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4 Mar
2013
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Dharma Friends

The Buddha said (I’m paraphrasing here) that being in the company of good friends is vital to living a life that is wise, compassionate and free of suffering. So I want to put a plug in here for Cafe Sangha, DharmaTown’s monthly no-program, no-agenda, just-get-together-and-get-to-know-each-other social event. It’s not even an event! It’s just a place and time where friends can stop by and hang out.

Where: Stone Spiral Coffee Shop, 2500 Sutton, Maplewood (just north of Manchester)
When: the first Saturday of every month
What time: any time between 8:30 and 10:00 am

Last Saturday, Chris, David, Nadine, Scott and I met and had a great time looking at pictures of Scott’s new granddaughter, talking about the recent retreat in Arizona, and Chris’s trip with her daughter to Florence.

Cafe Sangha meets again on Saturday, April 6. I hope to see you there!

1 Mar
2013
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The Dance of Desire

The Monday night Dancing with Life KM group has started reading Chapter 12: The Paradox of Desire. In it, Phillip Moffitt writes, “Being in the physical realm, you are undeniably involved with the energy of desire…This, then, is the paradox of desire–it leads to suffering when grasped after, yet without it there is no movement to tend to your child’s needs or to help your sick neighbor, or to free yourself from suffering.Thus, your challenge is not to rid yourself of desire, but rather to choose your desires wisely and respond skillfully

Desire always involves movement–either toward something pleasant, or away from something unpleasant. There is movement in desire whether you are reacting to something that is happening right now, thinking about the future, or even remembering the past. The frozen states of apathy, helplessness, cynicism, and depression have little movement and, therefore, little life. They are hindrances to freedom and well-being. Such wounded states of mind point to the necessity of movement for healthy life. They also reveal that you need healthy desire to provide the energy you need to seek liberation.

“To understand the relationship between movement and your desires, there are two refinements that I suggest you reflect upon. The first is to make the movement of your desire the object of your mindful attention. By focusing on the energetic movement, you can quickly determine if what you are being drawn toward or repulsed from is in line with your deepest values…..

“A second refinement for working with the energy of desire is to explore the great mystery of stillness. Stillness is not apathy or collapse; it is vibrant, fully alive energy. In stillness the movement is neither away from nor toward any object…

“By becoming aware of the moments of stillness in yourself (you do have them!) you gain the ability to clearly see your desire as movement. You see how desire arises naturally from causes and conditions and aren’t beguiled by it. You know that clinging to desire is not the freedom of stillness. You understand that in order to be free your challenge is to come to terms with desire and to cease to be attached to it.”

(image: Q-cards)

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.

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)

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)

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)

 

18 Dec
2012
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Sure Heart’s Release

Last night the Dharma Seed KM group met and listened to a beautiful talk by Kamala Masters, called “The Long Range View of Practice.”

The first part of her talk is an overview of the early benefits of practice and stories about her first retreat days, then she opens it up to give an inspiring picture of the highest goal of practice….the sure heart’s release.

To quote the Buddha:
The reason for my teaching in not for merit or good deeds or good karma, or concentration, or rapture, or even insight. None of these is the reason that I teach, but the sure heart’s release. This and this alone is the reason for the teaching of a Buddha.

(KM members pictured are: Scott N, Pamela, Candy, Scott S, Roberta…plus four-legged friends Sonny and Freddie. I’m behind the camera.)

12 Dec
2012
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May All Beings….

Tonight at the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, I plan to offer instructions on the practice of Metta meditation. Metta is a Pali word that is often translated as “loving-kindness”….a word that, to my ear, sounds stilted and “saintly” (and therefore disconnected from my everyday life.) But the root word of “metta” is the same as the word for “friend,” so I prefer the more colloquial translations, which are “friendliness” and “goodwill.”

Here are the Buddha’s words on the practice of Goodwill (Metta Sutta SN 1.8):

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who seeks 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 beings 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 being 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 mindfulness.
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. 

(translation by Amaravati Sangha, image from “Offering,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)