Archive for the Weekly Meditation Topics Category

The Breath’s Essence is the Essence of the Stars

From Steve:

We often hear the phrase “body, mind, spirit”.  Many teachers of Dharma,  and a whole industry of holistic wellness, remind us to reconnect into a deep relationship with these three elements alive in us.  As practitioners ofmindfulness, we rediscover awareness of the penetrating grace of our bodies, as they grow, mature and decline.  And we develop the skill of awareness of the luminescent clarity hidden in the mind, the tarnishing clouds of habit energies and the transitory nature of thoughts, feelings, judgments and expectations.  The word “spirit”, though, is a bit mysterious and evokes many teachings flowing in many directions.

Words sometimes get lost and need to be resurrected.  One characteristic of our practice is its precision.  And it is helpful to come to a precise meaning of key words that inform our practice.  Spirit comes from the Latin root word spiritus – breath.  For many ancients, breath was the life force inhabiting the body. Today we still know the breath is essential from the moment after birth until the moment of our passing.  Will you permit me to introduce more clarity by saying “body, mind, breath”?

I remember my mother’s final six breaths – a heartache lesson in impermanence.  Where the breath comes from and where it goes, remains a mystery.  There is no present moment without it, making awareness of the breath a sublime anchor for our practice.  The breath is existentially personal and it has a cosmic connection.  The essence of the stars is the essence of the breath.

Reverence for Life

Our focus for the group for the next five weeks are the five mindfuness trainings of Thich Nhat Hanh, starting this week with  “Reverence for Life”.

From Barry (excerpted from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings):

Reverence for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

Hello Habit Energy! :-)

This week we look into ways the mindfulness traditions help us learn the skills of thinking in clear and useful ways, so our actions flow from skillful understanding. Steve will lead on Friday and Barry on Thursday.

A note from Barry: The topic is again from the Eightfold Path: Right Action.  “Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others.” (This text is found on several websites, although an author is not specified.)

A note from Steve: Hello Habit Energy!  

Last week Leslie read from Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching.  Our way of acting depends on our way of thinking and our way of thinking depends on our habit energies.  We can make good friends with our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. Hello habit energy! When we can accept these ingrained thoughts and not feel guilty about them, they will lose much of their power over us.  Then, as our thinking becomes skillful, our actions will be so.

Habit energies are those little high strung voices in our belly that draw us toward thoughts and actions, without much reason or explanation.  Like walking into the room and turning on the tv – just out of habit.  Then realizing two hours have passed by.  Do you notice sometimes overreacting to someone’s words or facial expression.  The expression “pushing his or her buttton”.  

One mistake we meditators tend toward is trying to purge our habit energies.  We can teach ourselves to notice the reaction as it begins to arise and try to block or distract it.  But read Thay’s practice suggestion above.  Rather than judging the habit energy, make friends with it.  Be curious about what it is up to.  You will have plenty of chances, because our habit energies visit us again and again.  We can live in fear of the tiger and run away when we first sense its growl. Or we can patiently and carefully befriend the tiger and begin to see that the fierce tiger is really a tame cat.

 

WALKING THE STRAIGHT LINE AND STOPPING

Our format for the Thursday and Friday group meditations is choosing a theme for the evening.  This Thursday Barry will lead us in looking more deeply at things that annoy us and in a new way of walking meditation.  Doug will lead on Friday, examining the practice of shamatha (stopping).  After the third meditation, Barry and Doug will share how these teachings infuence their practice.  Then the other members of the group will be invited to share whatever arises in their heart consciousness.

And we form a sharing the merit circle at the end of our time together.  It is a time to recognize our compassionate presence to each other, our family and friends, especially those in need, and to the earth.

This week Barry will read from the book Wild Chickens & Petty Tyrants, by Arnie Kozak.  The selection is #76, and is  entitled “Petty Tyrants.”  We will hear a dialogue proposing that those “things” that annoy us – people or events – are really doing us a favor by showing us the ego-bruising truth: we, as individuals, are not the most important things in the Universe!

Also, a slight variation in the walking meditation will be explored.  Our usual circular walk will be exchanged this week for a more individualized, personal experience: straight-line walking.  Walking in straight lines has a long tradition, and is described below. Feel free to try it at home.

Walking Meditation:

Walking meditation is a simple practice. You choose a straight path-indoors or outdoors-roughly fifteen or twenty steps long. You walk from one end of the path to the other, turn around, and walk back. You continue in this fashion, walking back and forth, focusing your attention on your feet. Your posture is upright, alert, and relaxed. You can hold your hands at your sides, or clasped in front or behind. Keep your eyes open, cast down, and slightly ahead. You can experiment with your pace, perhaps walking quite slowly or at a more regular speed, in an effort to find the pace at which you’re most present. As you walk, direct your attention to the sensations in the feet, to the bare experience of walking. Try to feel one step at time. Be fully, wholeheartedly aware of the physical sensations involved in taking each step. Feel your foot as it lifts, moves through the air, places down against the ground. In particular, pay attention to the touching down of the foot, the sensations of contact, and pressure. Remember that you’re feeling each step, you’re not thinking about the foot, or visualizing it.

– Peter Doobinin, “Five Practices to Change Your Mind”

THE VOW TO BENEFIT ALL SENTIENT BEINGS

Our format for the Thursday and Friday group meditations is choosing a theme for the evening.  This Thursday Leslie will lead us in exploring the mindfulness practice of vowing to benefit with our thoughts, words and actions all sentient beings.  Wasu will lead on Friday.  After the third meditation, Leslie will share how this teaching infuences her practice.  Then the other members of the group will be invited to share whatever arises in their heart consciousness.

And we form a sharing the merit circle at the end of our time together.  It is a time to recognize our compassionate presence to each other, our family and friends, especially those in need, and to the earth.

FOR VALENTINE’S DAY – LOVING KINDNESS PRACTICE

FOR VALENTINE’S DAY  –  LOVING KINDNESS PRACTICE

Our format for the Thursday and Friday group meditations is choosing a theme for the evening.  This Thursday and Friday, in keeping with our Valentine’s Day tradition, we will share the practice of loving kindness (metta).  I will lead on Thursday and Sara will lead on Friday.  After the third meditation, we will share how this teaching infuences our practice.  Then the other members of the group will be invited to share whatever arises in their heart consciousness.

Metta has been a powerful and beneficial practice for our group.

And we form a sharing the merit circle at the end of our time together.  It is a time to recognize our compassionate presence to each other, our family and friends, especially those in need, and to the earth.

Sara writes:

Loving-Kindness

On my refrigerator door is a Valentine’s Day card I received from a friend several years ago.  With a lollipop attached, the card reads simply “Valentine’s Days Sucks.”  Indeed, February 14 is a day when many, overwhelmed by the cultural expectations of romantic coupling, allow themselves to descend into states of self-pity and apathy.   The idea of love that we encounter this time of year is extremely limited, I might even argue that it barely resembles love at all.  The practice of Metta or Loving-Kindness mediation, fortunately, is not limited by these constraints and awakens us to the possibilities that showing Metta to ourselves is a gift to everyone we encounter.

As the Venerable Sujiva writes:
“The good symbol for Metta (loving kindness) is the mother cradling her baby to sleep. The baby cradled to sleep will be the result. I can still remember that it was a good feeling when I was cradled to sleep by my mother. There is also a lot of joy when one is unselfishly caring for a friend. Such is loving kindness and its results.”

Regardless of whether we choose to cultivate loving kindness toward ourselves, our loved ones, or our enemies, out intentions are expressed by four aspirations which sink into our awareness during our practice:  1) May I/you be free from enmity  2) May I/you be free from mental suffering  3) May I/you be free from physical suffering  4) May I/you take care of myself happily.

The possibilities of loving kindness emerge as we allow ourselves to recognize the fine boundary between the I and the You.  When we are able to radiate loving kindness we sink deep into the recognition of ourselves in another and find there is little that distinguishes you and I from one another.