Monthly Archives: November 2012

About the “Meditation Basics” program

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As I’m enjoying my day off, I’d like to write a little about the Meditation Basics classes that are starting soon.

As the title suggests, this is a good introduction for people new to the practice of meditation. At the same time, I’m sure that more experienced people would benefit as well. The class combines time spent sitting, with some discussion. If you’ve been interested in meditation and are thinking about trying it out, or have just started on your own, this is a great class for you. If you’re a more seasoned meditator, we’d love to have you here as well. The presence of serious meditators always adds something special to a group.

Group practice is valuable. I think there’s no way to overstate this. Personally, I read a lot, and meditated on my own for a few years before I got curious enough, or brave enough, to try out sitting meditation with a group (Berkeley Shambhala in California). I was so nervous going to a new place, not knowing anyone there. I remember to this day how the person at the door, who’d buzz you in, seemed really unfriendly. Weren’t meditators supposed to be friendly and gentle and caring? She buzzed me in, I walked up to the second floor, and made my way into the meditation hall. I felt like I knew what I was doing, since I’d been meditating by myself for a few years. Somehow, it felt very different though. The room was warm, pleasantly decorated, and not too crowded. But being around other people as I sat felt significantly different. Doing the technique I’d done for so long with others, and in that space, felt different. I felt exposed, put on the spot. I noticed my own thoughts and feelings much more clearly, including the feeling that I already knew what I was doing, and that I was a good meditator already.

I went back to this particular center a few times. Maybe three or four. Not too many. Somehow the difficulty of it, and the intuition that something was up there drew me in. That door guardian, who still brings up a little twinge of annoyance after all these years, somehow her presence, her unyieldingness had done something. The experience of being with a group had also. Later, asking questions of the more senior students did something valuable too. For the most part, I could just tell they had something. They were not ordinary people. They weren’t saints or gods, but they had something, and something I wanted to get for myself.

After leaving those Sunday meditations, I’d walk around Berkeley a little bit, enjoy the sunshine, probably get some coffee. Then I’d drive home to Fairfax, I think, at that point. Fairfax is an odd little town in Marin County, with a definite hippy vibe. There’s a church there that hosts a monthly (I think) rave. Normal church, but just once a month there’s a rave there, with DJ’s, people dancing. The Good Earth, I think, is the big health food store in town, and they make their own kombucha. They have this giant kombucha fungus sitting in a big jar at the back of the store. It’s really a hug kombucha creature, about three by three if I had to guess from memory.

Obviously everyone is on their own journey, with sidetracks, pit stops, crashes, and all the rest. For meditators, studying with others is a valuable part of that journey, and can be very interesting and surprising. Thanks for indulging me as I shared a little about my own trip. Here’s a little information about the Meditation Basics classes. They’ll be starting on the 11th of December.

Overall, there are three classes. I highly recommend that you take them in order, from one to three.

We start with sitting meditation, which focuses on the breath. This technique, sometimes called mindfulness, is the foundation of various sorts of practice. It’s the technique that all the others taught here are built on. In Basics 2, we learn walking meditation, and a kind of body-awareness meditation. Again, the mindfulness technique in Basics 1 is the foundation the things like walking and body awareness are built on. In Basics 3, we learn contemplative meditation, and some other forms too.

Of course, there’s also discussion. This is a time to talk about what’s on your mind, and to ask questions about the techniques we’ve learned. There are also some discussion topics. Basics Two focuses on the teaching known as the “four foundations of mindfulness.” Basics One is a little more general. We cover a lot of different ideas. Here a few:

Meaning

The meaningful life

Preciousness of life, and gratitude

Change

Letting go

Cause and effect

Discipline

The mind

Emotions

Overall, the three courses are a great introduction to meditation. I think they’d also be a great refresher for people who’ve been sitting for a while, and want a reminder. Classes held in Newbury MA, about forty five minutes from Boston.

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Photo Essay: Mongolia’s Nomads

A stunning picture of a celebration in Mongolia. Oddly, they do the same thing in Thailand. Not sure where this custom started.

Buddhist Art News

Global Oneness Project
By Taylor Weidman

Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world’s last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside a rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. Most herders who stay on the steppe push their children to pursue education and get jobs in the cities believing that pastoral nomadism is no longer a secure or sustainable way of life.

This essay features a selection of images from the book, Mongolia’s Nomads: Life in the Steppe, sold by the Vanishing Cultures…

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Winter into 2013

Dharma Talk

Tuesdays, starting December 11th

4-5:30 pm $5-10 by donation

Meditation Basics 1

Tuesdays, December 11th-January 29th

10-11:15 am $75

Meditation Basics 2

Thursdays, December 20th-January 24th

10-11:15 am $75

Foundations of the Path

Thursdays, December 20th-January 24th

11:30-1:30 pm $75

Call (978) 462-9737 for information, or to register.

Keep it

Thanksgiving has something to do with being thankful, hopefully.
If you don’t feel grateful for some parts of your life, spontaneously, then it’s a good time to start. I’m not talking about feeling guilty for others having less, or suffering, but actually feeling good about what you do have. This is a practice. It does not happen just in your head, but in your heart, too, eventually. It should not be something that happens especially around this time of year, either, at least that’s my experience. It feels good. Why not feel that way more, throughout the year?

Excerpt from “108 Reflections”

 

from the short text, 108 Reflections on Practice:

  1. Practice is a way to connect the highest aspirations, hopes, dreams and so on, with the actual practical realities of reality. It can be easy to not have these two things meet- dreams and reality. Often, it’s easy enough to read about high concepts, but also too easy to allow this to stay in the realm of concept and not shake the foundations of everyday living.
  2. Practice is a way to protect your mind. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, it’s said that shunyata, or “emptiness” is the best protection for the mind. Why even protect your mind? Because if you don’t, it gets chaotic, dirty, unpleasant to live with. You can get what one teacher called “mental halitosis.” Emptiness can refer to wisdom beyond concept, or the fact that reality is never quite concept. Reading this is one thing, experiencing somewhat something else. Practice allows for “tuning in” to this kind, or way of experiencing more directly, away from labels and ideas.
  3. Then again, concepts are powerful and useful, and inescapable. Again, it can be hard to connect the deep philosophy written by people in the past, and moment to moment experience. This doesn’t mean that words or ideas are garbage, though. They have a huge impact on what we do, and how we do it. So practice doesn’t just let you experience and understand emptiness, it lets you work with ideas in different ways, seeing them from different angles. In a way, an idea is like a vivid mandala manifesting in empty space. It’s like a colorful cloud, or rainbow. Your mind is full of these clouds.
  4. Practice lets you see your own limitations and issues. Sometimes it’s easy to know your own limitations, sometimes it’s not. Having a routine of practice involves some discipline. There’s really no way around that. If you can do a practice regularly, every day, then you’re doing it. If you can’t, then the discipline isn’t there. In terms of issues, again, everyone has some idea what is “wrong with them,” but practicing shows you your own mind, from a slightly different perspective. If there’s a problem, you’ll see it there.
  5. We may never become completely fearless, but fear is something you can work with. It can become part of your path. It’s a very basic, profound experience. It would be strange to ignore it, if emotions are part of your process.
  6. Practice accomplishes things. There’s no promise it will make you pretty, or perfectly happy, or wise, but it does process you. People who have practiced are different. This is one highlight of being part of a community of practitioners: you get to see others who’ve “been there before.” They probably won’t be perfect, and many won’t be easy, but they should have some qualities of having grown.
  7. Practice has implications for the entire world. This is as personal as what is accomplished for practitioners. It’s not just about going to a temple, or praying at home, but also about what you do once you’re interacting with the world.text by Jacb Karlins 2012

New things on the horizon

 

I’ve been busy with regular work, part of which was  temp job. That having finished, I’ll be back here a little more, at least, for a little while.

New classes are on the way. These will start in a week or so. The lineup may change, but here is a sketch of what’s being offered in late Fall.

 

Deepening Your Meditation

An hour or so of group sitting practice, and talking about how to deepen practice.

 

Addiction and the Buddhist Teachings

Connections between overcoming addictions and Buddhist ideas.

 

Sane for Holidays/Compassion for the Holidays

Two classes on (believe it or not) finding some sanity during the holiday madness, and finding some compassion too.

 

PADMA Technique

A new technique based on traditional meditation and Buddhist frameworks. Work with your issues, habits, and learn to meditate.

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