, arouse and refresh the attention with each inhalation.
10. Then, if you will, without visualizing the body, stabilize the attention and simply observe the sensations of the breath occurring at the rise and fall of the abdomen.
11. Stability of attention arises out of a synergy, a balance of releasing and relaxation, while maintaining a unified flow and coherence of attention in the present moment.
12. Finally, arousing the vividness and clarity of attention, observe the tactile sensations of the in and out breath at the apertures of the nostrils, or the upper lip, wherever you most clearly sense the passage of the in/out breath.
13. Now for a few moments, release the practice and let your awareness rest in its own place, simply illuminating its own nature…and as we dedicate the merit of our practice to the realization of our own well being and to the well being of others, and let’s bring the session to a close.
Second Session: Settling Mind in Natural State foreground and background
1. Once again resume shamatha practice with mindfulness of breathing however you wish, focusing on the field of the body, the abdomen or the nostrils, as we settle the body in its natural state, and the respiration in its natural rhythm, and re-establish a core sense of relaxation, stillness and vigilance of attention.
2. Settle and calm the mind in its natural state by counting a cycle of 21 breaths, if you wish, at the end of each outbreath, at the turn round point, just before the next inhalation, releasing the discursive mind and all involuntary thoughts with every exhalation.
3. Then let your eyes be at least partially open, resting your gaze vacantly in the space in front of you without focusing on any objects. Eyes are relaxed, (you may blink any time needed.)
4. With a core sense of ease, of letting go, of deep relaxation, let your body be still like a mountain, and now focus the attention on the space of the mind, where mental events—thoughts, emotions, desires, fantasies, memories, all mental images—spontaneously arise and fall, the domain of mental perception, apart from the other 5 sense fields. And in the mentally perceived, let there be just the mentally perceived.
5. Be vividly attentive and with great interest simply observe what’s taking place in the space of the mind without controlling, without grasping and without distraction, without reification, without the cognitive fusion of I and mine. Just let it all be….
6. Be totally present with whatever arises in the space of the mind, with bare attention, each moment fresh, not engaging any event, releasing control, judgment, preference. See how egoless you can be, no overlays, and mindfully witness the appearances of the mind arise and fade back into the space of the mind. These appearances, thoughts and images are all configurations/formations of that space.
7. If you fall into excitation and get carried away by any mental event, note
it with introspection, the faculty which monitors the quality of attention, lower the gaze a bit, release the grasping and relax more deeply. Become spacious. If you become lax and take a dive into dullness, again, note it with introspection, slightly raise the gaze and arouse the attention.
8. Immediately without distraction, resume mindfully observing the space of the mind, just watching events arise, unravel and play themselves out, and dissolving back into space again. Allow stability to arise in the subjective awareness of events as we metaphorically hover and kite like a bird into the wind and movement of the mind.
9. Attending closely, note how there appears to be a foreground of events occurring, players appearing on a stage, displaying and acting out and then off stage again. Also note a background space, so to speak, the stage if you will, in which appearances arise and fall.
10. Now rest more deeply into this background space, the intervals, the gap that opens between mental events and be like the sky, spacious and free, as you settle the mind in its natural state--luminous, empty, non-conceptual, even blissful….
11. For a few moments now, release the practice and allow awareness to just rest in its own place, simply being aware of awareness itself, of knowing you are aware and conscious, with awareness illuminating its own nature …
12. And as we bring this session to a close, let us individually dedicate the merit, the spiritual benefit, of our practice for our own genuine happiness as well as all sentient beings vulnerable to suffering.