13 Feb
2013
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Dharma Friends Sitting Group

Things change.

Blue Lotus Dharma Center, where the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group has been meeting, will soon move to a new location. They will also expand their program at the new site, which means that Wednesday nights will no longer be available to us.

So tonight is the last night we meet at Blue Lotus.

But we’ve found a new location!

Beginning on Wednesday, Feb 27, we will sit at First Unitarian Church, 5007 Waterman at Kingshighway, in the Central West End. We’ll meet at the same time as always: every Wednesday from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. There’s a parking lot next to the building. The entrance to the lot and the building is on Waterman. Everything else will be pretty much the same….we start with a 40-minute sit, followed by informal discussion. There are plenty of chairs, but if you prefer to sit on a cushion, you should bring your own.

Oh. And since we’ll no longer be meeting in the Hi-Pointe neighborhood, we’ve changed our name. We are now the Dharma Friends Sitting Group.

The building is lovely, by the way. (see above)

I hope you will join us.

For more info, contact Jan.

12 Feb
2013
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Losing and Finding

At Cafe Sangha this month, I got a chance to talk with Pamela, who is a regular at the Dharma Seed KM group, and found out that she is planning to walk the Camino de Santiago this spring! I met someone at the DPP retreat last fall who had just come back from walking it, and was immediately inspired…but then I started thinking that I can’t get enough time off until next year at the earliest, and my knees hurt, and my back goes out, and — basically , I’m a couch potato — so I started to think I was crazy to even consider it…and then I ran into Pamela…and now I’m inspired all over again!

So naturally, I got out my favorite Camino book and read it again over the weekend. It’s called I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago and it’s by a German comedian named Hape Kerkeling (who is apparently very famous). He is funny. And a great storyteller. Very down-to-earth. But also very inspiring. In a delightfully heartfelt but non-pious way.

Here’s a sample:
“I decide to spend the remaining miles today without speaking or thinking, following advice from Sheelah, who said to me in Leon: ‘You don’t feel the toll this trek is taking on your body when you walk without thinking or speaking.’…Silence is easy to maintain; I’ve gotten fairly used to that. I say nothing to the farmers on the field as I pass by, and they respond in kind. They seem to respect my silence. But it is nearly impossible to stop thinking. In my mind I keep breaking out into song, or my thoughts turn to disjointed drivel along the lines of ‘Where are my keys?’ ‘Buy cigarettes!’ ‘Aching feet!’ ‘Could go for some potato salad!’

“At some point I find I’m actually able to switch off my stream of thoughts and simply stop thinking. Incidentally, it is virtually impossible to describe a path after the fact when you are not thinking about it, since you see things without sorting them out or judging them. Dispassionate perception is hard to put into words.

“Everything joins together: my breath, my steps, the wind, the singing of birds, the waving of grain fields, and the cool feeling on my skin. I walk in silence. Am I pressing my feet onto the ground while I walk, or is the ground pressing up onto my feet?…

“Needless to say, I get hopelessly lost. With silence in my head and all this nonthinking for nine miles, I’ve lost track of the path’s arrows and scallop signposts. And once I start to focus again, I am simply somewhere at some time. It’s lovely here, but wrong. Later, though, it turns out that my meandering did not add up to more miles at all–in fact, it save me about two miles. A farmer sends me through a filed with grain as tall as I am, which brings me back to the right path. How funny! I stop paying attention to the trail, lose my way, and still wind up taking a shortcut…”

11 Feb
2013
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Ready for Your Close-Up?

The third Ego-Renunciation Practice that the “Dancing with Life” KM group will be playing with over the next couple of weeks is: giving up being the star of your own movie.

In Dancing with Life, Phillip Moffitt writes, “The unfolding of events that make up your life is like a movie, is it not? And you interpret every scene or event from the vantage point of being the star of your movie–is it good or bad for you, do you like it or not, and so on.

“Once you renounce being the star of your own movie, you begin to see the unfolding of each scene and the movie as a whole from multiple perspectives. You don’t forsake your role in the movie, but once you cease making it be all about you, the movie creates less anxiety and you are more able to live from your core values.”

Give it a try!

 

 

(image: Steampunk Tarot by Curly Cue Design)

8 Feb
2013
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How Much is Enough?

The second Ego-Renunciation Practice in Dancing with Life is committing to no longer measuring the success of your life by how many of your wants are met.

Phillip Moffitt writes, “This renunciation allows you to still have desires, but they’re not at the center of your life. You fulfill those wants that can be fulfilled while living from your deepest values, and you slowly abandon the rest.

“This means that your sexual desires are constrained by non-harming, material gains are limited by ethical and generous behavior, and your ego need for achievement and attention is less of a priority than living according to your core values. Of course you still have to fulfill your basic needs and live up to your responsibilities as best you can, but you renounce measuring success by what you have and what you have achieved.

You many be surprised to discover how much you have been judging your life by this standard. It is so common that it is almost entirely unconscious, and it is devastating to inner growth because the ego can always distract you with another want.”

(image: Kitty Kahane Tarot)

 

7 Feb
2013
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But I Like Being Right!

The Monday night “Dancing with Life” KM group has decided to try out the Three Ego-Renunciation Practices Phillip Moffitt describes in Chapter 11 (of Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering). He suggests these practices as a way to “directly challenge your ego’s desire to always be in charge.” They are particularly helpful for modern practitioners because they “loosen the ego’s grasp on the mind but don’t require you to make any outward changes in your life.”

The first practice is: Renouncing Your Attachment to Being Right

“Most of us cling to the need to be right, and making this renunciation can dramatically affect both how you interact with others and how you interpret events. When the renunciation starts to be real, you have a much easier time making decisions and have less of a need to position yourself with others or in your own mind.

“Giving up always being right doesn’t mean you forsake your opinions or your right to seek social justice, but you are not defensive, judgmental, or self-righteous in your approach to life.

“You mindfully live with the fact that even when you’re wrong, it’s okay because you are coming from your deepest intention. Also, you learn from being wrong (or right), therefore you become a more effective person.”

Give it a try!

I’ll post the second and third practices in the Friday and Monday posts. Stay tuned.

(image: Witch Tarot)

6 Feb
2013
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You’ll Thank Me for It

The DPP homework for February has arrived and one of the topics is Gratitude:

“The development and experience of gratitude is a beautiful part of awakening…..The arising of gratitude for the gifts offered by others and the rewarding experiences of life lead to a deeper sense of interconnection, happiness, well being, and often a return of generosity in response….It can further awaken our awareness of being loved, cared for, and surrounded by beauty and bounty.”

One of the assignments is to watch this 10-minute TED video by Louie Schwartzberg.

Just do it.

You won’t be sorry.

 

(image: Napo Tarot)

5 Feb
2013
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People Who Practice Metta….

At the Metta Retreat I sat with Sylvia Boorstein many years ago, she told a story about learning the practice from Sharon Salzberg. The first thing Sharon had her do was to memorize the traditional “Benefits of Metta” which goes like this:

People who practice Metta,
Sleep peacefully,

Wake peacefully,
Dream peaceful dreams.
People love them,
Angels love them,
Angels will protect them.
Poisons and weapons and fire don’t harm them.
Their faces are clear.
Their minds are serene.
They die unconfused.
And when they die, their rebirth is in heavenly realms. 

At the retreat, Sylvia had each of us consider which of these benefits we most wanted for ourselves. If she had asked us to say publicly which one we had chosen, I probably would have said: “their minds are serene.” But the truth is, I really wanted: “people love them.” I smile when I think of that now, but back then I had the idea that since I didn’t have a romantic partner, I didn’t have love.

I have been practicing Metta for several years, and I guess you could say it has “worked,” because although I still don’t have a romantic partner, I certainly don’t feel that I don’t have love.

Maplewood Metta meets tonight and every Tuesday night. It’s a small group, but very, very sweet. We read the Metta Sutta, then sit for 30 minutes, then share whatever is on our mind. It’s really a pleasure and I’d love for more people to attend.

Where: Jon Yaffe’s house in Maplewood. Contact him here for the address.
When: Every Tuesday, 6:30 to 7:30 pm  

I hope to see you there.

(image: Q-cards)

4 Feb
2013
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Neck-Deep in Grace

Last month’s DPP homework wasn’t just about Dependent Co-Arising. We also had readings, reflections and exercises on the nature of faith. It’s important to note that in Buddhist practice, faith does NOT require a belief in some force outside ourselves, but rather a realization that we suffer and that it might be possible for that suffering to come to an end.

Here’s a passage from one of the readings by James Baraz:

“A few years ago, I had the opportunity to study with an Advaita Vedanta teacher in India named Poonja-ji. Without relying on any particular method, he simply encourages his students to rest in relaxed awareness. Poonja-ji talks about the potential to being awakened in this moment, not ten years or ten lifetimes from now.

“One day I asked him, ‘How do I know that I have a right to be enlightened, that I have enough good karma to awaken?’

“He looked at me and said, ‘You’ve come from the other side of the world with deep commitment, here to this place in India, with company of good friends and a good teacher. The Dharma is your whole life. Look around you. You are neck-deep in grace, and you’re wondering if you have enough!

We are all neck-deep in grace. We share an extraordinary karma, being interested in and able to take the time to deepen our understanding, to enjoy support, and have the conditions and opportunity to practice.

“Reflecting on these blessing can deepen our faith.”

(image: Kity Kahane’s Tarot)

1 Feb
2013
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Enlightenment Muffins

And now for something entirely different…..

At the Dharma Seed KM group last Monday night, Roberta brought muffins. Not just any old muffins. They were home-made, Seven-Factors-of-Enlightenement Muffins from Gloria Ambrosia’s “The Complete Muffin Cookbook.” And yes, that’s the same Gloria (Taraniya) Ambrosia who teaches at IMS (Insight Meditation Center) and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.

The Seven Factors of Enlightenment from a Buddhist perspective are: mindfulnessinvestigation, effort, rapture, concentration, tranquility, and equanimity. In the case of muffins, however, the Seven Factors are: applesauce, brown sugar, granola, chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Needless to say, the muffins were AWESOME. Thank you Roberta! Here’s the recipe. (Yields 12 to 14 muffins)

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Goodies:
1/2 cup granola
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds

Topping:
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Here’s how:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the goodies and toss to coat.
3. Whisk the wet ingredients in a medium bowl or blend in a food processor. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. Stir just until mixed. Do not overstir.
4. Spoon the batter into a greased or papered muffin tin. Fill each cup nearly to the top. Top each cup of batter with a pinch of coconut, taking care to sprinkle it evenly over each cup. Too much topping piled high in the middle will prevent the muffins from rising properly.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Cool the muffins at least 10 minutes before removing from the tin.

(image: Housewives Tarot)

 

31 Jan
2013
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Why Do We Meditate?

In reading the transcript of Christina Feldman‘s talk on Dependent Co-Arising (for the DPP homework assignment), I was struck by her comments on the paradox of meditation, which is that we practice “being with what is,” but we do it in order to develop greater peace, clarity, compassion and wisdom. (Which sounds like we’re trying to find something better than what is.)

Here’s what she says, “This is actually an interesting paradox because it straddles a very fine line. One part of meditation, for example, is the capacity to be in harmony with what is. At the same time, there’s a visionary part in every spiritual practice which is about what is possible. Holding these two together is the challenge of the practice; being with what is through our meditation training, we need to separate from any sense of resignation or passivity.

“Positively, being with what is means seeing the true nature of what’s happening in the moment — it is arising, it is passing, it has its own flavor, etc. On the other hand, knowing what is possible means giving attention to our own capacities for awareness and wisdom, and having the clarity to hold what is happening in the light of wisdom. That’s the visionary part.

“So it’s not about changing the world; it’s not about changing myself into a more enlightened self. It is about the sense of trusting the vision that freedom, clarity and very deep and powerful levels of understanding are possible, that they begin and are born in what is within the field of our experience right now.

“We don’t meditate in order to stay the same. We don’t meditate in order to reject whatever is present in the moment. We meditate in order to find the possibility in the moment, first through seeing the capacity for freedom within that moment.”

(image: Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot)