Brian’s Retreat Review

by Peter Carlson on August 5, 2017

As is our custom, one of the sangha members, Brian Tamm, talked about two recent retreat experiences: a 10 day retreat in the manner taught be S. N. Goenka, followed by a weekend retreat in the Korean Zen tradition.  He described the daily practice schedules followed during the first retreat, emphasizing the technical teachings of what Goenka called “vedanupassana”, mindfulness of feelings, the second of the four foundations of mindfulness.  The retreat provided several days of intensive focus of attention on the sensation of breathing at the rim of the nostrils or the upper lip to cultivate a stability of concentration, followed by several days of repeatedly, systematically moving investigative attention from one small area of focus to another over the entire surface of the body.  The goal of the practice is to develop the ability to focus on subtle vibrations that occur naturally throughout the body, eventually with the ability to notice the vibrations wholly throughout the body.  This practice cultivates one of the seven awakening factors, investigation of mental phenomena.  The intention of the practice is to notice the impermanence of experience along with the changing nature of self-state organizations that occur within the context of bodily experience; this practice is called vipassana, or insight into the impermanent nature of reality, dissolving the illusion of a separate, enduring self.  The Zen retreat was more formal and ritualized in practice, with emphasis placed on the shared experience of the participants, combined with in-depth contemplation of kong-ons (koans) to further insight into the impersonal nature of reality.

Next week’s discussion will involve a presentation on lovingkindness as a Parami, that is, a quality of intention that is perfected during the process of awakening.  The talk will be presented by Mike Maldonado.

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