Browsing Category "Practice"
20 Jun
2017
Posted in: Practice
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Everything Changes

I’m not sure when I’ll be posting again. Maybe next week. Maybe not.

I’ve just made plans to drive to Wisconsin after the retreat Lila will be leading this weekend because my mom’s dementia has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, and I need to take over from my sister, who’s there with her now, but needs to get back to her job in St. Louis.

It could be that mom is just having a harder time than normal adjusting to the move from St. Louis to Ellison Bay (she and my dad go there every summer). Or it could be something worse. We’ll just have to see.

Whatever it is, it will change. That is for sure.

***

The photo is of my mom that my dad keeps on his desk. I think it’s her high school graduation photo. They got married not long after that. The photo behind the photo is also of my mom, this time holding my little sister, with me looking on. And in the lower corner of that photo, there’s a cut-out from a snapshot of my brother and me, at my college graduation, with my mom in the background looking on.

Everything changes.

Everything.

9 Jun
2017
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on It Shouldn’t Be, But It Is

It Shouldn’t Be, But It Is

I’m not sure why, but I feel drawn today to post this passage from Parami: Ways to Cross Life’s Floods, by Ajahn Sucitto:

“The Buddha famously declared patience to be the supreme purification practice. He was playing on the Vedic term ‘tapas,’ which signifies the taking on of an austerity or ascetic practice such as fasting or mortifying the body in order to cleanse the mind of passions and attachments. But the Buddha pointed not to physical asceticism — which he frequently spoke against — but of the restraint of holding the heart still in the presence of its suffering until it lets go of the ways in which it creates that suffering….

“Patience is not a numbing resignation to the difficulties of life; it doesn’t mean that suffering is all right. It doesn’t mean shrugging things off and not looking to improve our behavior. Nor does it mean putting up with something until it goes away. 

The practice of patience means bearing with dukkah [suffering] without the expectation that it will go away. In its perfection, patience means giving up any kind of deadline, so the mind is serene and equanimous. But if the patience isn’t pure yet (and it takes time to develop patience!), the mind still feels pushy or defensive.

“Impure patience is the attitude: ‘Just hold on and eventually things will get better; I’ll get my own way in the end if I’m patient enough.’ This approach can temporarily block or blunt the edge of suffering, but it doesn’t deal with the resistance or the desire that is suffering’s root.

“Pure patience is the kind of acceptance that acknowledges the presence of something without adding anything to it or covering it up. It is supported by the insight that when one’s mind stops fidgeting, whining and blaming, then suffering can be understood. It is this suffering that stirs up hatred and greed and despair, and it is through practicing the Dhamma, or Way, of liberation that its energy and emotional current can be stopped. Reactivity isn’t the truth of the mind; it’s a conditioned reflex, and it’s not self. Because of that, suffering can be undone, and when it is, the mind is free….

“One year, I decided to not allow my mind to complain about anyone or anything. I was at Amaravati then, which was busy and there was a large community of people of many nationalities, with different languages and from different cultures. So in the general confusion and dysfunction of it all, my longing for simplicity and stability was sorely challenged, and I could get quite irritable. I kept most of it to myself, but still my mind was discontented. Hence the resolution…

“So instead I had to watch the irritation. Just putting up with it didn’t really take me across. I could put up with things and become a patronizing old grump who puts up with things.

“But instead, as the practice of patience deepened, it took me to that point in the mind where I could feel the chafing, the tension, the disappointment — and the wanting to get away from it. At the point, where there was no excuse and no alternative, there was also no condemnation. After all, no one like suffering. And we’re all in this together — wanting peace and harmony, but disappointing and irritating each other nonetheless….

“And from there, my mind began to open into love and compassion for all of us. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is — and we have to support each other. I could realize, ‘There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re my patience teachers, they’re helping me to cross over the flood by getting me to jettison my demands, impatience and narrow-mindedness.’…

“This is the perfection of patience: it can make one’s life a vehicle for blessing.”

8 Jun
2017
Posted in: Classes, Practice
By    Comments Off on Mindfulness 101: Summer Session

Mindfulness 101: Summer Session

I am delighted to announce that, due to popular demand, there will be a July Session of the short course on Mindfulness Meditation that I will be offering in September. The scope of both courses will be the same, but you are welcome to attend both if you’d like — which is actually an excellent idea, since starting over is a big part of the practice!

This is an introductory course suitable for beginners or for anyone who’d like personalized guidance in the basic instructions for mindfulness meditation.

Schedule:
Sunday, July 16: Mindfulness of Body
Sunday, July 23: Mindfulness of Breathing
Sunday, July 30: Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions

Place:
Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112
Time:
2:00 to 3:00 pm

The course will be offered on a donation basis. It’s best to attend all three sessions, but it’s also OK to drop in for just one or two.

If you plan to attend, please email Jan here.

5 Jun
2017
Posted in: Activism, Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on That Place is Within Ourselves

That Place is Within Ourselves

In The Words & Wisdom of Charles Johnson (2011)this amazing novelist, philosopher, teacher, illustrator, award winner, and sanscrit scholar (!) writes:

“Our era looks eerily (to me) like the time of Petronius, author of the Satyricon, at the end of the Roman empire. A time of late cultural decadence, confusion, and incoherence. So many people are scarred and scared, stressed and depressed, angry and willful.

“Given that fact, we need a place for spiritual renewal and healing. That place is within ourselves. It is always available to us. We need not look outside ourselves in order to achieve happiness and freedom from suffering. As it says in the Digha Nikaya:

“You should be an island to yourself, a refuge to yourself, not dependent on any other but taking refuge in the truth and none other than the truth. And how do you become an island and a refuge to yourself? In this way: You see and contemplate your body as composed of all the forces of the universe. Ardently and mindfully, you steer your body-self by restraining your discontent with the world about you. In the same way, observe and contemplate your feelings and use that same ardent restraint and self-possession against enslavement by greed or desire. By seeing attachment to your body and feelings as blocking the truth, you dwell in self-possession and ardent liberation from those ties. This is how you live as an island to yourself and a refuge in the truth–that one will come out of the darkness and into the light.”

31 May
2017
Posted in: Practice, Study
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What I’m Cooking Up

Now that I’ve completed the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program, I’m thinking about offering a short introductory course: Mindfulness 101, suitable for beginners or for anyone who’d like a little more guidance on the basic instructions for mindfulness meditation.

The course will consist of three sessions, held once a week, for one hour each.
Session 1: Mindfulness of Body
Session 2: Mindfulness of Breathing
Session 3: Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions 

The course will be offered on a donation basis. It’s best if folks could attend all three sessions, but I’d be OK if someone wanted to drop in for just one or two.

I’ve already reserved space for us to meet in the fall:

Place: Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112
Dates: Sunday, Sept 10, 17, and 24
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 pm

If you (or someone you know) would be interested in getting started sooner, please email me here and I’ll see what I can do.

I’ll be sending more info as the time gets nearer. If you want to make sure you’re notified, send me an email.

In the mean time, spread the word!

26 May
2017
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on I Did Answer Yes

I Did Answer Yes

I don’t know Who –or What– put the question.
I don’t know when it was put.
I don’t even remember answering.

But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone –or Something– and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

— Dag Hammarskjold

18 May
2017
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Not Always Sunny

Not Always Sunny

A friends recently sent me an excellent article on mindfulness — in the Harvard Business Review, no less! — with the provocative title: If Mindfulness Makes You Uncomfortable, It’s Working.

Here’s a sample:
“I recently had a conversation with a client named Claire, who shared that her company had been touting the benefits of mindfulness, and she was giving mindfulness a try with a meditation app. But she was frustrated that it wasn’t helping her feel more relaxed — instead, she was actually a bit more agitated of late. While the situation was clearly a source of consternation for Claire, it didn’t mean the meditation app wasn’t working.

“Now that mindfulness has hit the mainstream, it’s been defined in a variety of ways: moment-to-moment awareness, being in the here and now, relaxing fully into the present. And somewhere along the way we’ve come to equate mindfulness with ‘good feeling’ emotions such as joy, relaxation, and happiness.

“While mindfulness can lead us to experience the good things in life more fully, this only tells half of the mindfulness story. In fact, becoming truly mindful and aware means that we are able to see, name, and more fully experience things when we are angry, sad, jealous, anxious, vulnerable, or lonely — this, too, is mindfulness.

“Therefore, we have to redefine mindfulness as more than feeling good, and instead see it as having an increased capacity to sit with the full spectrum of being human, experiencing it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and learning to be less reactive so that we can make better choices every day

“Mindfulness is not all gloom and doom, nor is it all sunshine and flowers. With mindfulness, we are just a little less tossed around by running away from or crushing what feels bad. We’re less compelled to indulge in our desires and excesses for what gives us a temporary high. Instead, we see with greater clarity just how blue the sky is on a beautiful day and we see and feel the depths of our hearts being pierced when we’re experiencing a meaningful loss. And somewhere in that fuller human experience, we connect and tap into a deeper source of motivation and choice that is more aligned with our integrity, our values and ethics, and our authentic essence.”

Exactly!!!

Click here for the full text.

9 May
2017
Posted in: Activism, Practice
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Five Beautiful Ways

It will be my turn to lead the group at our Sangha next Sunday and I think I’ll talk about the Five Precepts (Buddhist training practices in ethical conduct).

Not always a crowd-pleaser, I’ll admit.

But I was very moved by hearing (and taking) a new version of the precepts — called the Five Householder Precepts — which DaRa Williams led us in at the close of the two-month retreat at Spirit Rock last March.

The precepts sound a little dry when we call them “trainings in ethical conduct.” I prefer “beautiful ways of being in the world.”

Here’s the traditional version:
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants that lead to carelessness.

Here’s the Householder version (as worded by Manzanita Village):
1. Aware of the violence in the world and of the power of non-violent resistance, I stand in the presence of ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the compassion that seeks to protect each living being.
2. Aware of the poverty and greed in the world and of the intrinsic abundance of the earth, I stand in the presence of ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the simplicity, gratitude and generosity that have no limits.
3. Aware of the abuse and lovelessness in the world and of the healing that is made possible when we open to love, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate respect for beauty and the erotic power of our bodies.
4. Aware of the falsehood and deception in the world and of the power of living and speaking the truth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the ability to listen, and to practice clarity and integrity in all that I communicate — by my words and my actions.
5. Aware of the contamination and desecration of the world and of my responsibility for life as it manifests through me, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate care and right action, and to honor and respect health and well-being for my body, my mind, and the planet.

6 Apr
2017
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on How Wonderful!

How Wonderful!

What else did I learn on retreat? I learned to practice Mudita (delighting in the joy and happiness of others) using this great phrase from Sri Lanka in the 18th century:

How wonderful you are in your being!

I’d say it (in silence, of course) every time I’d see someone in the hall snuggled up in their shawl or blanket. Or I’d look around the dining hall, or on the walking paths, and see how kind we were all being to each other, how patient and how considerate, and I thought how good it was to be dong what we were doing, how beautiful, and how extraordinary.

It made me so happy!

2 Jan
2017
Posted in: Practice
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Dear Self

 

I’ve just finished writing a letter to myself, to be opened next January 1st. It’s a ritual I’ve been doing every New Year since 1977. That’s 40 years of me writing to myself, the self I imagine will be interested in reading what the current self — which immediately becomes another past self — is interested in saying. Which is kind of touching, in a way, on the part of the past self, to want to be heard from in the future. And kind of sweet, too, on the part of the current self, to be open and listening.

Isn’t that always what’s needed?

May we all listen — to ourselves and to each other — with care and attention. And may we all be heard.

Wouldn’t that be a Happy New Year!