April 20, 2011

Notes on Interest dharma talk on April 17

For those of you who couldn't attend last Friday, or want to review what was covered, here is a cleaned-up version of my notes:

Part of the difficulty many of us have staying aware of the breath is a lack of Interest.  This is an aspect of Vicaya, the third Factor of Awakening.  Interest is what engages us with any activity.  It's energizing in a heart-opening way. 

There are several techniques for arousing interest in the breath, including: 
    • notice characteristics of each breath,  whether it's long, deep, fast, etc.
    • notice the pause between breaths
    • remember how vital breathing is;  maybe imagine being underwater breathing through a straw
    • look for the subtle pleasure in breathing (sometimes not so subtle)
There's one commonly used device that's quite unskillful:  using the ego, as when we scold ourselves when attention strays.

Another aspect of Vicaya is Investigation, which includes what's often called "Divine Investigation," of the dharma.
            We do this while sitting by looking into the experience of the body, mind, heart – especially the body
Buddha said all the dharma can be found in this fathom-long body.

A key use of Investigation is in the 4 Wise Efforts, to encourage states of mind that lead to freedom and discourage those that lead to suffering.   
How do we know what causes suffering?  We feel it.  In the body.  This is important because the mind can tell us  old habits are good when they actually make us suffer.

We can practice seeing the effects of thoughts & emotions in the body, both in sitting practice and in life.  The best way to start is to look closely at how the body feels when we have thoughts that have an impact on us.

Reminder:  this is not just watching the breath; it's using wisdom to direct attention usefully.

In Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, Jack Kornfield said:
            "The power of investigation increases with the depth of our practice.  We can investigate & actually explore all the elements that make up this body & mind…  We can discover our deepest fears and places of identification and clinging, and we can see their patterns of operation in our life…  Maturity in practice will have us investigating… all aspects of our lives."

Remember the acronym RAIN.  Before real investigation must come Recognition of mind states, and the Acceptance  to observe openly & honestly.
            For Investigation to be true & useful, we must also Not take what we observe personally, or think of it as I, me or mine.

A final caveat from Jack Kornfield:  Investigation must include a balance of faith and wisdom.  Avoid intellectualization (talking to yourself) or blind faith . 
            "What is necessary is a faith or confidence in the possibility of awakening and the investigation to see how it actually can be done – a commitment to our own direct understanding."

Hope this is helpful and interesting!


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