2021-02-01 Mindfulness of Breathing (22) Mind-Body Gladdening
4:59PM Feb 1, 2021
So last week for ānāpānasati I talked about steps 5 and 6. Step 5 is "Breathing in experiencing joy, breathing out experiencing joy." And step 6 is "Breathing in experiencing happiness, breathing out experiencing happiness." The movement from joy to happiness is a move towards tranquility – the mind, the body becoming more tranquil – where the joy factor is a little more energetic. The happiness quality is more settled, more peaceful, tranquil sense of well-being.
The movement from something that's a little more energetic to this more tranquil characterizes the whole process of deepening meditation in Buddhism. We're going from coarser states to more refined, subtler states of being. We're going from more active ways of engaging. As the mind settles down, we're moving towards clarity, alertness and peacefulness, where the mind becomes less active, more peaceful, softer. So the quieting of the mind, quieting the activity, settling and settling is the movement we're going here. That's the principle of going from coarse to refined or more active to more tranquil states.
Tranquil doesn't mean that we go asleep or that we become dull. The movement is to a tranquility that's quite alert and has a lot of clarity to it. But there's less activity. It's a fascinating process to see this. And one of the things we start seeing is this relationship between the mind and the body.
So the first tetrad – steps 1 through 4 – are about the body. But it's not the physical body in and of itself. It's more the body that we experience, where the experience is very much influenced by what's going on in the mind. There's a reciprocal relationship. As the body settles down, we get more focused on the body and it relaxes more – the fourth step is to relax the body – that also has a relaxing effect on the mind and other beneficial effects on the mind. It's reassuring for the mind, brings a sense of safety to the mind, peacefulness to the mind, settledness, focus to the mind. It's easier to be in the present moment.
Then we go into the second tetrad with steps 5, 6, 7, and 8. Now we're beginning to enter into the world of the mind, which is not separated from the body. These two are interlinked. We're moving into the area of the mind. The qualities of joy and happiness are a bridge between this, because the joy and happiness are felt in an embodied way. But it's very much influenced by the concentration level of the mind, the focus of the mind, the peacefulness of the mind. Then there's a reciprocal relationship. As more joy and happiness course through the body, then that reassures the mind more. And a reassured mind will feel like it doesn't need to think so much and ruminate so much, and can get quieter.
So this bridge with joy and happiness between the body and the mind is really worth lingering with and developing. I know it's a little hard oftentimes to feel joy and happiness on short notice, and just will it up like that. But even if you don't feel this in this section of the practice, then maybe just imagine it. Or not imagine you're having it, but develop an intuitive sense of it, or learn these teachings. Sooner or later hopefully you'll recognize a little bit this meditative, embodied joy, happiness, well-being, which can happen as we as we practice.
Some people are surprised or delighted that they're given permission to feel pleasure in meditation, permission to feel joy and happiness. Definitely this is really considered to be a very important foundation for moving forward.
In many, many places in the suttas, the Buddha actually describes a process of deepening practice, which is called the Gladness Sequence or the Gladness Pentad because there are five steps. These are acquiring gladness in meditation. The description is very intransitive or passive. We're not doing the next steps. They just flow. As one becomes mature, it flows into the next. We do our practice, and the practice begins practicing us. Something begins shifting and changing, and we don't have to be so responsible, except to be really present for the experience.
So with gladness, there arises joy. With joy when it's mature, there arises tranquility of the body. With tranquility of the body, there arises happiness. With maturity of happiness, there arises concentration, unification – being really unified and sitting and feeling really whole, here in the present moment. This wonderful pattern, the gladness sequence – gladness, joy, tranquility, happiness, and concentration, samādhi.
Now what's interesting, and what I want to emphasize today, is the first step is feeling a sense of gladness. The gladness comes from being inspired by something. The Buddha really understands the value of becoming inspired, being gladdened, and being delighted by some aspects of what's happening in our practice or in our lives. That certain kind of gladness that we don't get lost in our thoughts and stories and imagining over and over again what happened. But we use our imagination just enough to have gladness begin settling us into the present moment more and more, settling us into the body.
This use of the imagination to help us to not make us go wandering away. But using the imagination to allow us to be inspired is one of the supports for meditation practice. And that inspiration can be not forced, not imaginary, not an avoidance of the present moment, but really a support for connecting in a deeper way, in an honest way with what's really happening in our lives – what's really present – is one of the great benefits of Dharma practice. To be able to be present even for difficult things with some form of well-being, some form of sometimes joy, delight, gladness that holds it all. Not to be removed from the challenges and suffering of life, but to really, in some sense, be receptive to it in a really deep way, and not be a victim of it, not be oppressed by it. But to have compassion and love as a possible response.
What I'd like to do for the next couple of days – and we'll see how far we go – is talk a little bit more about the Buddha's emphasis or use of imagination, focus on teachings on imagination, both as what gets in our way for meditation, interferes with it, but also the ways in which it supports meditation. This seems like a very nice bridge between the mind and the body. In this part, we're talking about joy and happiness. Because this imagination has very much to do with the happiness and joy qualities, and how to evoke joy and happiness, gladness with what inspires us by thinking about it or something.
That's the topic and hopefully you'll get a sense as we go through these teachings how it's useful in connecting you to these steps 5 and 6 – joy and happiness. It creates a very good foundation for the continued settling, becoming more tranquil – the mind becoming more peaceful. It's a preparation for that, so we can look start looking more deeply at the mind itself – and quieting, settling, pacifying the mind, so that it becomes an instrument of awakening.
That's the introduction for this week, and I look forward to our time tomorrow. I'm delighted to share this time with you. Thank you.