Buddhism and Meditation

Life With Full Attention – Week 8

image: from American PBS


Last week we met to practice some meditation and bring to a conclusion the course: Life with Full Attention. In this concluding session we looked at awareness of reality itself and ways in which we could engage and reflect upon our experience of life.

Here are our notes from the meeting:

Mindfulness of Reality (Insight)

What we really need is insight. Insight into reality is more than just a glimpse; it is a shattering confrontation. What is shattered is our fixed sense of self. If visionary experiences modify the self, insight transforms it: we are never the same again.


This is the point at which mindfulness and positive emotion (secular Buddhism?) dovetail with traditional Buddhism.

The Nature of Reality – “All things are preceded by mind, shaped by mind, led by mind” The Dhammapada.


Buddhism affirms a wholly new way of perceiving – completely different from everyday mind – it goes beyond “me” altogether.


Transcendent Momentsvisionary experiences. Small glimpses of reality – can be experienced by anyone at any time. Characterised by increased perspective, heightened significance and a wordless sense of meaning.

Resolve contradictions and unify opposites. Can be a source of inspiration and a catalyst for change. Can boost our confidence in the path or can be quickly forgotten. Can also become a fixation (try to repeat it) or a hindrance – another ego trip.


Insight – more than just a glimpse. A new dimension of consciousness. Breaking the habit of “me”.  A decisive move away from self-orientation towards reality-orientation. Goes beyond mere intellectual understanding. Bigger than us. Marked by lightness and joy.


The Path and the Goal – Buddhism is aimed at Insight. At some point this becomes an irreversible process, until then it is two steps forward, one step back! After Insight, progress is guaranteed, but effort is still required, although the nature of effort has changed it is playful and spontaneous. We become the Path.

Impermanence – the basic teaching of Buddhism

Pragmatically – things will end – a wake up call

Metaphysically – things are constantly arising and ceasing at the same time. A subtle and profound view, not fully comprehended before Insight.


With Insight we can see that both pleasant and unpleasant experience both arise and cease upon conditions. We reach a state of equanimity where we are no longer struggling against life.


Avoid Pessimism – when reflecting on impermanence it is easy to get side tracked into only seeing loss. Remember that Impermanence also means personal growth and positive change. Optimism is also a one sided view, but more useful in practice. Do not underestimate the power of positive emotion (Metta).


Factors for Cultivating Insight


Clarity – studying and understanding the teachings, reflecting searchingly and being prepared to look at our views honestly. Holding the mirror to our face.

Integration – becoming more rounded and self-aware. Bringing together opposing aspects of our psyche.


Sustained Concentration/Absorption – deeper experience through deeper concentration, un-distracted attention. The path of meditation.


Positive Emotion – broadens and expands perspective. Absorption is not possible without positive emotion. Reflections will tend towards one-sidedness if not in a positive state.


Faith/Confident Trust – faith in both living & historic practitioners/teachers, cultivate confidence in the practices by observing the effect in our own minds & lives, confidence in ourselves – we are no different from other practitioners. Intuition – there is more to life than meets the eye.


Single Minded Dedication – the culmination of all the above factors. A strong desire to put our aspirations into practice  – for own sake and the benefit of others.


This Weeks Practices


Reflection – pick a phrase that works for you  “this too will cease”, “all things change” etc.


in daily life, on bus or with a cup of tea, sitting in the garden – bring the phrase to mind again and again – like a music lyric. Turn it over, examine it, test it in your own experience – circle around it like a bird.


in meditation – get settled and concentrated, then drop it in like a stone in a well, let it sink deep, don’t consciously try to think about it, just let it sink in. Repeat.


The Mindful Walk – establish mindfulness then notice arising and ceasing – internal and external, thoughts, sensations, noises and so on. You could try labelling “arising”, “ceasing” or just being with the experience directly in the moment.


The Mindful Moment  – be in the body, establish the 4 spheres of mindfulness as previously. Look at them in terms of impermanence.


Meditation – try to find time for both Mindfulness and Metta practices (perhaps alternate), sit for slightly longer if you can (maybe increase by just 5 mins).


Remember to be grounded in the sensations of body


Notice mind & emotions – cultivate the positive


Embrace the nature of your experience – painful, pleasant or neutral


Notice and experience change – try to be conscious of change in the breath, in the body and in thoughts and emotions – all arising and passing. Relax into the experience of the ephemeral.


Maintain your journal and contact your meditation buddy