Browsing Category "Practice"
7 Mar
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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There’s More To It Than That

From Ajahn Sucitto’s How to Approach Mindfulness of Body: “Mindfulness of Body is held to encompass all states that give rise to wisdom.

“In mindfulness of body we are not just looking at outward form or anatomy, but the energetic sensitivity of the body as a sense organ, the body as a feeling experience, and the body as something that has an intelligence that begins to sense what’s happening at the surface of the skin — that’s its job. It senses the feeling of safety or well-being. And also it senses what’s happening internally — in terms of the health, the tensions, what’s happening in the organs, vitality, inner well-being, ease, comfort…

“But really, most of these body sensations — for everyone — are not always that good. As far as I can sense in my own body, there is always something painful going on. [laughs]

“These are sensations: painful, disagreeable, or something that one just has to kind of bear with — it’s too hot; it’s too cold; there’s an ache here; there’s a twinge there. That’s the deal with sensations. [more laughter] Occasionally, you get some good stuff, too. But generally it’s not that great. Particularly when you sit still — it’s definitely not great.

“But there’s more to it than that. There’s also energies — the vitality of the body, we could say. And of course, as meditators, this is where you have a big advantage over people who don’t meditate, because when you tune into the breathing, you tune into the fundamental vitality, energy, source of life. So that’s a big, big thing.

“And that — that’s bigger than sensations….

“Mindfulness of breathing is not just a body sweep, it’s an energetic body cleansing and steadying. And it has profound effects on the tonality of the citta [heart/mind] — it feels steady; it’s no longer rushing, jumping, stuttering, stalling; it’s actually steadied, smoothed. And there’s a certain beauty to it.

“That beauty is joyful. This is where spirit — we can call citta something like ‘spirit’ — this is where spirit rises through knowing itself, through knowing its steadiness, its ease, its completeness. This is one of the effects.

“Another effect, which comes in time, is that we begin to understand that this citta — this awareness — is actually not something inside us, but that everything we are is inside of it. Our manifestations and objects and our sensations and our thoughts — all arise within this.

“If you like, you can say that the body is within awareness. The material body is in the immaterial.

“It’s often the case that people imagine that citta is some kind of quality that’s deeply within — and surely that’s often where we find access to it. But as it becomes more steady and complete, we begin to sense it pervading and suffusing the entire being, and gradually we begin to recognize this very sense of having a body itself is purely constructed.

“And then the body is not really a problem. There are sensations, but that’s not really what you’re focusing on. You’re focusing on the big picture. And the sense of ease that’s with that.”

***

There’s more. Click here to listen.

27 Feb
2019
Posted in: Books, Classes, Practice
By    Comments Off on Alongside Whatever Other Responsibilities…

Alongside Whatever Other Responsibilities…

Interested in joining my Study and Practice Class on the Satipatthana Sutta, but don’t live in St. Louis, or don’t have time on Tuesdays, or just can’t make it for some other reason?

Here’s another option:

Get the book — Satipatthana Meditation: A Practice Guide, by Bhikkhu Analayo — then use this link to Analayo’s guided instructions (freely available from the publisher) to do your own study-and-practice course, either by yourself or with a couple of friends!

This is not exactly what we’ll be doing in the class I’ll be teaching, but it’s what Analayo himself suggests in the introduction to his text:

“I would recommend using the book and recordings to develop the practice step by step. This could be done, for example, over a period of seven weeks. In the early discourses the number seven functions as a symbol of a complete cycle of time.

“In preparation for this cycle of self-training, I recommend reading the first two chapters. Following such preparation, perhaps each week it would be possible to find time to study one of the chapters on the seven main contemplations, and during the ensuing days of the week cultivate its actual practice. In this way, alongside whatever other responsibilities we might have, it would be possible to complete a course of self-training within a period of seven weeks.

“Following such a course of training, we might then continue letting the practice of all four satipatthanas become more and more an integral part of our life. The basic pattern of mindfulness practice remains throughout: being in the present, knowing what is happening, and proceeding accordingly.”

***

(That’s Bhikkhu Analayo in the photo above. While you’re listening to him give the guided instructions, you could imagine yourself sitting right there with him!)

25 Feb
2019
Posted in: Earth, Practice
By    Comments Off on Generosity and Beauty and Basicness

Generosity and Beauty and Basicness

The following excerpt is from Handy Tips on How to Behave at the Death of the Worldby Anne Herbert, originally published in Whole Earth Review (1995) and currently reprinted in The Sun magazine:

“Sometimes it comes in a dream, and sometimes in one more newspaper headline. And then you know. With your cells and past and future you know. It’s over. We are killing it all and soon it will all be dead. We are here at the death of the world — killers, witnesses, and those who will die. How then shall we live?

“Probably good to tell truth as much as possible. Truth generally appreciated by terminal patients and we all are.

“Good to avoid shoddy activities. You are doing some of the last things done by beings on this planet. Generosity and beauty and basicness might be good ways to go. Avoid that which is self-serving in a small way. Keep in mind standing in for ancestors including people who lived ten thousand years ago and also fishes. Might be best to do activities that would make some ancestors feel honored to be part of bringing you here.

“… Be in radical alignment with particular forms of aliveness being smashed. Particular species, human creatures, styles of living are being obliterated brutally now. In as much as we all are going to die fairly soon, the stylish thing to do is to align with one of the lifeforms and help it be itself as long and strong as possible.

“Eschew blandness. Eschew causing others pain. We are all the targets so wear bright colors and dance with those you love. Falling in love has always been a bit too much to apply to one person. Falling is love is appropriate for now, to love all those things which are about to leave. The rocks are watching, and the squirrels and the stars and the tired people on the street. If you love them, let them know, with grace and non-invasive extravagance. Care about the beings you care about in gorgeous and surprising ways. Color outside the lines. Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. This is your last chance.”

22 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on I, Too, Have Been Flooded

I, Too, Have Been Flooded

Ajahn Sucitto:
“We pick up that our hearts will probably quite easily come into the wish for the welfare of others:

“May they be happy.
“May they be cherished.
“May they be free from harm and suffering.
“May their practice bear fruit.

“Bring this to mind.

“Then bring into that field: the people one is spending time with, one’s relatives, and associates — with all the difficult bits —

“I just wish them well, that’s all.

“I’m not expecting them to be fantastic. Or for everything to be really swinging along between us. I just wish them freedom from harm.

“I can do that.

“And then:

“I, too, have been flooded with behaviors and actions that were inappropriate, not worthy, not welcome, wrong time…

“I ask for forgiveness.

“There’s the flush that one gets, the grandiosity that can come out of feeling one is right; the lack of straightforwardness that can come out of feeling one is wrong, so one never dares say the truth, and how confusing that is; the confusion that can arise from thinking one can know what someone else is thinking, what they’re up to, and then having an opinion about it….

“Haven’t we all done this?

“This — is forgiveness.”

***

(from the last few minutes of Ajahn Sucitto’s talk: Body — the Last Outpost of Sanity. Click here to listen.)

18 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on After the Storm

After the Storm

I think of the emotional aspect of my experience as a “body” with the quality of water — much as the physical aspect of my experience has the quality of earth.

This emotional body of mine — for reasons I don’t want to go into right now — was experiencing quite a bit of “weather” yesterday afternoon, so I spent some time listening to Phillip Moffitt’s guided meditation on Metta for the Emotional Body.

Check it out. You never know when the waters are going to start rising!

14 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on What We Do for Love

What We Do for Love

I love going on silent retreats. My first was three days long. My longest was two months. I’d love to sit a longer retreat — maybe even a full year, like a friend of mine recently did at the Forest Refuge.

But what about sitting a four-year silent retreat!?!

That’s what Bill and Susan Morgan did! Beginning in the fall of 2009.

Seems kind of crazy, right? From a “normal life” view of things, of course it IS!

But then, isn’t love always some kind of “crazy”?

Check it out:

“Now, in a series of seven videos entitled A Deeper Dive, the couple reflect on their extraordinary experiences at the Forest Refuge. They speak about how they came to the idea to commit to such a prolonged period of practice, the challenges they faced along the way, and several profound insights they gleaned both about themselves as individuals, and as a couple, practicing side-by-side every day, without speaking, for four years.”
– from Insight Meditation Society Sangha News

4 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Heart Comes First

Ajahn Sucitto: “There are meditation systems, but prior to that… you have to find the place where your mind will meditate — rather than just struggle, trying to get some system going.

“There are a number of systems that could do that, as long as one enters from there.

“Heart comes first. Faith comes first — what one has confidence in, where one gets the sense of: yes, I can do this; this works for me — that comes first.

“Energy will gather there. Citta (heart) will collect there. Panna (wisdom) can be developed from there.

“So we take our time with that. It’s often quite specific. You have to work through the very personal, circumstantial activations of the aggregates (mind and body) — the activation of “today,” or that strange habit that one has, or this unresolved regret, or guilt that one has that keeps nagging and coming back.

“These are not just silly details. They are often the lead-in to this mass of suffering. This is where the person got stuck. And so, as you come in there, you start to unpick: feeling, perception, activations…. And it will take you — you will find your path — through this personal life into something beyond.

***

This little snippet is the last 2 minutes of one of Sucitto’s gorgeous new talks: The Luminous Citta. It was given during the final week of a month-long retreat at the Forest Refuge, so he’s addressing experienced meditators and does use some Pali words and classical references (the Five Aggregates) without spelling them out, but don’t let that get in the way. Just go with the flow — and the feeling — of what he’s saying.

It will be worth it.

28 Jan
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Very Little Effort

Beginning tomorrow, one of my brothers will be staying with me for a much-looked-forward-to visit, so I won’t be posting on Dharma Town till he goes back home early next week.

In the mean time, I leave you with Ajahn Sucitto’s very interesting instructions for standing meditation, in which he encourages the movement of “attention from the more activated areas [of the body] to parts that have no activation at all.

“Beginning with the sense of balance and cohesion, guidance is provided to sense through the entire body, sustaining a soft attitude with no time frame and a quality of very little effort.”

***

Even if you’re not interested in actually doing the exercise he suggests (although that would be best!), I still think you’ll enjoy listening to him talk about how we can find ease in the mind and body without it becoming yet ONE MORE THING WE HAVE TO DO!

Standing Meditation: Where There is No Activation in the BodyClick to listen.

15 Jan
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Metta is…

Metta is…

Since this is my Year of Getting to Know Goodwill, I am taking note when Ajahn Sucitto, in a recent talk at the Forest Refuge, described metta as “that which inclines toward nourishing.”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put quite like that before.

Kind of gives it a different flavor, doesn’t it!

***

(quote from 11/11/18 Q&A session, beginning at about the 27 minute mark — click here to listen.)

20 Dec
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on In Pali, “Sati” is Feminine

In Pali, “Sati” is Feminine

Imagine my surprise — and delight! — when I read these instructions by Bhikkhu Analayo in his recent book, Satipatthana Meditation: A Practice Guide.

“It can be useful to take into consideration that the word sati in the Pali language is feminine.

“My suggestion would be to relate to sati, to mindfulness, as a feminine quality. In this way, sati can be understood as receptively assimilating with the potential of giving birth to new perspectives.

“Right away from the moment of waking up in the morning our good friend sati can already be there, as if waiting for us. She is ready to accompany us throughout the rest of the day, encouraging us to stay receptive and open, soft and understanding. She never gets upset when we happen to forget her, she is right there with us again.

“Visualizing the practice in terms of a coming back to the presence of a good friend helps to avoid mistaking sati for a forceful type of hyper-attentiveness that requires strained effort in order to be maintained.

“Instead, being in her presence carries the flavors of an open receptivity and a soft alertness to whatever is taking place.”