We explore the first two of the traditional Tibetan "mind-turning" reflections on the preciousness of human life , and on impermanence and death, with suggestions on how to practice these reflections and how this may quicken and deepen our practice.
We examine the twin tracks of transformation - (1) going into what is difficult, into our suffering and wounds; and (2) cultivating awakened states. We explore the resources of (1) wisdom, through examining the the Four Truths and the arrows; (2) mindfulness as a central tool leading to wisdom; and (3) heart practices such as lovingkindness - all with an eye to their roles in helping us to transform distress.
We build from last week's identification of four broad ways of deepening formal practice: 1) developing simplicity, focus and a sense of clear priorities in one's life; 2) developing a strong support structure in various ways; 3) cultivating, in practice, qualities like mindfulness, metta, wisdom etc.; 4) developing a wise and compassionate sense of the path. We explore what these also mean in two other domains- everyday life (work relationships, family, community, the flow of our days); and our service and action in the larger world.
Through reflection on just having taught a month-long retreat and several poems, we explore a number of ways to deepen our formal meditation practice through simplicity, focus, building a strong "container", developing mindfulness and lovingkindness in relation to what happens, and increased invocation of the "wise parent" (or grandparent...aka "discipline").
Heart practices and wisdom practices can appear to speak different languages and have different aims; for example, lovingkindness wishes well whereas equanimity says, "no matter what I wish for, things are as they are." We explore how the heart and wisdom connect through exploring (1) lovingkindness, (2) equanimity, and (3) how the two inform each other and are integrated.
We explore how "knowledge and vision of things as they are," supported by concentration and earlier factors, brings us insight into impermanence, suffering and the roots of suffering, and not-self. We examine some of the forces and structure that lead to delusion and a lack of clear seeing, as well as how to practice to cultivate these insights.
Delight (or joy or gladness, pamojja) is the second factor that emerges as we shift away from repetitive cycles of suffering. We explore how delight manifests as delight in practice, in our integrity, the "bliss of blamelessness," and in other ways. We also look at how to cultivate delight, how delight or joy support the deepening of our practice, and what makes delight difficult to access.
Mindfulness of the body is absolutely fundamental for our practice and was for the Buddha, both a starting point and an end point. We explore (1) why mindfulness of the body is crucial both in the Buddha's teaching and especially in our highly mental culture; (2) how we practice mindfulness of breathing and mindfulness of postures and activities; and (3) how mindfulness of the body works to transform us.
We review briefly our previous practices and investigations of body practices in the last three weeks. We then focus on the body's connection with mind and heart, how we practice individually with each of them, how we explore the dynamic relationship of body, mind, heart. We end by focusing on heart practices for our bodies and those of others, and on opening to the further mysteries of bodies.
After a brief review of the first two series, we focus on body practices to develop insight into 1) impermanence, 2) suffering and the roots of suffering, and 3)constructions of self. We suggest several concrete practices to develop wisdom through awareness of bodily experience.