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.
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:
The meaningful life
Preciousness of life, and gratitude
Cause and effect
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.
- Meditation Builds Immunity to Cold and Flu (jonahewell.com)
- Meditation Instruction (buddhajoy.wordpress.com)
- Moving Meditation (bestcam.wordpress.com)
- Walking meditation: How you can do it too (mnn.com)
- Meditation appears to produce enduring changes in emotional processing in the brain (eurekalert.org)
- Say om: Meditating on mindful healing (bostonglobe.com)
It’s from 630-745. The more people who show up the better!
Let me know if you need directions to the library. Here’s the description:
Almost everyone today seems to be stressed out. Everyone seems busy,
and being so busy, it can be hard to relax. On one hand, work is not
optional. Having a full life can be very satisfying. On the other
hand, not only is stress unpleasant, it has clear health consequences.
Everyone seems to be stressed out, and it’s hard to know what the
solution might be.
In this talk, we will discuss how mindfulness, especially mindfulness
meditation, could be helpful. This is a technique drawn from Buddhism.
It may be useful to people from all backgrounds. Using the mind and
the body, we can work with the material our lives give us, and find
out more about stress, emotions, and reality.
“It’s like the sun. The sun and the rays are not separate.”
“Yes! I have lots of recommendations for books you could read. You should read Milarepa, 100,000 songs of Milarepa… It’s like milk, pure milk. You can churn milk into cheese, into butter, into cream, but you have to churn it.”
“You don’t go to a restaurant and worry about if there is chemicals or poison in the food… you just eat the food… it’s the doubt..”
me- “So doubt is the problem.”
lama- “It’s a very big problem.”
“You should go out more [with your wife.] Don’t just stay home, boring boring. Go out. [Your marriage] has two legs. You can’t walk with only one leg. You have to use both legs to walk around.”
me- “When I try to generate bodhicitta, it’s easier for me to use music, then when I can feel it. Is that ok?”
“Yes, that’s ok for now.”
- Nothing to do (greatmiddleway.wordpress.com)
In my mini-series about the four reminders…
1. Don’t waste your life.
This doesn’t mean go crazy trying to do projects. If you have to, for work, I guess it might be good not to take them too seriously.
2. Death is a constant possibility.
I think one trick here is that it’s easy to live on the surface of things. I know from experience that you can remind yourself intellectually about death and change a lot, and not have your experience change. Then there’s no point. Sometimes, I think moments of real panic, fear, surprise are very useful. They allow you to go beneath the surface of intellectual meandering.
3. There’s cause and effect, suffering and relief.
Certain things cause certain effects, specifically suffering, and the relief of suffering. One point there is that it’s not supposed to be a guilt festival in regards to suffering. Suffering may be the result of negative karma, or negative actions. That doesn’t have to get heavy handed or become some sort of prison sentence. A practical approach seems useful a lot of the time.
4. We’re working on the “root cause of samsaric existence.”
Said root cause sounds a little esoteric or Eastern maybe. It just means you can:
-get lots of relative benefits from practice and study (relaxation, stress relief, focus, health benefits)
– these are not the point (the point is realizing the end of suffering entirely)
So, again: don’t waste your life. Death is always around the corner. Karma is not Zeus blasting you with thunderbolts. The whole deal is about ending suffering completely. Time to fret about making lunch.
- Pain vs Suffering (alicededominicis.wordpress.com)
- Acceptance of Reality (liv2lead.com)
- In Gratitude (thedailyround.wordpress.com)