Browsing Category "Retreats"
11 Jun
2018
Posted in: Books, Retreats
By    No Comments

Your Mind Already Moves

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to post after coming back from the Nine Bodies retreat, but the retreat — as well as the meeting I had with Phillip the day after — were such powerful experiences that I’ve needed all this time just to start to let it soak in.

But I do want to keep my promise to the Sunday Sangha, so here’s the link I mentioned to the website where you can find a video recording of Phillip Moffitt introducing the Nine Bodies teaching, as well as audio recordings of guided meditations for accessing each of these Bodies (levels of consciousness).

The retreat was very unusual. (Almost no dharma talks, for example, but lots of guided meditation.) It was very personal. (Both Phillip and Dana were present during all but a few of the sits.) And it was very helpful for me and the development of my practice.

I can’t really say much more than that. So I’ll just leave you with this excerpt from the book:

“Just reading about and reflecting on the Nine Bodies can make a difference in your self-understanding and how skillfully you respond to various challenges in your life…

“Your mind already moves in and out of these different Bodies, and they are continually affecting your physical body, attitude, perception, and mental capabilities. So just having the ability to recognize the underlying energies of the various Bodies can bring equanimity to the mind.”

***

Check it out. Awakening Through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners, by Phillip Moffitt.

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!

11 Apr
2018
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on You’ve Got to Play to Win

You’ve Got to Play to Win

The Forest Refuge (which I mentioned in yesterday’s post) has just announced its schedule of teachers for 2019 and I see that Ajahn Sucitto will be teaching the month of May. Because he’s such a popular teacher (rightly so), admission will be by lottery.

I’ve applied three years in a row and I’ve never gotten in. (There are 30 beds at the Forest Refuge. The wait list alone is usually well over 100.)

Guy and Sally Armstrong will also be teaching at the Forest Refuge next year. Their retreat is the month of June. It’s also admission by lottery.

It would be AWESOME to attend those retreats back-to-back. But I’d have to “win” the lottery — twice!

What the heck.

I’m going for it!

***

Want to join me? Applications for Ajahn Sucitto’s May 2019 retreat are due June 5, 2018. Applications for Guy and Sally Armstrong’s June 2019 retreat are due July 25, 2018. Click here for more information.

10 Apr
2018
Posted in: Books, Retreats
By    Comments Off on If You Practice Deeply…

If You Practice Deeply…

Later this month I’ll be spending a few days with my mentor, Lila Kate Wheeler, and I’m getting ready by reading one of the books she edited: The State of Mind Called Beautiful, a collection of talks given by Sayadaw U Panditata at the Forest Refuge (pictured above, where I sat a 5-week retreat at the beginning of this year).

Here’s an excerpt from the book, which I offer with the hope of encouraging you go on retreat!!!

“Only by practicing the Buddha’s teachings and training (Dhamma Vinaya) can one fulfill the intent of the Buddha’s compassion. To gain the benefits of Dhamma Vinaya, the Buddhist texts offer the following four guidelines:

  1. Associate with a person who is knowledgeable and can teach the Dhamma.
  2. Hear the correct teachings.
  3. Engage wise attention, which means directing one’s life wisely, as well as maintaining upright behavior in all circumstances.
  4. Practice well in accordance with the Dhamma Vinaya.

“These days many people are not well versed in Buddhist literature; they do not apply the teachings correctly. Such people will slip from the correct path. If you’re careful to fulfill these four requirements, your contact with the Dhamma Vinaya will be worthwhile. If you don’t fulfill them, beware, for you could be wasting an amazing opportunity — a human life.

“Meditation practice leads us to gain insight, the eye of wisdom that understands what the Buddha understood and what he was trying to teach.

Attending intensive meditation retreats fosters maximum depth of practice and exposes you to the guidance of qualified teachers. Retreats, then, support the first, third, and fourth guidelines above.

“On retreat, internal and external purity are easier to achieve than in everyday life. Both of these forms of purity are indispensable for anyone who wants to develop insight…

If you are at all able to set aside time for a retreat, of course you must encourage yourself to choose that option, even if it means giving up something else, like a vacation. And once you have entered an intensive practice period, please, please, do not waste the opportunity in distraction and laziness. Retreat time is precious. You never know when, or whether, you can come back again!

“If you practice deeply you may encounter the experience of nibbana, genuine knowledge of the Dhamma, and the Four Noble Truths.

Mediation practice is the one and only way to gain and experience this. There is no other way.”

22 Feb
2018
Posted in: Chanting, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Including Guardian Spirits!

Including Guardian Spirits!

The highlight of my day — every day — while I was at the Forest Refuge, was at 6:20 in the morning when we chanted the “imaya dhammanu” loving-kindness chant. We did it in Pali, which I just love. But I also love the English translation, which I held in my heart, so that every morning I felt deeply the desire for all beings — including whatever guardian spirits there might be at the Forest Refuge! — that they all be “free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and that they may know the grace of well-being.”

Here’s the full text in English:

By this practice, in accord with the Dharma, I honor the Buddha.
By this practice, in accord with the Dharma, I honor the Dharma.
By this practice, in accord with the Dharma, I honor the Sangha.

May I be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble; may I know the grace of well-being.

May my parents, teachers, family, friends and fellow dharma-travelers,
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May all the practitioners in this place
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May our guardian spirits, in this temple,
in this dwelling, in this place; may the guardian spirits
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May all beings, all living things, all creatures,
all individuals, all personalities,
all women and all female beings, all men and all male beings, all noble ones, all worldly ones,
all spirits and gods, all humans, and all those in misery,
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May all beings be free from suffering, enjoy safety and abundance, owners of their own karma.

We offer the merit of our practice to all beings.

Well said, well said, well said. 

***

Now that I’m home, I’ve kept up the practice. (Not at 6:20 am. But still.)

21 Feb
2018
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on I’m Thinking About It

I’m Thinking About It

When I arrived at the Forest Refuge last December (I think this photo was taken about a week after I got there), I was delighted to find that someone I knew from the CDL program was already there — someone who I didn’t really know all that well, but who I’d sat several long retreats with, and had developed a very sweet, very heartfelt connection with.

The Forest Refuge is a silent retreat center, so of course we didn’t get a chance to chat — until just before I left, when I found out that my friend had already been there for 3 months before I’d arrived — and that they’d be staying on for another 9!

Meaning: they are at the Forest Refuge — on retreat — for a WHOLE YEAR.

Which is amazing enough. Except that last November, when Spring Washam was here and she was telling me how she had spent a year on retreat in Peru, I found myself saying: Wow, that’s so cool. I’m been thinking about going on retreat for a year at the Forest Refuge.

Which I had! Except that I’d never said that to anyone before. Maybe not even to myself quite that clearly.

So I backtracked right away. Saying: of course I couldn’t really do anything like that. What would I do with my house? My cats? My responsibilities!

And then I forgot about it. Sort of.

Until I saw my sweet friend: RIGHT THERE — DOING IT!!!

So while I was waiting for the van to take me to the airport (I was in the office, where it was OK for us to talk), I told my friend what I’d said to Spring and we talked about it.

They said that the first 3 months had been pretty intense. And that maybe it was a crazy thing to do. But maybe not. They said some people do it in 3-month “chunks.” Meaning: 3 months on retreat, then 1 month back out in the world (to integrate the retreat experiences), then back in again for 3 months, then out for 1, and on like that, for a year.

Which sound surprisingly doable!

Not any time soon, of course. But at some point. Maybe.

Or maybe not.

Let’s just say: I’m thinking about it.

20 Feb
2018
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Do We Dare?

Do We Dare?

I enjoyed the flexible schedule of being on retreat at the Forest Refuge (no bells being rung every 45 minutes) and the intimacy of being at a smaller center (only 30 rooms instead of the usual 100) and a lot of other things too that were very special about that place — but I have to admit, I really missed the nightly dharma talks. (There was one on Tuesday night and another on Friday night, but that was it.)

So, now that I’m back, I’ve hunkered down almost every night listening to dharma talks. Which is kind of like being on a retreat in itself! Especially since I also listen to guided meditations with instructions, like these, at the very end of Phillip Moffitt’s talk from 2013, The Metta of Awareness and the Awareness of Metta:

“Let go. Let go. Let go.

“Let go in terms of experiencing the emptiness. But also let go in terms of opening to the possibility of metta — this love — that in all of our smallness and all of our anxieties and all of our feeling as though we don’t have enough — that we’ve not had enough of ‘our turn’ or ‘oh, we have it so hard’ or ‘we’re at an age when it’s all falling away from us now’… In the midst of all of that, let go of those mind states, as best we are able, such that we can open to the innate sense of wellbeing that the brahma viharas represent…

“We see it as empty, and that is wisdom. And we also see it as love — that we are sufficient the way we are. That we’re not separate. We’re part of some huge unfolding. That it’s all got a kind of perfection. Even though we are actively trying to make it better — and SHOULD be actively trying to make it better. Yet it’s got a kind of perfection in the very knowing of it… The very unfolding of our life as it is, is perfect, when known from that love-space.

“Do we dare? Do we dare let go? Just into the emptiness? To let go into this kind of vulnerability of caring, as though we ARE sufficient. As though we ARE enough. As though we have something to give, and are also worthy of receiving. Just as we are.

“Do we dare? Do we dare? Do we dare to let go in this way?

“…And now dropping our attention into the body, to the belly area, into the Intuitive Body. What would the Intuitive Body have us know? What wants to be heard from that Intuition?

“…Shifting attention to the Heart Space. What needs attending in the heart? What do you know-that-you-know in the Heart Space? What needs to be allowed, received, or let go of, in the Heart Space?

“…Shifting attention to the Head Center, where all our comments are made, all our views and opinions chatter away. But respecting the Head Center. What has the Head Center noticed that it would have you listen to ?

“…And then letting go of all this knowing.

“Just be. Just for a few seconds.

“Trust yourself to let go of everything and just be.

“No doing. No knowing.

“Just be.”

16 Feb
2018
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I was on retreat at the Forest Refuge on New Year’s Day, where (much to my disappointment) there was no acknowledgement that we had passed from 2017 to 2018. I hadn’t expected champagne, but I had thought that there might be some special chanting ceremony, or blessing, or at least that someone would ring the big bells outside the dining hall at midnight. (Maybe 108 times, like they do at the New Year’s Retreats I’ve attended at Spirit Rock.)

Oh well.

Today is the Lunar New Year, celebrated in China with the greeting: Gong Xi Fa Cai! Which I understand translates as: May you be Fortunate and Prosperous!

That will do.

May it be so!

27 Oct
2017
Posted in: Chanting, Retreats
By    1 Comment

What to Pack for Winter

From December 27 though January 31, I’ll be on a 5-week personal retreat at the Forest Refuge in Barre, Massachusetts. There’ll be experienced teachers on site for guidance during that time (primarily Winnie Nazarko and Annie Nugent), but there won’t be a formal retreat structure, which means no set schedule for practice, no morning instructions, and no nightly dharma talk.

This will be a beautiful way to spend my birthday (Dec 30), New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and a full month after that. It will also be an extraordinary chance to develop and strengthen the inner resources I’ve been cultivating as a result of my practice.

So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to “take with me” when I go on this retreat. Not how many pairs of underwear and how much dark chocolate I’ll need to get me through the 5 weeks (I’ve pretty much worked all that out on previous retreats), but what else can I bring that will truly sustain and feed me?

I know that what has been the most reliably uplifting for me on previous retreats has been the nightly chanting, especially the chants we’ve done in Pali. I remember being so inspired this past March when Kate Johnson (one of the assistant teachers) chanted the entire Metta Sutta in Pail — by HEART (!!!!).

So now I’ve decided that that is what I want to “pack.”

The Metta Sutta is 10 stanzas long, 4 lines each, and it takes about 4 minutes to chant the whole thing. I already know it in English, but now I want to know it in Pali.

This is no small undertaking.

But I’m doing it.

Because I love it. And because I know this will keep me warm.

***

(Listen here to Jesse Vega-Frey lead this chant during a retreat at IMS.)

19 Sep
2017
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on Beginning Again

Beginning Again

The annual 3-month retreat has just started at IMS (Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA) and so, once again, I am “attending” — vicariously — by listening to the dharma talks that are given every night and which are (mostly) available to the public on DharmaSeed.

My favorite talk so far is the first one, given by Guy Armstrong, which is a terrific overview of the Buddha’s teachings — Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, Meditation Training (Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration), Satipatthana Sutta, Mindfulness of Body, Mindfulness of Breathing, Insight, Liberation — each teaching opening up and containing within it the next…as Guy says, “like a set of those Russian nesting dolls!”

He starts with a beautifully simple definition of Mindfulness: Understanding what you are experiencing in the present moment.

And then gives some wonderfully simple (and telling) instructions: When your mind wanders — which it will — and then when it comes back — which it will — ask yourself: While I was “gone,” did I feel more peaceful, more contented, more settled, more happy?

It’s a great talk for beginners…and an even better one for the rest of us, who are always encouraged to beginning again. Click here to listen.