I was very kindly asked to write a guest post for a site called the Merry Runner. You should go there and read it, not just mine, but all of it!
There are new classes coming up!
One begins next week: Taking Up the Challenge
West Newbury Thursdays 4:15-5 (sometimes later)
Another begins in May: Selfless Self Help
Newburyport Tuesdays 7-8pm
And speaking of Selfless Self Help, my new project, have a look at my new blog. All of my current stuff will be happening over there.
I’m going to write a very short one about a thought I had today, or yesterday, I can’t remember.
The idea of a self, which is separate in some way, experiences, relates to world, and others-
The idea of habits as a way we keep from experiencing new, surprising, challenging things-
The idea of some sort of realization or progress on the path-
Here’s my thought- the mesh of habits we use to avoid being spontaneous, being in the world, this seems to create stasis. All of our habits and set ways seem to create stability. This is an illusion in a real sense, because things are always changing. The ground shifts under our feet, continually. No matter how stuck we are in the mud of habit and routine, we’re approaching that big surprise.
[remembered from a note tacked up on the wall at a certain meditation center I used to frequent, a quote from Chogyam Trungpa, at a teaching about the dying process... a student asked something like "How would you talk to someone who is passing away?" VCTR- "Well, you see, you are dying..."]
So being set in our ways is like a film over the eye of present, always changing experience. The self loves being set in its way, it loves habit, loves addiction, even. Working on that, is it about convincing the self, eventually, that things are, really, the way they are? Is it about getting the self to accept the nature of change?
Love to hear your thoughts
New class- Jan. 8th, nine Wednesdays from 4-5pm, “Selfless Self Help”
I’d like to announce a new class starting in January.
It’s called Selfless Self Help, and it’s taking place in West Newbury, Massachusetts. Let me know if you have any questions.
- CNA Classes in West Newbury MA, (Massachusetts) – Paid & Free Training (flingitgirl.com)
- Why Randy Orton and John Cena is one of the greatest WWE rivalries in history (getrealwrestling.com)
- Busy Northborough man finds time for filmmaking (bostonherald.com)
I’d like to mention two upcoming classes. If you’re in the area, you should go!
One is in Rowley, this Monday. It’s at the Public Library, from 7-8 pm. This class will be the first of four on Mindfulness/Awareness. It’s also a fundraiser for the Library, all donations go to support the Library.
The other is one I’m really excited about. It’s a class called “Selfless Self-Help.” This will be in Amesbury, through Amesbury Adult Education. It will start November 5th and run for seven weeks. The class goes from 6:30 to 7:30 at night. If you’re interested in learning about compassion, or in developing a regular meditation practice, this class is for you. It will also touch on the nature of habits, and a number of shamanic elements.
Feel free to contact me about either. I hope to see some of you there!
I am putting the finishing touches on a new book. It’s called Collection One.
Why “collection”? It contains my thoughts on meditation and the dharma from the past three years or so, plus a little poetry, and some short fiction. You’ll be able to purchase it through Amazon Createspace, and I’ll be running around trying to promote it at local book stores too. For right now, at least, I’m offering the whole thing online, for your reading enjoyment.
Here is the link to the book in blog form. Thanks! http://collectiononebook.wordpress.com/
(photo by George Hodan)
Thank you to the Lawrence YWCA for hosting a short series of meditation classes! Thank you for allowing me to teach there. It’s always interesting and exciting to see people take an interest in meditation, and to see meditation actually happen with people who have not meditated before. Always inspiring.
I thought I’d post a thought or two that might be relevant to the group at the YWCA.
In the two classes so far, we’ve spent some time doing mindfulness-awareness meditation, and discussing. A little review:
in the first class, there was a question about journaling after practice (I don’t recommend it, don’t do it personally, but it could be good- it’s up to the individual, but I’d be careful about adding extras to the practice)
in the first class, there was a question about integrating practice in daily routine (this has come up a number of times, and I’ll address it below)
in the second class, someone mentioned not being able to sleep at night (I’m afraid I forgot to address this in class, some thoughts on that below as well)
overall, I’ve tried to emphasize gentle practice, “noticing,” the physicality of practice, and that trying to do meditation is success/there is no bad meditator, there is no failed practice
All right. That’s actually quite a lot to start with.
As far as not being able to sleep, due to stress, anxiety, or “thinking too much,” here are some thoughts. A lot of them are not especially Buddhist or spiritual.
-Look at caffeine intake. Limiting it could be good, especially nearing bedtime.
- Exercise and physical practice, even walking, can sometimes “balance things out” if you’re feeling stressed or overly heady. Are you exercising at all, or enough?
- Maybe the not being able to relax at night is due to some real issues- what can’t you stop thinking about? Is there something real that needs to be addressed?
- There’s a kind of meditation called the “body scan” in which you become mindful, slowly and systematically, of every part of your body, from the top down. You could try that, and see if it helps. I’ve found it very helpful, not necessarily for sleeplessness, but it is done eyes closed, and seems like it might be conducive to relaxation, and sleep. I won’t offer detailed instructions here, but if you’d like more info on it, ask during a class, or email me. It’s not difficult to learn, but learning to meditate is always easier offline.
So that’s the sleep problem. I have a bunch more thoughts on that, but this is a start. Of course, there are lots of articles online about this issue, with some probably good suggestions, too.
The bigger question would be about integrating everyday life and meditation.
This is actually THE big question (for a meditator, really for a human being, in my opinion).
I could talk FOREVER about this one. Really. It’s endlessly fascinating. In a very real way, the question is itself the thing to look at, and any musing that ferment up are the answers, or the pointers to the answer. This is to say, I think the path of being a spiritual, practicing person is all about finding ways to practice as you go about your business, to fully integrate meditation with every aspect of your life. Certainly, having a time to sit every day, and be mindful, away from life (it would seem), is very valuable.
For me, and I hope this is relevant for others, it was, and is all about immersion.
It’s about immersing yourself in the practice. Of course, before that can happen, you have to want to do this, to find something fascinating or meaningful about meditation. (Most folks don’t, sadly, but this is how it is.)
Why would you find it meaningful? Why would it be fascinating? That’s really up to you to answer, especially the second part. The first has something to do with seeing that life is short, and we shouldn’t waste it. If you feel that spiritual practice, this path of getting to know yourself, your world, fully, is valuable, then good. Otherwise, you’ll probably do whatever else it is that seems meaningful.
Assuming there is something valuable about practice, look into it. You can sit a little every day. This is the main thing. But you don’t have to stop there. If it seems good, read a book. read ten. You don’t have to buy them. The library and internet are amazing resources (or you can just sit in a bookstore and read there, I’ve spent some time doing that). There are thousands of online videos of amazing teachers teaching, thousands of hours of audio of teachers expounding. You could even visit a meditation or yoga center. What does it feel like? What do the people seem like? You can talk to someone who’s been on the path for a while, and ask those questions you’ve been mulling over- everyone has them, I think, those big questions about life.
In general, immerse yourself, if you find yourself so inclined. That’s the main way to begin integrating life and meditation. Don’t waste too much time. We’ve all spent countless hours watching TV, procrastinating, walking around, driving around. If you’ve gotten to the tipping point of considering meditation and wanting to integrate it into your life, dive right in.
- Just say “Om!” Is meditation right for you? (massageenvy.com)
- One Minute To Meditate On God (oneminute4jesus.com)
- Meditation Health Benefits – Harness the Soothing Power of Meditation (massageenvy.com)
- Using “The Power of Habit” to Establish a Meditation Routine. (elephantjournal.com)
- Meditation is Simple (zenflash.wordpress.com)
- Mindfulness Meditation: Dr. Joe Parsi’s Introductory Exercise For Stress Relief (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
A reminder: every Tuesday here is a “dharma talk.” This means a period of sitting meditation, with instructions, and some discussion. Topics vary. This week I plan on working with the book the “Dhammapada.”
Also, I’m writing (slowly) so here is a little sample of something new on the topic of “egolessness.”
Egolessness has two basic usages in spiritual writing. The first is a Buddhist meaning. It has to do with the contrast between confused perception, or suffering infused perception, the contrast between that and reality (reality, in this context, being a synonym for what is beyond overly simplistic conceptions, what goes beyond confusion). The logic of it being called “egolessness” is a little abstruse, but it goes something like this: an ego is a self. A self is an idea of things as solid and separate. (In this format, then, the chair has a self as much as a person does.) In reality, the things we assume to have selves (unchanging, separate from other things in a significant way) do not. The second meaning is more about serving and helping others. If the ego means something like being arrogant, or too full of yourself, then being egolessness means being free from arrogance, being willing to work with others and serve.
It’s a little too easy to say the one meaning is equal to the other. There is a connection in Buddhism between the two, but it’s not necessarily simple or obvious. I think it’s sufficient to say that ideas about becoming less arrogant, and more able to engage with and help others around us are essential to the spiritual path (how they connect to ideas of the nonconceptual is a little more involved). It is possible to have the second meaning, service, without the first, but that is not how it’s done in Buddhism.
In regards to sitting meditation practice, both meanings come into play. First, when you sit, the concepts take a different internal position. It’s common to say something like they “fall away,” which is equally unclear, and equally helpful. There’s no way to actually feel what this means until you sit, until you actually do it. A very useful technique to have is called “labeling thoughts.” As you sit, and maintain your body is a relaxed fashion, thoughts and feelings come up, sometimes fantastically complex and colorful, sometimes very simple or repetitive. You can think to yourself “thinking” as you sit, the go back to the process of meditating.
As far as the second meaning of egolessness, there a few implications: a) meditation in action b) emotions and postmeditation c) not being arrogant. Meditation in action means finding ways to practice during the midst of chaotic life. There are tons of instructions for how to do this. One is to reconnect with the breath as you work, talk, whatever. Meditation in action is related to how to be in the world, as a practitioner. Maybe it’s almost impossible to “be egoless” and help others without thought for ourselves. Still, progress can be made, and being mindful through meditation in action is both helpful, and something that formal sitting cultivates. Postmeditation just means the period following meditation. You have no choice but to work with the emotions during postmeditation. (You’d do it even if you weren’t a practitioner.) There is a connection between sitting meditation and being able to work fully and properly with the emotions during postmeditation. A first step often has to with becoming more self-aware, more sensitive to what you’re going through.
Finally, being arrogant is problematic. It also very common. It’s also possible to feel arrogant after having done some meditating, or after having understood some complex spiritual idea. This is a problem, because sooner or later, said arrogance will create a communication problem, a lack of awareness, or will hurt someone’s feelings. It can sound a little overly religious or heavy handed to say “don’t be arrogant,” but it’s actually true, and has to be dealt with. It would be very difficult to be a good meditator and be full of yourself. (And remember, being a “good meditator” does not mean quickly being able to “turn off” thoughts or find some magical place of calm and stillness. It has more to do with being willing to try, and do the technique, and to face yourself.)