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.)
Just quickly, here is an overview of the next four weeks of Tuesdays. Each week, we’ll meditate and then discuss a text called the “Dhammapada.”
Photocopies will be available.
Jan. 8- Mind training
Jan. 15- Mistakes to avoid
Jan. 22- The goal
Jan. 29- Good and bad
Dharma talks are Tuesdays from 4-530pm. Meditation instruction is offered. By donation.
For this Tuesday’s dharma talk the topic will be: resolutions, resolution, and discipline. We’ll look at all the various meanings associated with those terms. What does it mean to be disciplined, or “have a discipline”? Why is it sometimes so frustrating? Does it make sense to make New Year’s resolutions? How do you resolve to do things, and what kind of guide do we use when we make these decisions?
“Do not consider the faults of others
or what they have or haven’t done.
Consider rather what you yourself have or haven’t done.”
- The Dhammapada
- Finding Discipline (writingpiecesofme.wordpress.com)
- Do You Have a New Year’s Beauty Resolution? (bellasugar.com)
- New Years Resolutions – The Commitment to the new me! (mynextendeavour.wordpress.com)
- New Years Resolutions: The NEW Body by Vi Challenge is coming! Submit your New Year’s resolution for a sneak peak. (joannamilonas.wordpress.com)
Come chant Buddhist texts at the barn on Christmas eve.
It’s a nice way to celebrate this time, enjoy the company of others, and relax. Chant is also a good way to familiarize yourself with the teachings, practice your breathing, and rouse your energy.
It will be on Monday the 24th, from 5-6 pm. There will be no dharma talk this week, but we’ll start up again next week.
This will be by donation, pay what you can. All profits for this event will be donated to a charity in Boston.
(Note: this is not a performance. Come and chant! Don’t come just to listen.)
Oh my guru,
who exemplifies view, meditation, and action,
please grant your blessings
and let me achieve absorption in the realm of the nature of mind.
As far as view, meditation, action, and accomplishment,
keep these three points in mind:
all manifestations, even the universe itself is contained in mind.
The nature of mind is the realm of luminosity
beyond thought, beyond form.
Those are the key points of the view.
Wandering thoughts are liberated in the dharmakaya.
Awareness, luminosity is always blissful.
Meditate in the style of nonaction and ease.
These are the key points of practice.
The ten virtues naturally grow
within uncontrived actions.
The ten unvirtuous acts are then purified.
Luminous emptiness is never disturbed
by remedies or correct behavior.
These are the key points of action.
There is no nirvana to attain.
There is no samsara to renounce.
To actually know yourself is to be the buddha.
These are the key points when it comes to accomplishment.
Simplify these three down to one.
This emptiness is the nature of being
which only an excellent guru can illustrate clearly.
You don’t have to do a lot.
If one notices co-emergent wisdom
the goal has been reached.
This talk is a precious jewel
for all practitioners of the dharma.
- Jetsun Milarepa
- The Five Faculties in Meditation (enteringthestreamblog.wordpress.com)
- You’ll find the way (barnmeditation.wordpress.com)
- The Buddha’s Map – New Meditation Class for Folks at UUSS (ironicschmoozer.wordpress.com)
- Meditate Throughout Your Busy Day in 3 Not-So-Calm Places (massageenvy.com)