Browsing Category "Practice"
5 Jun
2017
Posted in: Activism, Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on That Place is Within Ourselves

That Place is Within Ourselves

In The Words & Wisdom of Charles Johnson (2011)this amazing novelist, philosopher, teacher, illustrator, award winner, and sanscrit scholar (!) writes:

“Our era looks eerily (to me) like the time of Petronius, author of the Satyricon, at the end of the Roman empire. A time of late cultural decadence, confusion, and incoherence. So many people are scarred and scared, stressed and depressed, angry and willful.

“Given that fact, we need a place for spiritual renewal and healing. That place is within ourselves. It is always available to us. We need not look outside ourselves in order to achieve happiness and freedom from suffering. As it says in the Digha Nikaya:

“You should be an island to yourself, a refuge to yourself, not dependent on any other but taking refuge in the truth and none other than the truth. And how do you become an island and a refuge to yourself? In this way: You see and contemplate your body as composed of all the forces of the universe. Ardently and mindfully, you steer your body-self by restraining your discontent with the world about you. In the same way, observe and contemplate your feelings and use that same ardent restraint and self-possession against enslavement by greed or desire. By seeing attachment to your body and feelings as blocking the truth, you dwell in self-possession and ardent liberation from those ties. This is how you live as an island to yourself and a refuge in the truth–that one will come out of the darkness and into the light.”

31 May
2017
Posted in: Practice, Study
By    Comments Off on What I’m Cooking Up

What I’m Cooking Up

Now that I’ve completed the Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program, I’m thinking about offering a short introductory course: Mindfulness 101, suitable for beginners or for anyone who’d like a little more guidance on the basic instructions for mindfulness meditation.

The course will consist of three sessions, held once a week, for one hour each.
Session 1: Mindfulness of Body
Session 2: Mindfulness of Breathing
Session 3: Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions 

The course will be offered on a donation basis. It’s best if folks could attend all three sessions, but I’d be OK if someone wanted to drop in for just one or two.

I’ve already reserved space for us to meet in the fall:

Place: Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112
Dates: Sunday, Sept 10, 17, and 24
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 pm

If you (or someone you know) would be interested in getting started sooner, please email me here and I’ll see what I can do.

I’ll be sending more info as the time gets nearer. If you want to make sure you’re notified, send me an email.

In the mean time, spread the word!

26 May
2017
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on I Did Answer Yes

I Did Answer Yes

I don’t know Who –or What– put the question.
I don’t know when it was put.
I don’t even remember answering.

But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone –or Something– and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.

— Dag Hammarskjold

18 May
2017
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Not Always Sunny

Not Always Sunny

A friends recently sent me an excellent article on mindfulness — in the Harvard Business Review, no less! — with the provocative title: If Mindfulness Makes You Uncomfortable, It’s Working.

Here’s a sample:
“I recently had a conversation with a client named Claire, who shared that her company had been touting the benefits of mindfulness, and she was giving mindfulness a try with a meditation app. But she was frustrated that it wasn’t helping her feel more relaxed — instead, she was actually a bit more agitated of late. While the situation was clearly a source of consternation for Claire, it didn’t mean the meditation app wasn’t working.

“Now that mindfulness has hit the mainstream, it’s been defined in a variety of ways: moment-to-moment awareness, being in the here and now, relaxing fully into the present. And somewhere along the way we’ve come to equate mindfulness with ‘good feeling’ emotions such as joy, relaxation, and happiness.

“While mindfulness can lead us to experience the good things in life more fully, this only tells half of the mindfulness story. In fact, becoming truly mindful and aware means that we are able to see, name, and more fully experience things when we are angry, sad, jealous, anxious, vulnerable, or lonely — this, too, is mindfulness.

“Therefore, we have to redefine mindfulness as more than feeling good, and instead see it as having an increased capacity to sit with the full spectrum of being human, experiencing it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and learning to be less reactive so that we can make better choices every day

“Mindfulness is not all gloom and doom, nor is it all sunshine and flowers. With mindfulness, we are just a little less tossed around by running away from or crushing what feels bad. We’re less compelled to indulge in our desires and excesses for what gives us a temporary high. Instead, we see with greater clarity just how blue the sky is on a beautiful day and we see and feel the depths of our hearts being pierced when we’re experiencing a meaningful loss. And somewhere in that fuller human experience, we connect and tap into a deeper source of motivation and choice that is more aligned with our integrity, our values and ethics, and our authentic essence.”

Exactly!!!

Click here for the full text.

9 May
2017
Posted in: Activism, Practice
By    Comments Off on Five Beautiful Ways

Five Beautiful Ways

It will be my turn to lead the group at our Sangha next Sunday and I think I’ll talk about the Five Precepts (Buddhist training practices in ethical conduct).

Not always a crowd-pleaser, I’ll admit.

But I was very moved by hearing (and taking) a new version of the precepts — called the Five Householder Precepts — which DaRa Williams led us in at the close of the two-month retreat at Spirit Rock last March.

The precepts sound a little dry when we call them “trainings in ethical conduct.” I prefer “beautiful ways of being in the world.”

Here’s the traditional version:
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants that lead to carelessness.

Here’s the Householder version (as worded by Manzanita Village):
1. Aware of the violence in the world and of the power of non-violent resistance, I stand in the presence of ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the compassion that seeks to protect each living being.
2. Aware of the poverty and greed in the world and of the intrinsic abundance of the earth, I stand in the presence of ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the simplicity, gratitude and generosity that have no limits.
3. Aware of the abuse and lovelessness in the world and of the healing that is made possible when we open to love, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate respect for beauty and the erotic power of our bodies.
4. Aware of the falsehood and deception in the world and of the power of living and speaking the truth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the ability to listen, and to practice clarity and integrity in all that I communicate — by my words and my actions.
5. Aware of the contamination and desecration of the world and of my responsibility for life as it manifests through me, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate care and right action, and to honor and respect health and well-being for my body, my mind, and the planet.

6 Apr
2017
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on How Wonderful!

How Wonderful!

What else did I learn on retreat? I learned to practice Mudita (delighting in the joy and happiness of others) using this great phrase from Sri Lanka in the 18th century:

How wonderful you are in your being!

I’d say it (in silence, of course) every time I’d see someone in the hall snuggled up in their shawl or blanket. Or I’d look around the dining hall, or on the walking paths, and see how kind we were all being to each other, how patient and how considerate, and I thought how good it was to be dong what we were doing, how beautiful, and how extraordinary.

It made me so happy!

2 Jan
2017
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Dear Self

Dear Self

 

I’ve just finished writing a letter to myself, to be opened next January 1st. It’s a ritual I’ve been doing every New Year since 1977. That’s 40 years of me writing to myself, the self I imagine will be interested in reading what the current self — which immediately becomes another past self — is interested in saying. Which is kind of touching, in a way, on the part of the past self, to want to be heard from in the future. And kind of sweet, too, on the part of the current self, to be open and listening.

Isn’t that always what’s needed?

May we all listen — to ourselves and to each other — with care and attention. And may we all be heard.

Wouldn’t that be a Happy New Year!

20 Dec
2016
Posted in: Groups, Practice
By    Comments Off on The Gift of Wise Speech

The Gift of Wise Speech

At our Dharma Book Group last night, we discussed the chapter on Wise Speech in Jospeh Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. We were sitting by the fire, in front of a lovely Christmas tree (thank you, Anne), so it seemed fitting to talk about Wise Speech as a Generosity practice.

What is Wise Speech?
It is spoken at the proper time; what is said is truthful; it is spoken gently; what is said is beneficial; it is spoken with a mind of lovingkindness…One speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the Dharma…One’s speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by reason, moderate and full of sense.

When we lie, we are usually trying to hold on to something — to power, to a view of ourself, to whatever we fear we will lose if we told the truth. When we speak harshly, we’re doing the same thing. Same when we gossip or say something malicious or divisive. Or when we just go on blathering about something that’s of no use or interest whatsoever…whose only purpose is to try to prop up our fragile sense of self. This is grasping. It’s not helpful. It’s not even pleasant!

So dear reader, my gift to you — and to the world — is the intention to practice honesty and goodwill by not speaking (or writing) in ways that are false, harsh, divisive, or mindless.

It’s a gift to you; but it’s also a gift to myself.

Pass it on.

15 Dec
2016
Posted in: Books, Groups, Practice
By    Comments Off on To Pass from Entanglement to Peace

To Pass from Entanglement to Peace

The topic for tonight’s “Let’s Talk” Dharma Discussion is Wise Intention, which doesn’t get a lot of “air time” at drop-in meditation groups, probably because what it means is to cultivate the intention to practice Lovingkindness, Compassion, and Renunciation. Just mentioning the word “Renunciation” is often enough to send people heading for the exit! (Mentally, if not physically.)

But here’s what Bhikkhu Bodhi has to say in his excellent little book, The Noble Eightfold Path:
Desire is to be abandoned not because it is morally evil but because it is the root of suffering. Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive for gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom from the hold of attachment.

“…To move from desire to renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness to grief, from abundance to destitution. It is to pass from gross, entangling pleasures to an exalted happiness and peace, from a condition of servitude to one of self-mastery. Desire ultimately breeds fear and sorrow, but renunciation gives fearlessness and joy

“When we methodically contemplate the dangers of desire and the benefits of renunciation, gradually we steer our mind away from the domination of desire….

“Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself, without need for struggle.”

***

People always want to talk about giving up chocolate when the topic of Renunciation comes up, but I don’t think it’s about giving up something delightful because someone says it’s not “good for you.” What I’ve found instead that it’s about letting the shackles fall away when you realize that what you’ve been doing (thinking, saying,…OK, eating, etc) is not really working for you!!!

12 Dec
2016
Posted in: CDL, Practice, Sangha at Large
By    Comments Off on Not Exactly Mundane

Not Exactly Mundane

Last night I got a great email from one of my CDL (Community Dharma Leader) colleagues, Tsu-Yin, who has been practicing at various monasteries in Burma and Thailand for the past year. She included a link to some of her photos and a “Record of Mundane Thoughts”  — notes to herself that she kept over much of that time (quite a lot of which was spent at U Tejaniya’s monastery where I stayed for a couple of weeks back in 2014).

So reading it was quite a sweet little memory trip for me and an inspiration, too, as I start to prepare for my 2-month retreat at Spirit Rock (Jan 28-Mar 25).

With deep bows to Tsu-Yin, here are just a few of her not-exactly-mundane “Mundane Thoughts”:

* Enjoyment and agitation are opposite ends of the same stick. Think you can take only the delightful and leave the hideous? Impossible! You pick up the stick, you’re stuck with both. You must put down the stick. GO BEYOND THE STICK.

* Happiness —> Concentration

* Good news is that when we keep still, samadhi comes on its own, because it was never something outside of us. Can’t even go out and buy it in a store– it’s free!

Everything is part of waking up. Every act without attachment. But you wake up at the speed you wake up. Recognize that, and you’re golden.

* Is Row Row Row Your Boat some sort of Song of Enlightenment?! I can’t be the first to have wondered this.

***

Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.