Browsing Category "Practice"
13 Jan
2020
Posted in: Books, Practice, Tuesday Night Insight
By    Comments Off on The Opposite of Suffering is Not Happiness

The Opposite of Suffering is Not Happiness

At tomorrow’s Tuesday Night Insight group, I’m going to be talking about the First Noble Truth, which Phillip Moffitt describes in Dancing with Life as the Buddha’s proclamation that “suffering is an unavoidable reality of ordinary human existence that is to be known and responded to wisely.”

“When you collapse into suffering,” Phillip writes, “it is because your ego sees suffering as a personal failure and feels humiliated. This sense of failure is based on the ego’s mistaken idea that winning in life means no suffering.

“Your ego may well be under the delusion that the opposite of suffering is happiness. When your ego believes this, then every moment of suffering is felt as a personal defeat, insult, indignity, or proof of your inadequacy or of life being unfair. This is subjective suffering, self-centered and neurotic…

“Your ego isn’t bad, nor are you a bad person because you have an ego. The ego is a result of causes and conditions and, in my view, is necessary for a healthy, whole life. I tell students: don’t leave home without it, but don’t let it drive the vehicle on your spiritual journey…

But if the opposite of your suffering isn’t happiness, then what is it?

“Non-suffering is having a relaxed, composed mind that is fully present with whatever is occurring in the moment. And it is the capacity to be in relationship to whatever is arising such that you’re able to respond from your deepest intentions. And it is a feeling of relatedness in your life that is free from aversion to suffering.”

***

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

29 Dec
2019
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on You Are a River of Transforming Whims

You Are a River of Transforming Whims

Excerpt from Sparrow’s Guide to Meditation, by Sparrow, featured in the January 2020 issue of The Sun magazine:

“…Sit comfortably, either in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. (You may wish to use a firm cushion.) Try to keep your spine straight as possible, without being rigid. Close your eyes. Pay attention to your breathing, noticing the breath entering and leaving your nostrils (or your mouth, if that’s how your breathe.) You’re not trying to breathe slowly — or quickly, for that matter — just noticing the flow of air in and out. After three or four minutes, stop. Unless you’re desperate to keep meditating; then go on for as long as you like…

“Meditation teaches that change is constant. You fool yourself into believing that you are a fixed entity, but you are not. You are a river of transforming whims. This sounds like some Buddhist abstraction, but if you actually try to meditate, even for three minutes, you’ll discover that it’s true…

“Around fifteen years ago trees began speaking to me. I don’t usually hear words — I just have a sense of consolation and guidance — but sometimes there is a distinct message. A tree in Brooklyn said to me today: Most of the time we seek what we don’t have, but sometimes we seek what we already have. This tree is describing meditation…

“Meditation is an optimistic practice. The theory is that, by closing your eyes (or leaving them half open) and doing nothing, you can change your consciousness. Most people are too pragmatic to accept this harebrained notion, but scientific studies suggest that it’s true…

“Meditation is like practicing the guitar, but without the guitar….

“At some point your practice will be threatened — by a sudden emergency, a family crisis, a crucial deadline. Feel free to stop meditating or, conversely, to charge into the face of the enemy and meditate twice as long…

“If you offer your meditation to God, it becomes a prayer. If you offer your meditation to the universe, it becomes an affirmation. If you offer your meditation to humanity, it becomes activism.

“Don’t be afraid of the word God, but don’t get too excited about it either.”

***

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

25 Dec
2019
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Christmas at My House

Christmas at My House

May your holidays be happy, however you have them.

19 Dec
2019
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on It’s an Illusion.

It’s an Illusion.

This week I haven’t been be able to post as often as I would have liked. I’m sorry about that. The trend may continue, however, since my mother’s dementia is worsening and it takes more time now to be able to help my father cope with the situation.

It’s hard. For him. For her. For me. For everyone.

As novelist Juan Gabriel Vasquez writes,
“Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control and perhaps even depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy — the sovereign right to determine what’s going to happen next.”

Pernicious. Yes.

***

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

13 Dec
2019
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on We Become Attuned

We Become Attuned

Matthew Brensilver also writes:
“The more attuned we are to our hearts, the clearer our ethical behavior becomes.

“So, the more we actually become embodied, start to feel our body fully, to feel our heart, the clearer ethical conduct becomes. It’s like we become attuned to our own system in such a way that we begin to feel that doing good feels good.

“And the kind of karmic loop, when we act out of alignment with our own deepest integrity, that feedback loop gets shorter and shorter, so we really feel it. And this clarity breeds more careful, non-harming behavior.”

***

Text quoted: The Buddha’s Path: Sila, Samadhi, Panna, by Matthew Brensilver, PhD, Spirit Rock Teachers Council Member; published in the Jan-May 2020 issue of Spirit Rock News

Photo credit: Liberty Park Music

11 Dec
2019
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on The Year of Opening to Mystery

The Year of Opening to Mystery

Long-time DharmaTown readers may remember that a couple of years ago, after hearing Phillip Moffitt’s New Year talk about “Making This the Year of….”, I decided to try out the practice he was suggesting by making 2018: The Year of Listening. Which turned out to be such a revelation that I decided to try it again by making 2019: The Year of Getting to Know Goodwill. During which I discovered a virtual sea of goodwill that I have been swimming in, all my life, without recognizing it. (That we’ve ALL been swimming in, actually. It’s everywhere. Nothing happens without it. That sounds dubious, I know, because goodwill’s not the only thing we’re swimming in. But give it a year and see for yourself!)

So now this year: After all that listening and getting-to-know-ing, I seem to be moving into a whole new awareness of and openness to — the mysteries of this life. The mystery of being alive, for example. Of being conscious. And embodied. Of having a mind that is sometimes so dismissive of others, so opinionated, and so stuck on itself, but also, somehow, underneath that, also full of love, and beauty, and selflessness.

It’s such a mystery.

I love what Matthew Brensilver writes in the latest Spirit Rock News,
“To be mindful of goodness brings love, and to be mindful of pain brings love. That is something like a miracle, this weird asymmetry, that to attend to goodness brings love, and to attend to suffering also brings love. That’s not something we should take on faith. But this [the Buddha’s path] is the laboratory…

“The steadier and more unified the mind gets, the deeper the love can be. Sometimes the mind gathers so singularly around an object — the breath, a metta phrase, the body, sound, sight, looking into the eyes of another person — the mind just becomes unified. And all the static, fragmentation, and division collapses. And in that mind state, it’s like a drop of love reaches everywhere.

“The mind is said to be boundless. That’s not making a statement about the nature of mind, but the actual experience is that in this moment there is love without end, without discrimination, without preference…”

This is just one of the mysteries to which I find myself opening.

***

Text quoted: The Buddha’s Path: Sila, Samadhi, Panna, by Matthew Brensilver, PhD, Spirit Rock Teachers Council Member; published in the Jan-May 2020 issue of Spirit Rock News

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

9 Dec
2019
Posted in: Generosity, Practice
By    Comments Off on Freely Offered

Freely Offered

While I was in California, I was talking with Phillip about my practice of posting on this Dharmatown website, and he asked me if I use a royalty-free site for the images. I told him no, that I just google around until I find something that fits. He didn’t say anything and so I went on talking about other things.

But the question has stayed with me. Truth is, I haven’t been particularly careful about checking whether or not the images I use are — in the strictest sense — freely offered. (As in: I undertake the precept of not taking that which is not freely offered.) I’ve always figured that if it’s already on the web, and it doesn’t have an obvious copyright mark, then it’s OK for me to use — since I’m not claiming ownership or making a profit from it or anything like that.

But now that doesn’t feel quite right.

So I’ve decided to take more responsibility for the images/texts I use. You may have noticed that since I’ve come back from that trip, I’ve either used images/texts that belong to me personally or I’ve credited the source of those images/texts and provided a link.

And as a way to make amends for my previous lack of attention, I’ve decided to try to use more images that I, personally, create — the drawing of this teapot, for example — and, explicitly, to offer them freely.

***

Idam me silam maggaphalananassa paccayo hotu.
(May my ethical conduct lead to the highest fruits of liberation for myself and for all beings.)

2 Dec
2019
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Just Protect It from the Breeze

Just Protect It from the Breeze

If you grasp a leaf on a tree and try your hardest to hold it still, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never succeed. There will always be some vibration caused by slight tremors in your muscles. However, if you don’t touch the leaf and just protect it from the breeze, the leaf comes to a natural state of stillness. Ajahn Brahm

***

I didn’t want to fly on the day before Thanksgiving, so I stayed over at this lovely AirBnB — which has a private deck — and held my own little after-retreat retreat!

5 Nov
2019
Posted in: Chanting, Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Aware, I Stand and Vow….

Aware, I Stand and Vow….

At the close of most retreats in the Western Insight tradition, the group recites the Five Lay Precepts, which in English are usually translated as:

  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from killing.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from taking that which is not freely given.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from false speech.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from intoxicants that cause heedlessness.

At the retreat I just attended at Spirit Rock, we closed with a more contemporary and expansive version of these precepts (first developed for use at Manzanita Village):

  • Aware of the violence in the world and of the power of non-violent resistance, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the compassion that seeks to protect each living being.
  • Aware of the poverty and greed in the world and of the intrinsic abundance of the earth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the simplicity, gratitude, and generosity that have no limits.
  • Aware of the abuse and lovelessness in the world and of the healing that is made possible when we open to love, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate respect for the beauty and erotic power of our bodies.
  • Aware of the falsehood and deception in the world and of the power of living and speaking the truth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the ability to listen and to speak with clarity and integrity in all I communicate — by my words and by my actions.
  • Aware of the contamination and desecration of the world and of my responsibility for life as it manifests through me, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate discernment and care in what I take into my body and mind.
14 Oct
2019
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Turning Toward Mystery

Turning Toward Mystery

I leave on Thursday morning to attend the Fall Retreat at Spirit Rock, taught by Phillip Moffitt and others — including Tuere Sala, who just led a weekend retreat last month here in St. Louis!

The retreat at Spirit Rock will be a standard Insight Meditation retreat, but I’ll be working with Phillip on the Nine Bodies practice during this time because lately I’ve been feeling a strong interest in turning toward the fundamental mysteries of being alive, one of which is: What is consciousness? And: Where does it come from? What is its significance?

This all started while I was attending the Nature of Awareness retreat back in 2015. I didn’t know quite what to do about it then, but now that I’ve been practicing with the Nine Bodies material for a while, I’m starting to feel like I have a way forward.

Here’s a excerpt from Phillip’s book Awakening through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners:

“All-pervading pure awareness….is indescribable, not based on thinking or concepts; it can only be realized by practice. Yet words are necessary to point out the existence of this level of mind.

“For instance, in Tibetan Dzogchen practice, this pure awareness is called rigpa and is described as having three aspects: its essence is emptiness, its nature is radiance or luminosity, and its manifestation is responsiveness. In the Yogacara school in India, pure awareness is called Buddha nature and has three aspects that are inseparable: emptiness, radiance, and responsiveness… In the Pali texts of Theravada Buddhism this pure awareness has been referred to as the unborn, uncreated, and un-manifest.

“Of course there are large metaphysical differences in how these traditions interpret and understand this mystery of pure awareness. Even within each tradition there are disputes as to what is attained. However, there is general agreement that some fundamental change occurs that is markedly different from what characterizes the ordinary mind. In the Heart Sutra in the Tibetan tradition, this awakening is referred to in the following mantra:

Gate, gate,
paragata,
parasamgate,
bodhi svaha.

Gone, gone,
gone beyond,
unfathomably further than gone beyond,
into awakened mind, ah.”