Browsing Category "Practice"
22 Aug
2019
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I Take Heart…

A couple of weeks ago at Sunday Sangha I talked about how, in addition to chanting the Pali text, I use my own words to express what I mean when I recite the 5 Precepts — the classic practice of training to refrain from ethical misconduct. (My phrases are at the end of this post.)

I didn’t mention this on Sunday, but I also use my own words when doing another classic Buddhist practice — the formal Taking of Refuges, which is usually translated in English as:

To the Buddha, I go for refuge.
To the Dhamma, I go for refuge.
To the Sangha, I go for refuge.

I often recite the refuges in this way, as well chant them in the original Pali. But I also add my own way of expressing this intention, which is:

I take heart in the human capacity to Awaken.
I take heart in the Nature of the way things are.
I take heart in the Company of all those who are Awakening.

These are a little out of the ordinary, but this is the sense of the phrases that means the most to me. Which is important, because I’m serious about what I’m doing. I need to say what I really mean because I fully intend to live by what I say.

***

In case you missed my Sunday talk, here are the 5 Precepts — in my own words — which I recite every morning (along with the 3 Refuges above):

* For my own peace of mind and for the peace of others, may I practice compassion by not intentionally killing or harming any living creature.
* For my own contentment and for the contentment of others, may I practice generosity by not taking that which is not freely given.
* For my own well-being and for the well-being of others, may I practice loving-kindness by not engaging in sexuality that is harmful.
* For my own happiness and for the happiness of others, may I practice honesty and goodwill by not speaking in ways that are false, harsh, divisive, or mindless.
* For my own safety and for the safety of others, may I practice restraint by not clouding my mind with intoxicants.

***

21 Aug
2019
Posted in: Practice, Teachers
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Meditate with Mirabai!

Last week Mirabai Bush led a really beautiful on-line guided meditation (only 17 minutes long) for a Facebook “Mindful Women Meditate” event, in which 3,000 people participated — including me!

Anyone who’s spent any time at all around me (in person, or on this blog), already knows that being introduced to meditation by Mirabai totally opened my heart — an experience that I have come to understand and appreciate more and more over the years. (I know I’m not alone in having had this wide-heart-opening with Mirabai. The moderator of the Facebook session calls her the “Mother of Mindfulness.”)

If you’d like a sense of what meditating with Mirabai can be like, come join her in that big, big room she talks about in this guided meditation — now posted on YouTube. (click here.)

Relax. Breath. Enjoy.

(The photo above is of Mirabai with Ram Dass at one of their annual Open Your Heart in Paradise retreats.)

9 Aug
2019
Posted in: Books, Practice
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They Are Kissing.

An untrained mind obscures the natural qualities of heart. As the mind becomes more clear and the heart lets loose of the constrictions created by the roughness of life, awareness can flow without judgement.

This does not mean without discernment. Discernment leads to wisdom. Awareness is the essence of discernment, but it does not reject anything.

Judgement leads to separation. Comparing leads to separation. But discernment includes everything.

A well-trained mind, collected and unified, sees the dance of opposites. The heart blossoms and the opposites unite.

The moon and sun: Kiss.

This is within you. Your sun. Your moon.

You are what you want.

***

(adapted from Awakening through the Nine Bodies, by Phillip Moffitt)

6 Aug
2019
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There’s This

My mom turns 90 this month.

There’s stuff going on with her health that needs my attention, so probably for the next week or so I won’t be posting as often as I’d like.

Old age is hard.

Practice helps.

It’s still hard.
But there are gifts.

2 Aug
2019
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Postcard from Mirabai!

Mirabai sent me this photo of herself awhile back. I keep a copy on my desk because I love her. And because it makes me happy just to see her. Even in a photo!

Today she sent me this e-mail:

I’m leading a short meditation to bring women together in a contemplative on-line space on August 8 (next Thursday) at 2 pm St. Louis time. If you can, please join us.

We are exploring what it means to be mindful (and spirit-ful) women together. There’ll be a short discussion after the meditation. Many great women are in the initial group. Check it out here. It’s free (as it should be!)

Love,
Mirabai

***

This invitation is not just for me. It’s for any woman (self identified) who’s interested in mindfulness meditation. I will definitely be on the call. Hope you will too!

1 Aug
2019
Posted in: Art, Practice
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Breathe.

(Illustration/text by Maira Kalman, who sat a 3-day silent retreat at IMS in 2013 and then drew/wrote about the experience for Mindful magazine.)

9 Jul
2019
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If We Pay Attention

Now that I’m back home, I’ve starting writing again in my “Goodwill” journal where, since this is my Year of Getting to Know Goodwill, I make note of whatever acts of kindness, friendliness, generosity, etc. that I notice during the day — whether done for me, or by me, or between other people.)

So in that spirit, for today’s post I offer this entry from The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay:

“Something I’ve noticed riding on Amtrak trains, like the one I’m on right now between Syracuse and Manhattan, is that people leave their bags unattended for extended periods of time. Maybe they go to the end of the car to use the bathroom, or sometimes they go to the far end of the train to the cafe, which smells vomity like microwave cheese. My neighbor on this train — across the aisle and one row up — disappeared for a good twenty minutes, her bag wide open, a computer peeking out, not that I was checking. She is not unusual in this flaunting of security, otherwise know as trust, on the train. Nearly everyone participates in this practice of trust, and without recruiting a neighbor across the aisle to ‘keep an eye on my stuff while I use the restroom,’ which seems to be a coffee shop phenomenon. Trusting one’s coffee shop neighbor, but not the people in line, et cetera.

“I suppose, given the snugness of a train, especially if it’s full, one might speculate there’s a kind of eyes-on-the-street-ness at play, although it seemed to me, this morning, when I was first leaving my valuables on my seat for pilfering, my laptop and cellphone glittering atop my sweatshirt and scarf, most everyone was sleeping and so provided little if any eyewitness deterrent.

“I suppose I could spend time theorizing how it is that people are not bad to each other, but that’s really not the point. The point is that in almost every instance of our lives, our social lives, we are, if we pay attention, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, care taking. Holding open doors. Offering elbows at crosswalks. Letting someone else go first. Helping with the heavy bags. Reaching what’s too high, or what’s been dropped. Pulling someone back to their feet. Stopping at the car wreck, at the struck dog. The alternating merge, also known as the zipper. This care taking is our default mode and it’s always a lie that convinces us to act or believe otherwise. Always.”

***

He’s right. It’s become clear to me — now that I’m paying attention — that we are all swimming in a sea of goodwill.

28 May
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks, Teachers
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Find. And Follow.

For today, one last post before I leave on Friday for a month-long retreat at the Forest Refuge:
Ajahn Sucitto’s very succinct response to a pair of written questions submitted during a recent Q&A session (also at the Forest Refuge).

Question #1:
“Is there anyone equivalent to the saints who one can ask for help with one’s practice?”

Question #2:
“If you could only give one suggestion or piece of advice to someone to further them towards liberation, what would that suggestion or piece of advice be?”

Sucitto’s response:
“Well, the answer to both these questions would be: Find a spiritual friend.

“And, if a teacher arises that you find yourself getting good results with, follow that teacher.”

***

I wholeheartedly agree.

After the retreat, I’ll be staying with my spiritual friend and teacher, Mirabai. (That’s us, in the photo above.)

Then I’ll be home on July 3 and hope to post again on July 8. I expect I’ll have a lot to say. Stay tuned.

22 May
2019
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Things Change

Just as I was getting ready to write my blog post yesterday, the tornado sirens started going off and the sky got really dark, so I went to the basement till it brightened up again, but then when I went upstairs, I discovered that the top half of one of the hundred-year-old Sycamore trees in front of my house had broken off and landed on the steps going up to my house (see photo)…


…and on the street in front of my house (see next photo)….


….and on my sweet little car that was parked in front of my house (see third photo).

So. No blog post last night.

And I’m thinking I probably won’t be writing blog posts for the next few day, as it seems I’m going to have to deal with a whole bunch of stuff I hadn’t really planned to be dealing with.

Such is the nature of this ever-changing life.

But there is good news:

No one was hurt. And it looks like my car is damaged, but not destroyed. And my house seems pretty much OK, although I’ll have to get someone to look at the roof. And I have insurance. Which pays for a rental car. And the Forestry Service has already come out and removed the debris. And this happened to me and not to my elderly parents. And it happened this week, while I’m in town, and not while I’m away on retreat for a month! And it’s sunny right now. And, well, lots and lots of other good things.

As well as plenty of not-so-good things, of course.

Being alive. It’s like this.

20 May
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Widening. Offering. Opening.

Almost 30 new talks from Ajahn Sucitto’s month-long retreat at the Forest Refuge have already been posted on dharmaseed! (And the retreat is still going on.) Normally I start listening to these talks as soon as they’re posted — in the order they’re recorded, as if I were right there on the retreat — but since I still haven’t quite finished re-listening to the talks from the retreat I was just on, I’ve been holding off.

With a few exceptions.

For example, the ones with great titles such as: The Wisdom of Walking and of Sheepdogs.

Also this lovely little 12-minute talk: Puja — A Daily Going Forth. (“Puja” refers to ritual, devotional practices such as chanting, lighting candles, bowing, etc.) Here’s an excerpt:

Puja is a touching-in point for the day. It’s not necessarily the first thing we do, but it’s the point where we establish a conscious intention to enter Dhamma. We are touching this place in us that wishes to dedicate. This is a very important place (or movement or occasion) in citta — in awareness, in this consciousness stream — where although we can be doing and meeting and losing and winning and so forth (very much dealing with our personal lives and in them), at this point we’re making an occasion where we highlight, underline, illuminate: the quality of dedicating ourselves.

“Or even dedicating on behalf of someone else! Which is really a helpful thing because sometimes we just can’t be bothered. We can get to that place where we’re fed up with ourself. Then we can just: Oh, well, for my mother, my father, my relatives, for the welfare of others… in recognition, in gratitude of those who’ve come before me, who’ve made this body/mind possible, made this Dhamma possible, made this occasion possible… for that I can say: Thank you.

“This is the place in us which is opening. The citta can very much be embroiled with its own kamma and preceptions…. things that happened with no conscious choice (we’re just IN them) and getting embroiled with dealing with that or speculating about it or struggling with it…

“Puja is where we can step out of that process altogether for the moment. Just to dedicate. Somatically, the experience is one of widening, rising, opening. Widening the heart. Bringing something forth. That’s the gesture. The bring-forth is the gesture of widening and opening. And there is a certain relief of the pressure of self in just doing that. Relief from the pressure of becoming, identifying, planning, and so forth. Relief from the tangle and pressure of that. By dedicating, opening, offering. This is the daily going forth….


“This opening quality is called: Buddha (Waking Up)…. We are activating buddha potential, abhicitta (the higher mind), bodhicitta (the awakening heart). The Buddha is someone who has perfected that. So we emulate that…

“Puja is a practice, whereby we strengthen that aspiration and gesture by embodying it. Open the throat. Open the chest. Resonate. Bring forth: Sound. Make offerings: Light, water, flowers, thoughts.

“The consequence of this is that you open to awareness. You unfold the citta from its formulating and fabricating. You unfold it. And it reveals: Awareness.”