Phase Two: Establishing the Practice in Your Experience

Week 3: The Nature and Experience of Embodiment
Look more experientially into the reality and significance of the physical body (kāya)

The study is again on sections 4-9 of the sutta, using Living with Awareness Chapters 5, 6 and 7, looking deeply at your relationship with, and attitudes to, the body and the natural environment.

Preparation

Bearing in mind the sections on ‘the body in action’, i.e. body posture and body activity, see what effect mindfulness has on these areas of your experience.

Take some extra time to read thoroughly Living with Awareness Chapters 5: ‘Looking’, 6: ‘Getting Down to the Essentials’ and 7: ‘Dying’. Reflect on whatever this stimulates for you and consider the questions listed in the discussion section below.


Action

Read together sections 4-9 of the sutta once again.

Study the experience of body using Living with Awareness Chapters 5, 6 and 7.

Check in from last week:
How are you managing to apply mindfulness in everyday life?
Did the practice reveal any indication of dividedness, distraction, alienation or emotional displacement?
Have you noticed any signs that your awareness of others has altered or improved?

Reflect using Living with Awareness Chapters 5: ‘Looking’and 7: ‘Dying’:
Sangharakshita says (p.48) that the aim of mindfulness of the body’s anatomy is to counteract craving by cultivating a sense that the human body is revolting. Could this be a potentially creative approach for us, if a surprising one?
Consider how to square this approach with problems one may anticipate, for example:
The common tendency to nihilism, negativity and depression (p.54 & Anālayo p.149 [monks’ suicide]).
The ethical consequences of reducing others to bags of impurity (p.53).
Consider how this reflection could be carried out within an appreciation of the human body’s great preciousness (p.54).

Reflect on your own sexual desire, to what extent do you think it obscures your ability to see someone as an individual (p.49)? Is relating sexually always compatible only with crude states of mind (p.52) and incompatible with higher states of awareness?
Sangharakshita clarifies (p.68) that the corpse reflections are not intended to engender revulsion but a sober awareness of the inherent impermanence of the body. How does the difference strike you?

Reflect on the four elements using Living with Awareness Chapter 6: ‘Getting Down to Essentials.’
What effects do you notice when you think about yourself and the world in a more ‘elemental’ way?
Do you experience the elements directly or are they just concepts?
In what sense are the elements ‘borrowed’ during life? In what sense can they be ‘let go’? Who lets go of what?

Meditate – mindfulness of breathing focusing on parts of the body and experience of the elements, plus walking meditation incorporating some of these aspects of body awareness.

Ritual
The suggested focus this week is Ratnasambhava, the Buddha associated with the earth element and with the beauty of awareness.