Browsing Category "Practice"
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
By    Comments Off on Metta for the Body

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
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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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
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on The Year Of …..

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
By    Comments Off on A Different Kind of “Me Too”

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.

30 Nov
2017
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Not That. Not Only That.

I’ve been re-listening to talks from several of my favorite retreats from the past couple of years, and I came across a wonderful exercise that I had forgotten about from the 2015 retreat for experienced students on The Nature of Awareness.

We were instructed to break up into groups of two, and to sit facing each other. One person in the group would begin the exercise by saying “I am….” followed by whatever came into that person’s mind at the moment. For example, I might say: “I am…a woman.”

Then the second person would pause for a moment, then respond: “Not that. Not only that.”

Then the first person would do it again. For example: “I am…. nervous about doing this exercise.” And the second person would pause again, and then say: “Not that. Not only that.”

It went on like that for about 10 minutes. (And then the rolls were reversed.)

It sounds trivial now, as I write this, but at the time, it was not. At first it was awkward, and then unsettling, and then quite liberating!

This all came back to me as I was listening to the tape (which, unfortunately, is only available to those who were on the retreat). I can feel a loosening even now as I’m remembering it. How profound it was to keep naming/characterizing myself as something…something that was true, at least at that moment…and then to have it released (“not that”) and to be given an opening into something way beyond that (“not only that”).

Try it! Even if it’s just with yourself. (Whoever THAT is!)

11 Oct
2017
Posted in: Practice, Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on There is Suffering

There is Suffering

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin

10 Oct
2017
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Not Me. Not Mine. Not Who I Am.

I listened to another great talk last night by Guy Armstrong. It’s on the teaching of “Not Self,” which as Guy says, “is one of the central teachings of the Buddha and one of the most liberating…but also one of the most difficult to understand.”

He does a beautiful job of explaining this teaching in very accessible language. For example, Guy tells the story of the Buddha instructing his followers by asking: “Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: This is mine. This I am. This is myself?”

Which Guy paraphrases as the Buddha asking: Do you want to pin your happiness and your identity on what is impermanent, unsatisfying and subject to change? And then he says: Why would we do that?! 

I love the conversational way Guy approaches these teachings. But the part of the talk I like best is when he says:

“This formulation of the Buddha’s… This is mine. This I am. This is myself ….is a very helpful way to notice our experience because we can turn it around as he did himself.

“The Buddha asked, What is the right way to understand it?

“Then he said: All forms should be seen as it really is with proper wisdom thus: This is not mine. This I am not. This is not myself.”

To which Guy adds: “This is a practice pointer. This is not just intellectual speculation.

“When you get caught up as taking some aspect of experience as yourself or as belonging to you, try saying: Not me. Not mine. Not who I am.

“See if you can tune into that with proper wisdom thus: Not me. Not mine. Not who I am.

“Just try it. Just drop those three little phrases in when you feel like you’ve identified with something. And see.

***

(Click here to listen)

30 Aug
2017
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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I Know What to Do!

In a delightful little collection of essays on Compulsive Helping, Ajahn Amaro writes:

“Our thinking mind loves to diagnose. I confess to having a thinking mind that loves to figure things out… Certainly the intellect does have its place; it is truly useful to be able to figure out how things work, but we can be over-prone to that.

We can unwittingly take refuge in having an explanation. The mind can reach forward: ‘I know what’s going on! I understand this. I read a book about it I did a course on this. I know what’s happening here!

“We immediately go to the memory, the idea, the concept and in so doing we miss what is before us, what we are in the middle of, what we are a part of. Because we have absorbed our attention in the diagnosis, we miss the actuality.

“I’m not saying that we should never push, make an effort or diagnose. It is not that we should stifle the intellect or suppress our recognition of patterns, rather it’s a question of holding these things in perspective

“When we’re faced with suffering, particularly other people’s suffering, we can feel: ‘I’ve got to do something!’ Everything is telling us: ‘Don’t just sit there, do something!’… But that urge to help and to do can often be coming from our own insecurity or our own need to be a helpful person. Our need to help may form part of our identity….

“When there is a need to do something, there may indeed be things that we can do, but that very urge, that agitated tension which wants to jump in and fix something, may be the very element that gets in the way….

“I’m not trying to encourage a quality of dissociation… This teaching is not a cold distancing or an attempt to alienate ourselves from feeling the suffering of others. I don’t advocate adopting some kind of false objectivity; I’m not trying to encourage that.

“What I am hopping is that through our spiritual practice we can find that place which is fully empathetic with the suffering of others and the difficulties that we experience, while not suffering on account of them.”

***

This is why Phillip Moffitt alway asks his students to take what he calls “secondary vows of renunciation,” which are: No Judging, No Comparing, No Fixing!