7 Mar
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on It’s Mysterious

It’s Mysterious

Just a little bit more from the At-Home Retreat with Phillip Moffitt:

There is a mysterious aspect to this practice. We don’t make many references to that in the practice, but it’s very mysterious. And mysterious things happen while we practice. Part of this mysteriousness is: When we’re being available in practice, what at are we being available for? Who is being available? What does it mean to be available in the first place?…

What arises when we practice is this illuminating quality of awareness. It’s illuminating — the sound of my voice is illuminated by your knowing. The quality of knowing is what illuminates it. Otherwise, it has no existence outside of itself…

Consciousness — that which knows — has an illuminating quality to it. That illuminating quality is a source of energy. When we “know that we know” anything, that which is illuminated is illuminated with energy. And that energy becomes the source for intentionality — that’s where intention comes from. It’s why we’re not stuck in samsara forever…

It is inspiring to think of this.

As you become more aware of awareness, you actually start to have a direct feeling of this knowing. You begin to see why the Buddha stressed the importance of mindfulness. Our actual showing up for the direct experience — that’s how we have choice in our life — because the knowing has this inherent energy. It has a responsiveness. It’s benign. And we can know it in this illuminating nature of knowing.  

***

Wow.  

(To listen to this talk, click here. Most of the quote above begins at about the 1 hr and 37 minute mark.)

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
By    Comments Off on Doing a Little Doing

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!

28 Feb
2018
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Is This Not Love

Is This Not Love

What’s Not Here (excerpt)
Rumi, translation by Coleman Banks:

I start out on this road,
call it love or emptiness.
I only know what’s not here. 

Resentment seeds, backscratching greed,
worrying about outcome, fear of people.

When a bird gets free,
it does not go back for remnants
left on the bottom of the cage.

***

“Emptiness” is one of the most important concepts in Buddhism. But this “emptiness” does not mean “nothingness” or some great “void”. It means the fundamental nature of our heart/mind when greed, hatred, resentment, worry, fear, confusion, etc are not present.

It is our fundament nature to be “empty” of these. When we experience this emptiness, we are free. Is this not love?

Guy Armstrong says it much better than I can. Listen to his talk, Emptiness: A Practical Introduction for Meditators

27 Feb
2018
Posted in: Generosity
By    Comments Off on How Beautiful

How Beautiful

Thank you, dear friends.

I am deeply touched by your kindness and generosity. On Friday I posted a request for help in paying the cost of upgrading this Dharma Town site ($658.73) and already I have received $530 in donations and pledges.

Thank you so much. Not only for the financial support, but also for the encouragement and appreciation for the work I have been doing that so many of you have also expressed. And more than that. Several of you expressed gratitude to me for having asked!

This is such a lesson for me. That it can be a gift to ask for help. That asking for what you need can actually give something to the person you are asking — an opportunity to be generous, to express gratitude, and to feel how good it feels to do something helpful for someone else!

What a lovely thing this giving-and-recieving turns out to be.

We are all in this world together. We forget it sometimes, or even try to ignore it, but we are dependent on each other. We “inter-are,” as Thich Nhat Hanh says.

How beautiful.

23 Feb
2018
Posted in: Generosity
By    Comments Off on Asking is Also Practice

Asking is Also Practice

Dear Friends,

I have just had to spend $658.73 to upgrade and secure my Dharma Town site, which includes content migration to a new server, hosting, domain renewal, backup, and cyber security (so as not to repeat the unpleasant surprise I got a few years ago when Dharma Town was hacked by a porn site!). This amount will cover hosting and domain renewal for the next 5 years, plus backup and security for 1 year, but in order to get the lowest possible annual cost, I’ve had to pay it all now.

I created this site 6 years ago (time flies!) and have been writing blog posts almost every weekday since then (except when I’ve been away on retreat). I’ve covered all the costs of the site out of my own pocket so far, but now I need to ask for your help.

There is now a Donate button on the sidebar to the right of each webpage. If Dharma Town has been useful or inspiring or supportive of your practice in any way, or if you have benefited from any of the other dharma programs I’ve offered to the St. Louis community — including Cafe Sangha and Retreat-in-a-Box –please consider making a donation.

Thank you.

May all beings receive the blessings of my life.

***

If you have any problems using the Donate button, or would like to talk with me about this, or offer support in some other way, please email me here.

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.”