Browsing Category "Practice"
29 Jun
2018
Posted in: Practice
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My Tiny Meditation Hall

I went on another Tiny Retreat this morning (8:30am to 12:30pm CST), right here in my tiny meditation “hall” (pictured), along with at least five other people who were also doing it (in their own time zones and meditation spaces).

It was great. I sat-and-walked on my own schedule, all the while knowing that my friends (and friends-of-my-friends) were also sitting-and-walking, all on their own schedules, but also doing it ALONG WITH ME (or at least at a time that overlapped with me), which was an incredible support for my practice.

I think I’m on to something here.

So: I’m going to be doing this again on the last Friday of next month (July 27)…and on the last Friday of every month!…unless I’m away on an actual in-person retreat, or something.

What to join me?

If you do, send me an email here and I’ll send you a text reminder the day before. I’ll also follow up after the retreat by email, if you’d like.

The Buddha said that Kalyana Mitta (translated as Spiritual or Beautiful Friendship) is not merely “half the spiritual life, but the whole of it.” Bhikkhu Bodhi says, “Spiritual friendship gives the practice of Dhamma an inescapable human dimension and welds the body of Buddhist practitioners into a community united both vertically by the relationship of teacher to student and horizontally by friendships among peers treading a shared path.”

So let’s do this together, my Beautiful Friends!

28 Jun
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on The Emotional Body

The Emotional Body

It hit me, while I was exploring the Nine Bodies during my meditation the other day, that the “Emotional Body” is a “body” in the way the ocean is a “body.” The ocean is a body of water; the level of consciousness that’s called the “Emotional Body” is a body of emotions, which seems to act a LOT like an ocean! (Emotions flood, surge, flow, engulf, etc.) In fact, while I was experiencing this Body during meditation, the felt sense of it was JUST LIKE AN OCEAN!

In Awakening through the Nine BodiesPhillip writes: “The Emotional Body is where all emotions and sentiments manifest, including excitement, frustration, depression, exertion, humor, anxiety, worry, generosity, joy, jealously, insecurity, fear, panic, and satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Ambition also resides in the Emotional Body.

“The Emotional Body is where attachment arises because the emotions can create expectations and demands; however, emotions are not the problem because they are only energetic states. Like waves in the ocean, emotions do not create themselves; they are created by the mind. ‘You should observe whether you are acting or simply reacting from the Emotional Body,’ Balyogi advises.

“If you don’t relate to your emotions in a wise manner, the emotions will distort what is real and cause suffering to arise. Everybody has dark and light emotions; the question is, which will you develop?

“In order to develop positive emotions, you must practice mindfulness of what is arising in the mind that is causing the emotional waves.

“For instance, one of the strongest and most confusing emotions we experience is love. We hold it in an exalted state, yet we often experience it with the corrupting emotions of greed, jealousy, possessiveness, resentment, and exploitation. Thus, many people come to spiritual practice seeking to be healed from a lack of innate self-worth, childhood traumas, or a broken heart, and wanting to feel unconditional love….

“The Emotional Body is the center of love. Love grows in the Emotional Body. The Emotional Body allows the expression of love and provides the means to explore love.”

***

Want more? Click on this link for a video of Phillip Moffitt giving an introductory talk on the Nine Bodies, plus several audio talks and guided meditations on these teachings.

Dive right in!

13 Jun
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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How to Dissolve Tension

I got this little gem of a quote last night from listening to one of Ajahn Sucitto’s newly posted talks, which was part of his response to a question about how to relax tensions that are “locked up” in the body:

“The universal solvent is goodwill.”

27 May
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice, Travel
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Toward Which My Journey Tends

I leave on Tuesday (May 29) for the Nine Bodies retreat at Spirit Rock, then I’m staying over to meet with Phillip the next day, so I won’t get back until the following Tuesday, (June 5). Look for my next post sometime later that week.

In the mean time, I leave you with this selection from Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, the guide book I always consult before traveling:

The Great Khan’s atlas contains also the maps of the promised lands visited in thought but not yet discovered or founded: New Atlantis, Utopia, the City of the Sun, Oceana, Tamoé, New Harmony, New Lanark, Icaria.

Kublai asked Marco: “You, who go about exploring and who see signs, can tell me toward which of these futures the favoring winds are driving us.”

“For these ports I could not draw a route on the map or set a date for the landing. At times all I need is a brief glimpse, an opening in the midst of an incongruous landscape, a glint of lights in the fog, the dialogue of two passersby meeting in the crowd, and I think that, setting out from there, I will put together, piece by piece, the perfect city, made of fragments mixed with the rest, of instants separated by intervals, of signals one sends out, not knowing who receives them. If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop. Perhaps while we speak, it is rising, scattered, within the confines of your empire; you can hunt for it, but only in the way I have said.”

Already the Great Khan was leafing through his atlas, over the maps of the cities that menace in nightmares and maledictions: Enoch, Babylon, Yahooland, Butua, Brave New World.

He said: “It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us.”

And Polo said: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.” 

25 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Sangha at Large
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Spread the Word!

I just finished my first ever Tiny Retreat and it was great!

What’s a Tiny Retreat? It’s a half-day, at-home, sitting-and-walking practice that I have committed to doing once a month — 8:00 am to 12:00 noon (Central Time) on the last Friday of every month (schedule permitting). I posted about why I’m doing it here.

Part of what why it was so great today was that even though I was here at home, doing sitting and walking meditation all by myself, I wasn’t really doing it all by myself because I know that at least one of my Dharma buddies was at her home, also doing sitting and walking meditation, at the same time, with the intention of deepening her practice, and of doing it with me.

AND there are a couple more Dharma buddies of mine who have committed to doing it with me, too!

Want to join us? The next one is June 29, 8:00 am to 12:00 noon Central Time. Even if you can’t do on that date or at that time, how about doing it that evening, or the next day, or the day after that ???? Let me know and I’ll make a special point of sending blessings to you. We could even check in on how it’s going, if you’d like. (Email me here.)

23 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Teachers
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Don’t Leave Home Without It

“In your investigation of the world, never allow the mind to leave the body.

“Examine the body’s nature. See the elements that comprise it. See the impermanence, the suffering, the selflessness of the body while sitting, walking, standing, or lying down.

“When its true nature is seen fully and lucidly by the heart, the wonders of the world will become clear.”

— Ajahn Mun

22 May
2018
Posted in: Generosity, Practice
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Here’s a Tip

I was having lunch the other day at a neighborhood place I like to go to and just as I was getting ready to leave, a friend of mine came in, who I don’t see all that often, so of course I invited her to sit at my table — she was just stopping in to get something to take home and hadn’t planned to sit down, but there I was and so she did. I had already paid my bill and I guess having someone new sit down at my table without me leaving confused the waitress, because it was a long time before we could get her attention. And then once we did, it was another long time before we got the drink my friend ordered, even though while we waited the bus boy brought a drink to me that I hadn’t even ordered. Then it was another really long time before our waitress returned and asked my friend to repeat her order because apparently somehow she had lost it.

I noticed that I was getting annoyed during all of this and so was my friend, but at least we were able to take advantage of the time to have a nice long visit. One of the things my friend said while we waited, which I’m sure only came up because of the situation, was that she has been making a practice of always leaving big tips — really big tips (like 50% of the bill) — even when the service is not all that great, because she recognized what a hard job it is to wait tables, and since she can afford to give money to charities, why not give money to people who wait tables.

I love that!

18 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Relax: Body. Breath. Mind.

One of my oldest habit patterns is believing that MY way is the RIGHT way. This can be very painful. For everyone!

Of course, sometimes my way IS the right way…or at lease ONE of the right ways…but it would be a whole lot better if I could avoid getting caught in this kind of thinking.

Mindfulness, of course, is the way to break free of old habits, so I’ve been working with that. But then last night, I happened to listen to a talk in which Phillip Moffitt describes how he developed a specific practice — for himself — to address this very habit!

He calls it Relaxing into Surrender:

“I started this practice when I was working with a particular area of my life… I was repeatedly getting caught in something that was not personal in nature, but nonetheless, it was something that I very much wanted to go my way.

“The feeling was one of tightness, closed heart, closed mind, and it was an unwholesome feeling. So I started relaxing. And then as I was doing it more I realized: Ah, there’s a bigger teaching here. For me! I started this practice not to teach it to you, but for my own practice. 

“What I have done now for these past 23 months is: periodically, every day, I will take just a brief 30 seconds or 3 minutes or 5 minutes or whatever it is…and I will relax. I will relax the body; I will relax the breath; I will relax the mind state. As best I am able. 

“So: driving a car, sitting in a meeting, I’ll just relax. Now maybe it’ll be in the middle of something that I actually have a point of view about, but other people are talking and I will sit there and I will just consciously relax: body, breath, and mind. Driving down the highway I will do it. Talking on the phone I will do it. Being by myself. Walking out in nature. Over and over again… I make a mindfulness practice out of relaxing. 

“What I discovered is that, although I already had a great deal of equanimity, mindfully relaxing day after day throughout the day in this way opened me up to a new level of relaxing, of letting loose of tension in attention, of tension in the body, tension in the mind state and it brought up this possibility repeatedly of surrendering.

“Because once I’d done all that relaxing…then I realized: OK so now here I am really wanting to affect the outcome in the decision we’re making in this particular meeting, but, who knows…maybe what I think would be best isn’t the best. But even if it IS best, maybe it’s going to happen and maybe it’s not. So: just let it go.

“But not giving up the point of view or failing to articulate that point of view!

“From a classical Buddhist teaching, this is letting go of sakkays-ditthi (personality view)…. which is the view of seeing everything from a dualistic perspective, from a personality — I like this and I don’t like that; I don’t want this to happen and I do want that to happen — and being attracted to all of that, to taking it in such a way that there is tension, there is clinging, there is holding onto it.

But not letting go of your values! Of course you want your community to be a safe community. You want your country to be a country of dignity and of kindness. And honesty. Of course you want that. Of course!!! But the getting tense around it is separate from the wanting of that, of having that as a value 

“What we surrender is the getting defined by it. So relax throughout the day and see: Oh, I can relax in this moment. Over and over again. Then this idea of surrender will come up in its own form, in its own time….

“The breath and the relationship of the breath to the emotions is a multi-dimensional experience. If you never experiment, you aren’t giving yourself a chance. This very simple exercise that I’m inviting you to do of relaxing the breath with the body and the mind, in the way I’ve said up to this point — that is enough.

“I can give you very fancy kinds of breath work, of controlling the breath, of controlling the inhale and the exhale, where to place the breath, where to follow the breath… I’ve done lots of very esoteric practices. But you do not need those practices for what we’re pointing to tonight. You really don’t.

“For most of us, we have to have some sort of practice. Otherwise our minds just take over and there’s some part of us that’s just on autopilot

“So we relax, but we don’t abandon practice. Surrender doesn’t mean quitting. It’s a specific use of the word ‘surrender.’ You’re surrendering attachment to outcome. You’re not quitting. You’re not being asked to give up the juice of your life. You’re being asked to practice letting go of your attachment, your clinging, your demand that those areas of your life be a certain way.” 

***

I really see how this could have a big impact…over time, of course. Phillip says to try it for at least 3 months.

OK, Phillip. At least for the next 3 months, I’m taking this one as a specific practice. Anybody else out there care to join me?

(The excerpt above is from Phillip Moffitt’s talk called Relaxing into Surrender, beginning at about the 40 minute mark. It is lightly edited for readability. Click here for the full talk.)

16 May
2018
Posted in: Practice
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We Are All of the Nature…

Today is my Mom and Dad’s 70th wedding anniversary. This is a photo of them taken at my niece’s wedding in 2008.

Mom will be 89 in August. Dad is 91. I took Mom to the doctor this morning for her annual check up. Dad will go for his tomorrow. They’re doing remarkably well. But still.

Every morning I recite the Buddha’s 5 Remembrances. This morning it felt especially tender:

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. There is no way to escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the womb from which I am born. Whatever I may do, for good or for ill, to that I will fall heir.

14 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Try a Tiny Retreat

I was listening to a talk by Phillip Moffitt on Choiceless Awareness — not with any particular intent except to be listening to Phillip give a dharma talk — and I heard him get started by talking about samadhi practice, and saying that no matter what kind of meditation we’re doing, we start out by collecting and unifying our mind…and that as we build up continuity, over time, “our mind gets really stable.”

Right. Nothing new there.

But then he said: “Really stable. Not so much during an evening like this [he was talking to his Sunday Night sitting group], and certainly not that much at home (usually) if we’re just doing 30 minutes at home — but if we’re doing a half-day, one weekend a month — the mind can get pretty darn stable….in a half day, if you’re there alone, and you don’t have some big thing on your mind. You can really get going on this.”

And I thought: Wow.

I have a daily sitting practice, which I just “kicked up a notch” by increasing the amount of time I sit. (And I’ve really noticed a big difference as a result.) But I never thought about scheduling a half-day, here at home, once a month.

And then I thought: I could do it!

So…I’ll be taking a Tiny Retreat — on the last Friday of every month, from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon. Starting Friday, May 25.

Want to join me? (You could do it on a different day, at whatever time you want.) But we’d still be doing it “together.” We could check in with each other about it. Or just text to say that we’d done it.

I’m serious. Email me here if you’re interested.

Think about it!