Browsing Category "Practice"
11 May
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Homework!

Homework!

I’ve been doing the “Required Advanced Reading” for Phillip Moffitt’s next retreat, titled: Meditating on the Nine Bodies: A Practical Map for Insight Practitioners (which I’ll be attending at the end of this month.)

The requirement is to read the first six chapters of Phillip’s new book, Awakening through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners.

It’s pretty unusual for there to be a homework assignment(!) required to attend a retreat, but I think this is going to be a pretty unusual retreat.

(I already read the book when it first came out last fall. Let me just say: It’s not a quick read. But if you’re interested, it’s worth it!)

The “Nine Bodies” refers to nine levels of consciousness that (according to these teachings) can be accessed/experienced through meditation. These levels are called: Physical Body, Vital Body, Emotional Body, Etheric Body, Astral Body, Intuitional Body, Spiritual Body, Divine Body, Cosmic Body.

The book includes meditation instructions for accessing each of these Bodies. Here’s an excerpt from the first one:

“Begin with simply practicing mindfulness of the wind element manifesting as breath in the Physical Body. Be mindful of any physical sensations that tell you that you are breathing; breath is occurring. You may feel the wind element as pressure, tingling, or vibration, or as an in-and-out or rising-and-falling movement.

“When you are able to consciously feel these body sensations directly without commenting on them or trying to control them through your thoughts, you are directly accessing the Physical Body. Confirm whether this is true for you. You will see that indeed consciousness knows it knows physical sensations. Instructing you to do this confirmation may seem unimportant, but the ‘knowing you know’ aspect of consciousness builds strength and confidence of mind, which helps the mind develop its more subtle capacities for attention…

“One way to describe the felt sense of being in the Physical Body is as ’embodied consciousness.’ Another is feeling ‘grounded in the body.’…. From this embodied consciousness you can develop a felt sense for the nervous system based on the principle of being grounded.

“You will discover that your attention can be grounded in any conscious experience, not just the body, if you cultivate the intention to rest attention on that experience.

“Just as the nervous system has a parasympathetic relaxation response when it realizes it is safely resting on Earth, which in turn calms and clears the mind, this calming relaxation response is generated when accessing each of the Bodies….

“From the practical perspective, it is very helpful to be able to access the Physical Body in daily life when the mind is racing and emotions are strong. I recommend that you repeatedly return to establishing mindfulness of the body ‘within the body’ throughout your day. It provides a beneficial break for an overly active mind or a mind that is habitually tuning out.”

***

Interested? You can find recordings of these and other instructions for accessing the Physical, Vital, Emotional, Etheric, and Intuitive Bodies by clicking here. Some are led by Phillip Moffitt, other by his co-teacher, Dana DePalma. Enjoy!

12 Apr
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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The “And” Practice

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of dharma talks that Phillip Moffitt has given at the Marin Sangha because there he’s primarily focused on Dharma Practice in Daily Life (as opposed to most of the talks from Spirit Rock, which are usually in a retreat setting).

At the beginning of the one I listened to last night (Exploring the Many Dimensions of Metta), Phillip took comments from the sangha members about their experience using the Metta phrases. One woman said that her favorite phrase was: May you be at peace. She said she often repeats it to herself as she goes about her day. And then just recently, while she was on her way to the office, someone darted out in front of her car and she blurted out: Oh you asshole! But then right after that, she found herself thinking: May you be at peace.

(Everyone laughed.)

Phillip said, “That’s what I call the ‘And… Practice.’ It’s like: I’m so mad…. or It’s so unfair… then you add the ‘and….

“The ‘And… Practice’ is what connects you back to a wholesome state when you’ve moved to an unwholesome state of mind. You’re already having the unwholesome mind state, so you accept that, and then the ‘and…’ is your intention to go back to the wholesome state. Maybe you go back and maybe you don’t, but that’s your intention. The practice connects you back to your deepest intention.”

***

I love that!

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it explained quite like that before. I’ve heard of using “and” instead of “but” in conversation, as a way of being inclusive and to keep from being argumentative, but never as a way to re-connect with a deeper intention.

I’m going to try it.

***

The whole talk is a terrific, by the way. Click here to listen.

2 Apr
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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The Body Infused with Awareness

I led the Sunday Sangha sitting group this past weekend in the Metta for the Body mediation, using instructions from Phillip Moffitt’s Daylong Retreat for Experienced Students.

What to try this at home? Here’s the text:

Today we’re going to be doing Loving-kindness as a meditation, but we’re going to be doing it for the body. The body itself. Not for “me,” not for “my” body… The liver is not concerned about being “my liver.” The liver has it’s own experience in it’s “liver-ness.” Not as a self-reflective consciousness. But as an actual experience as having tension or heaviness or whatever various kinds of things that could be going on with the liver. The same with the heart, the lungs… So we are treating each of the body parts as an experience in itself.

We’re not saying oh, I want to “fix my knees.” There’s no judging, comparing, or fixing at all. We’re not trying to do some kind of magic. Rather, we’re building concentration through Metta practice because Metta is a concentration practice. It’s a mantra practice, and all mantra practices – whether they are Hindu or Christian or Buddhist or whatever – are concentration practices. The repetition itself defines a kind of concentration.

The phrases I use are:
May I be safe and feel protected.
May I be happy, just as I am.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I live in the world with ease.

The orientation towards these phrases (what we mean by “safe” and “happy” etc.) is the kind of well-being that can come to the body when the body is infused with awareness. You may feel only the slightest amount of this well-being, or you may feel a lot of it. If we were doing this once a day over many days or if we were doing this all day long, you’d be more likely to feel more of it. But for however long you are doing it, the more relaxed you are, the more you’re able to take it easy with your body — the more you will be able to develop concentration.

But you are keeping your mind on the phrases. You’re not pausing and wandering around in your mind. You are keeping continuity from one moment to the next. It’s one phrase, then the next, the next, the next…  We want it to be steady. You can have a changing rhythm – you might start slow and it might speed up, for example – but you are aware of your rhythm, of the pacing, and there’s a continuity within whatever’s going on at the time. So you don’t say one phrase fast and then slow down on the next one. It’s not jerky like that at all. The steadiness is part of what builds the concentration.

You may at times get images of your body as you’re doing this. Those images are fine. They’re not a distraction. But you keep your words in the forefront and let the images be in the background. You may find yourself really getting into the awareness of a particular sensation—some kind of tension in the neck, for example—and thoughts might start to come, like: “oh, this tension is a kind of fear that’s showing up in my neck,” which may be true, but this is not our investigation time. You could do that some other time. But for now, we’re keeping those thoughts in the background. You’re not getting rid of the thought; you’re not denying it; you’re just moving on. Another day you could do it differently, but not now.

We’re going to move through the body. Top to bottom and back up, if you’re comfortable like that. Or else straight down each time, or up each time if you’re more comfortable with that.

You can choose from a number of different ways to do this. Sometimes I only do the organs. Sometimes I’ll only do the bones. Or sometimes I just do whatever comes up as I move from my head down to my feet. You choose whatever you think would work for you.

You can use whatever phrases you’re used to. You can also decrease the number of phrases, if you prefer that. And you can modify them, if that seems right.

For example:
May these knuckles be safe and feel protected.
May these knuckles be happy, just as they are.
May these knuckles be healthy and strong.
May these knuckles live in this body with ease.

Part of doing this practice is really opening to, imagining your body having this well-being. Well-being is relative to what’s possible. I can not imagine well-being as though I were 25 years old. That isn’t within the realm of what’s possible. But I can imagine the various parts of my body as having well-being within the range of their condition right now. And that works quite beautifully. Otherwise you’re getting unreal. You’re falling into magical thinking. And it’s not magical thinking.

There is a feeling of well-being that can develop in the body from doing this, in part just because there’s a kind of deep relaxation going on. And part of it is because energy follows awareness, so you’re energizing the parts of the body, and that energizing is very wholeness for the body. Part of it is that you are letting loose of certain tensions that are held and it’s like doing yoga of the mind for the body. And there’s a mysterious aspect. It’s just mysterious as to why this has a certain well-being-ness to it, but it does mysteriously happen.

Remember, we’re not trying to “get it right.” We’re just looking to experience the experience. There is as little “doing” as possible when we’re “doing” meditation. (Despite all these instructions!) It’s very light.

OK. So let’s start…..

***

I’ve modified this slightly. (For example, I offered the phrases I like to use because Phillip didn’t include his.) If you want to hear Phillip himself, click here. His instructions for this meditation start at about the 1 hr and 50 minute mark.

9 Mar
2018
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Attention is the Active Part of Intention

(one more excerpt from the At-Home Retreat with Phillip Moffitt):

“In terms of the clarity of your practice, I want to remind you again that the first rule is that you are non-doing…in so far as you can. So: You are not doing the practice. You are letting the practice do you.

“There is a certain amount of doing. (This is one of these paradoxes that you just have to work out for yourself.) There’s a certain amount of doing or nothing would happen. But then you ask: Am I doing any more than I need to be doing…and you drop it. You feel your way. You drop it and then if you see that your mind just wanders off, you adjust. You feel your way.

“The practice can have great intensity and still be light. There’s not a lot of doing – despite of all the instructions we give all the time!

“But the practice does involve your knowing that you can direct attention, your knowing that you know how to direct attention, that you’ve practiced directing attention, and that you know when you are directing attention. And that means both the connecting and the sustaining aspect of directing attention.

Attention is the active part of intention. Intention in the Eight-Fold Path is the pivotal point on the Path. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where your understanding—your Right View—actually shows up in somebody’s life: yours and others. Without that intention, it just doesn’t happen.

Attention is the manifestation of intention and intention is what creates the karma for us (both immediately and if you believe in reincarnation, in the long term). So attention becomes very, very important.

“Being able to place your attention anywhere – in your body, in knowing Pleasant or Unpleasant, in the Third Foundation of Mindfulness, in the Forth Foundation of Mindfulness, in the Three Characteristics, in the Twelve Aspects of the Four Noble Truths…whatever degree of knowledge you have – being able to place your attention where it seems wise to place it, is part of this clarity.

“You place your attention, and you really know these locations. Whatever you’ve learned, you know the locations where you can be mindful. Anything you’ve ever been taught, you can be mindful of that. So you can locate yourself. You know how to have your mind rest there. Or there. Or there.

“The ability to direct and sustain attention is one of the things that comes faster than some of these other things. So that’s the good news in it. You really see: I can direct my mind. And I can locate it here, and here. And I can know these locations. It gives you something to be doing and it can add to the inspiration.

“One of the inspirations of practice may be the very practice itself. It inspires you to more practice. And discovering new things in practice can be an inspiration for practice. Letting go can be an inspiration for practice. Surrender can be an inspiration for practice. Having clarity can be an inspiration for practice.

“See how it all fits together? It’s a hologram. It’s all contained. Any one piece of the Dharma contains all of the Dharma. You start anywhere and you can get to every other single realization. And that’s why sometimes when you hear a dharma talk on retreat and you think: well, that’s kind of what they said the night before or two nights ago…they’ve just sort of come back around to this. That’s because it’s a whole piece. It’s unified. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, the Dharma. Just as a structure. Just as a perception of what it is and what you are. It is breathtakingly beautiful in its architecture, its blueprint, its DNA if you like.”

***

(Click here to listen to this talk. The excerpt above begins at about 2 hr 31min into the tape.)

5 Mar
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Keys to Effective Meditation

Keys to Effective Meditation

More from Phillip Moffitt’s At-Home Retreat for Experienced Students: 

The first key is inspiration. If you are not inspired to meditate, you will not go through the boredom of it, the times you have to be with restless mind, the times you have to be with sleepy mind, the times when you feel like you can’t go anywhere in your practice… So inspiration is a real key. And inspiration has with it a sense of commitment and also of surrender.

“Surrender is so important because when we surrender we’re not trying to get anywhere, we’re just showing up. And boy does that make a difference in being able to tolerate the ups and downs of the practice! This doesn’t mean we don’t have our preferences. But when we surrender we’re saying: This is what’s important to me — that I be present for my life. I surrender to controlling my life; I’m just going to be present. I can choose to be present — and I will.

“So we start with inspiration and then the second key is the practice itself. How do you get better? By practicing. Better in what sense? Better in being able to be more present for whatever the meditation is like.

“So, you have to practice! But practice can be a 5 minute session in the morning. It can be 3 minutes of walking mediation. It can be 45 minutes of mediation in the evening. It can be two 1-hour sessions a day. Two hour-and-a-half sessions a day. Two 2-hour sessions a day. These are all lengths of practice that people that I work with practice. Some of these folks have very busy lives and they’re still taking an hour or an hour-and-a-half a day. I’m not saying that you should. I’m just saying that there’s a range of what’s possible. You have to have some sort of commitment to daily practice, some sort of commitment that’s within sangha in some way or another, some sort of practice that’s a listening practice, and coming on retreats as much as you can — to daylong or longer retreats, whatever’s possible for you — but you’ve got to do the practice! And cultivate the qualities of practice, which are patience and persistence. That quality of surrendering shows up at practice level as: No Expectations….

And then being available. Truly being available. Beyond any level that you can image. However much you think you are available, I mean a LOT more available than that! You have to have a certain amount of practice to be available to the next level. So being available to practice, to being open to this whole experience, is an emergent quality. It unfolds as the conditions become appropriate for it to unfold.”

***

Phillip goes on to list two more keys to effective meditation: having clarity as to how to practice, and having a range of practices that you can choose from. Click here to listen (starting at 2 hours and 25 minutes into the recording.)

Enjoy!

2 Mar
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Metta for the Body

This morning during my meditation, I practiced sending metta (loving-kindness) to different parts of my body using the instructions from Phillip Moffitt’s “At-Home Retreat” tape, which I posted about yesterday. (The instructions for this begin at about 1 hr 50 min into the tape.)

Here’s what Phillip says about the practice:

“The orientation towards this is the kind of well-being that can come to the body when the body is infused with awareness…

“Part of doing this practice is imagining your body having the well-being. Well-being is relative to what’s possible. I cannot imagine well-being as though I were 25 years old. That isn’t within the realm of possible. But I can image the various parts of my body having well-being within the range of their condition right now. And that works quite beautifully. Because otherwise you’re getting unreal. You’re falling into magical thinking. And it’s not magical thinking.

“There is a feeling of well-being that can develop in the body from doing this, in part just because there’s a kind of deep relaxation going on. And part of it is because energy follows attention, so you’re energizing the parts of the body, and that energizing is very wholesome for the body. Part of it is that you are letting loose of certain tensions that are held and it’s like doing yoga of the mind for the body…

“And then there’s a mysterious aspect. It’s just mysterious as to why this has a certain well-being-ness to it, but it mysteriously does happen.”

For a couple of weeks now I’ve had a bad cold (runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc), and the skin on my elbow is dry and irritated, and my fingers are stiff and tender from arthritis, and my knees are just about shot, etc, etc…so my meditation this morning went like this:

May these sinuses be safe and feel protected.
May these sinuses be happy, just as they are.
May these sinuses be healthy and strong.
May these sinuses be at ease in the world.

May this skin on these elbows be safe and feel protected.
May this skin on these elbows be happy, just as it is.
May this skin on these elbows be healthy and strong.
May this skin on these elbows be at ease in the world.

Etc.
Etc.
Etc.

It was really wonderful!

***

Find Phillip’s instructions for this and several other meditation practices here.

1 Mar
2018
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Doing a Little Doing

I listen to a lot of dharma talks, which sometimes can get a bit repetitive, but this week I listened to one that’s quite different.

It’s called: At-Home Retreat with Phillip Moffitt and it’s a selection of instructions and guided meditations from a Day-long for Experienced Students held in 2011.

Here’s the description:
“If you’ve never had the opportunity to study with Phillip in person, here is a way to experience one of his day-long retreats. Explore what inspires you to practice, regain trust in your own knowing, and discover ways to direct you attention.”

I highly recommend it.

The tape begins with very rich instruction on the use of the “Four Elements” practice as a way to establish presence, then moves to an image-based guidance for practicing “Aiming and Sustaining Attention” to develop samadhi, then progresses through several specific practices for working with sleepiness, then on to “Open Awareness Meditation,” then quite a unique practice directing Metta to the body, and more. (The whole tape is 3 hours long, but it’s sequenced so you can listen to it in segments.)

All this could seem like a lot of work. But I love what Phillip has to say about that:

In meditation, we are seeing how things happen… You are looking to have the experience. You are not looking to “get it right.”

This is a huge difference.

There is as little “doing” as possible in our “doing” in meditation. And “getting it right” is a whole lotta doing!

Having the experience and saying: ‘OK, I’m going to use this technique’…that’s a little “doing”. But it’s a light “doing.” But a “getting it right” is very, very heavy as “doing.”

OK. Here we go…. 

***

Give it a try. Click here, then click on the mp3 link. Enjoy!

5 Feb
2018
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on A Wild Human Ride

A Wild Human Ride

Dear Faithful Readers:

I’m back from retreat — which was totally excellent, although pretty wild a lot of the time — and I hope you’ve been looking forward to reading all about it. But my web hosting contract is now up for renewal and since Go Daddy has upgraded their server, they need to do a bunch of stuff to move it over to the new one….which means we’re all going to have to wait another week or so before I can start posting again.

So. A great opportunity to practice patience!

In the mean time, I leave you with this quote from Jack Kornfield’s New Years e-letter, which I have just now gotten a chance to read:

We are consciousness itself — loving awareness — born into this body and having a wild human ride.

11 Dec
2017
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The Year Of …..

As many of you know, I will be on retreat for five weeks at the Forest Refuge in Barre, MA, from Dec 27 through Jan 31 — which means I’ll be spending New Year’s Day on retreat — so as part of my pre-retreat preparations I listened to a New Year’s talk by Phillip Moffitt titled: “Making This the Year of….

It’s a terrific talk. (There are a lot of terrific talks, but for whatever reason, this one really REALLY speaks to me.)

In this talk, Phillip shares his practice of picking “an overarching theme of development or discovery in some aspect of life”…. something that he intends to work on and then throughout the year, thinking of it as “The Year of ….” whatever that theme is.

He says he prepares for this by reflecting on these questions:

What have I learned this past year?
What’s finished? (What can I completely let go of?)
What’s left undone? (What’s not done that I would like to have done?)
What’s calling me?

He says that for him, this year (he gave the talk in 2015) will be The Year of Returning and Reflecting. (I listened to a similar talk he gave in early 2017, in which he says that year will be The Year of Paying Attention to My Health.)

He offers suggestions for others in considering what kind of Year this could be. For example:

The Year of Staying Present
The Year of Shifting Views (trying on the views of others, seeing things from their view point, even if just for a moment)
The Year of Discipline
The Year of Renunciation
The Year of Forgiveness (including forgiving one’s inability to forgive)
The Year of Letting Go
The Year of Opening the Heart (setting the intention that in as many ways as one can, looking for opportunities to open one’s heart)
The Year of Joy
The Year of Laughter
The Year of Kindness to Yourself (not self-indulgence, but self-kindness!)
etc.

Not with an idea of how the year will turn out to be. But with an intention to pay attention to a particular aspect of one’s life, and then being available to whatever presents itself — being available for wisdom to come by taking the time (in the silence) for something to be known (rather than “working” on something or “figuring something out”).

***

I’m really taking what he says to heart. I’m sitting with the questions he reflects on, and I’m thinking that for me, next year might be: The Year of Listening.

6 Dec
2017
Posted in: CDL, Practice, Teachers
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A Different Kind of “Me Too”

The Spirit Rock News magazine just came out and it features an interview with Phillip Moffitt as he begins to transition out of his role as Co-Guiding Teacher. I am a big fan of Phillip, so of course I was interested in what he had to say, but he was talking about his role as a leader of the Spirit Rock organization, so I wasn’t really expecting him to say anything of particularly relevance to me.

I was wrong.

Phillip is asked: “You came into this leadership role with decades of experience as an educational and business leader; how have the special qualities of this particular role affected your own experience of leadership?”

Phillip answers: “The more one lets go of what one wants, the more effective one is as a leader in this community.”

[Given my new role as a Community Dharma Leader, this got my attention.]

Phillip continues: “…As an entrepreneur, I was the leader of a small team who made fast, decisive decisions; this did not involve a slow consensus process. I had to let loose of my style of decision-making and surrender to the consensus process that we go through here. Being willing to spend my time in such a process required a new orientation to leadership, and new priorities.

“Friends would ask; why are you willing to spend the time? To be fully revealing, for the first few years it was a struggle. At Spirit Rock, a leader does not so much “make their mark,” as they have to continually hold the values and possibilities for how the organization can function and how its people skillfully relate to one another and develop as practitioners.

“Over time, I realized this required more of a nurturing heart quality than the dynamic quality of my previous style of naming what was needed and implementing it. To my surprise, this shift in perspective turned out to be the “why” — the very act of leading in this manner and the change required was the reward.

“I would describe it as a two-decade practice of “letting go” of being the strong, decisive leader with clear views, and instead leading by building a common view through kind attention.

“Such a practice was not my goal. I was not initially suited for such a role. I had no idea how much wisdom comes from kindness, patience, and just letting go.

“And yet that’s how it ended up–a kind of renunciation of the way I related to the world that had previously allowed me to survive a challenging childhood and to thrive on a large worldly stage.”

***

Wise advice, Phillip. I recognize myself in your story. May I learn from your experience. May I take these words to heart.