31 Oct
2012
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Thank You, Johannes

Last night was the last time that Maplewood Metta will be held at Johannes’ house. Johannes has been amazingly generous in opening his home to us every Tuesday evening for more than a year, and now it’s time to let go…and allow someone else to enjoy the benefits of practicing generosity!

Starting November 27, Maplewood Metta will relocate to Jon Yaffe’s house, also in Maplewood. As always, we will meet from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. For more information, contact Jon by email here.

Thank you, Johannes.
May you be happy, safe, healthy, and free. For your kindness and gracious hospitality, I offer the Metta Sutta:

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who would know the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all being be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born–
May all beings be at ease.

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense-desires,
Is not born again into this world.

30 Oct
2012
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Mindfulness at Work

Last night the Dancing with Life KM group met, but we never got around to talking about the book. We sat for 20 minutes, as usual, and then went around the circle, giving everyone a chance to check in and to share what’s going on in their life. When it came to me, I started talking about the retreat I just came back from…about Mirabai..and people started asking questions, and then we got into how important it is to go on retreats, especially with a good teacher, and then about how to find one….and before we knew it, the time was up!

So in keeping with the theme of finding a good teacher, I thought I’d post just one more thing about Mirabai. She’s got a new CD, called Working with Mindfulnesswhich can be downloaded here. It’s about practicing mindfulness at work and it has a series of short, guided meditations including: Email with Intention, Reminders for a Mindful Workplace and Building Better Work Relationships.

Here’s what Mirabai says about the CD: You cannot control your stressors at work, but you can learn to manage your responses to them. “Working with Mindfulness” offers exercises for the workplace adapted from traditional Buddhist practices that I’ve taught to hundreds of people at Google, Monsanto, Hearst, Seva Foundation, Fetzer Institute, and the Wilderness Society. Participants report reduced stress, increased productivity, and openness to creative problem solving. Most importantly, they felt that their relationships improved.

Check it out! 

 

 

29 Oct
2012
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Sitting in the Cold

The Sitting in the Park group met on Saturday morning. It was cold (35 degrees!) but lovely. Next Saturday, Nov 3, will be your last chance to join us before we take a break until next spring.

Where: near the Farmers’ Market in Tower Grove Park

When: 8:30 to 9:00 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 Oct
2012
Posted in: Retreats
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What To Do

I think the most meaningful practice we did at the retreat last weekend was to walk the labyrinth. We did it in a group–in silence–each of us forming a question for reflection as we entered the mandala.

My question…I thought….had to do with earning a living. But right away it became clear that the real question was: What is my work? And when the answer came right away–that my real work is to follow the path–then all the other what-should-I-do’s just fell away. Because when I see that my work is to follow the path, then the only thing I need to do, is to take the next step. Not the step that’s three steps ahead of me. The next step. The one that’s right there in front of me. That’s the step I need to take. And since I’m on a path that’s clear and well defined, there’s really no decisions that need to be made. Just follow the path. And keep moving.

It sounds simplistic. Cliched. “One-Day-At-A-Time,” and all that. But walking the labyrinth, just inches behind the person in front of me, continually moving, listening, breathing….I “got” it in a way that I don’t think I would have, any other way.

So now I know what to do:

Stay on path.

Take the next step.

25 Oct
2012
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Listen

Last night at the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, I read one of the poems Mirabai read to us at the retreat. (Partly as a way of bringing her energy back home with me, but mostly because I was awe-struck by the beauty of it.)

Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds, by Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

Listen–
Listen more carefully to what is around you
Right now.

In my world
There are the bells from the clanks
Of the morning milk drums,

And a wagon wheel outside my window
Just hit a bump

Which turned into an ecstatic chorus
Of the Beloved’s Name.

There is the Prayer Call
Rising up like the sun
Out of the mouths of a thousand birds.

There is an astonishing vastness
Of movement and Life

Emanating sound and light
From my folded hands

And my even quieter simple being and heart.

My dear,
Is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering
Ram

Running all through the city,
Shouting so madly inside and out

About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?

Hafiz, too,
For many years beat his head in youth

And thought himself at a great distance,
Far from an armistice
With God.

But that is why this scarred old pilgrim
Has now become such a sweet rare vintage
Who weeps and sings for you.

O listen–
Listen more carefully
To what is inside of you right now.

In my world
All that remains is the wondrous call to
Dance and prayer

Rising up like a thousand suns
Out of the mouth of a
Single bird. 

24 Oct
2012
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What Is Alive

One of the contemplative practices we did at the retreat was a free-writing exercise, which began with this prompt: What is alive for me in this moment is.... We wrote for several minutes starting with that. Then we were asked to choose a sentence from what we’d just written, and use that as a prompt.

What was alive for me in the beginning was a sense of joy and appreciation. I wrote a lot about being happy to see Mirabai, about being able to speak Italian with one of the participants, the beauty of the room, the light, the wood, the stained glass windows, but then I wrote: There is a sharp, bright, pain-point in my knee, which is also alive.

And for some reason, that’s the sentence I chose to use as the prompt for the second part. I wrote:

There is a sharp, bright, pain-point in my knee, which is also alive. But it does not overwhelm me. It breathes, but it does not consume all the air in my mind. It comes. And it goes. It disturbs me sometimes. Frightens me, even.

Boo!

Death is behind the mask of this pain. No, not exactly death. Growing-Old is it’s name. I get afraid of it. Of it changing me. Making me unable to walk up the stairs without wincing. Unable to sit on the floor…or to get back up.

But fear is not alone at the door. There is also Joy — luminous, glowing, radiant, lighting the way for the others who stand sweating and itchy under their masks. All are holding bowls. They are asking for candy. Wanting to frighten me. Or enchant. They say: Here we are. Feed us.

I must open the door.

But I can choose whom to feed.

All may come in.

All are welcome to leave. 

 

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

23 Oct
2012
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I’m Back

I’m back from the retreat with Mirabai and I have lots to share…but I think, for today, I’ll save the words and just post a few pictures.

Here’s me, outside the monastery, which as you can see, has had a few changes since it was built by Capuchin monks in the 1930s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the front door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what you see when you stand with your back to the door, looking out across the lawn to the Hudson River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s part of the sanctuary, where we met every morning…with a gold Buddha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s me again. So happy to be there.

 

 

17 Oct
2012
Posted in: Retreats
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Back on Tuesday

I’m leaving early tomorrow morning to fly to New York, to meet with my first meditation teacher, Mirabai Bush, and to attend the Contemplative Retreat for Educators she’ll be leading.

I’m not an Educator, but Mirabai said it was OK. I attended two years ago and met lots of fascinating people, all doing very interesting work using contemplative practices to teach courses in a wide range of disciplines…this is where I learned the Now I See method I’ve been posting about….but really, I’m just going to be able to sit with Mirabai.

The retreat is held at the Garrison Institute. It’s in a beautiful, former monastery in Garrison, New York, located on the bluffs overlooking the Hudson River, about an hour north of New York City. I’ll take a train from Grand Central Station that goes right along the river all the way up to Garrison. (Which alone is almost worth the trip.) The retreat starts Thursday at dinner and goes through lunch on Sunday. (The food is awesome.) Then I’ll be staying over for a day of practice.

I’ll post about it all when I get back on Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

16 Oct
2012
Posted in: Practice
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The Edge

One of Phillip Moffitt’s DharmaWisdom e-Teachings arrived in my e-mail today. They seem to come randomly, every couple of months, but somehow they always manage to say exactly what I need to hear at that particular moment. (Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)

This one is on Practicing Your Edge. Here’s an excerpt:

What does it mean to go “to the edge” in your spiritual practice? The edge is the point of your maximum ability–it isn’t something beyond your capability. Still, when you’re approaching your edge, you may be unsure of how much farther you can go.

One place you may experience this type of precipice is during your formal practice. Practicing at your edge may mean going for longer retreats, sitting longer, sitting without moving, sitting with pain, or sitting with loving-kindness. You could choose to challenge yourself during any part of your practice. At home, simply carving out time away from family obligations may be  your edge. Or maybe for you the edge of your practice is living the dharma on a daily basis.

Your edge might be renouncing wanting mind, coming to terms with the fragility of life, being present, truly accepting “don’t know mind,” or abandoning a piece of your old lifestyle. There are so many possibilities you can explore. You may be tempted to choose an “edge” which really isn’t your edge because it feels good to do something you’ve already mastered. The problem with not working toward your edge is that your spiritual practice will stall. 

When you’re truly at your edge, do not take unnecessary risks. You’re already at your edge so there’s no need to compound it. As you approach the edge, pay attention to your body and mind. Are you going too far? Do you feel fatigued? Ask yourself if you’re really committed to this level of edginess. If you’re not, pull back. At this point, pushing yourself to keep going is just ego creation and is harmful to the self. Beware of artificial pride keeping you on the edge. Do you know you should pull back but you’re too proud to do so? Is fear keeping you frozen on the edge?

Likewise, make sure that going to your edge is not something you’re doing to feed your ego. You don’t go to your edge in order to get a certain outcome, because lots of time when we’re at the edge, the outcome isn’t what we expected.

Want more?

Click here to have e-Teachings sent to you.

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

 

15 Oct
2012
Posted in: Books, Groups
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Revolutionary Approach

Tonight is the Dancing with Life KM Group. We’ve moved into Book Two: The Second Noble Truth (which, basically, says that the stress in our lives is caused by insisting that things be the way we want them to be, instead of they way they actually are.)

I’ve highlighted just about all of Chapter 8, but the passage I’m bringing to discuss tonight is:

Craving [insisting that things to be the way we want them to be] creates an illusion, a misperception, a deluded mental reaction, which causes the mind to contract into stress and anxiety. If this state is avoided or released, the mind is naturally calm and luminous

The three Insights of the Second Noble Truth thus represents a revolutionary approach to spiritual development–the utilization of awareness and observation to bring freedom without reliance on beliefs or rituals of any sort. 

(from page 76-7, hardback edition…emphasis mine)

I chose this passage because (1) I am drawn to the assertion that our natural state of mind is calm and luminous. (As opposed to the idea that we are naturally “sinful”.) And (2) I am so glad to have been shown a way to understand my life…in a deep and profound way…without also being asked to check my brain at the door.