April 28, 2011

No sangha this Sunday, May 1st

Hi everyone,
Just a reminder that there is no sangha this coming Sunday, due to the spring bazaar happening at the church.  Maybe you can continue your sangha experience by showing up at the church's festivities (from 1 to 5pm I believe) and being a part of the community that so graciously lets us use their space each Sunday evening.

On a different note, this is the last call for people interested in the 'Inner Critic Series' that Pauletta and I are hosting during the month of May.  Please check out the website for more detailed info about it, and register online so that we know you will be there.

Thanks so much for your practice, and enjoy your weekend,

April 21, 2011

Pleasure -- Sunday 7-8:30 Really, that's the topic

Dear Friends,

In Dharmaland, it can sometimes be confusing whether pleasure is friend or foe.  This week we'll try to figure that one out, and look at how pleasure can be a Factor of Awakening.  It's #4.

From the first, almost imperceptible stirrings while we're sitting, to powerful throes of rapture, pleasure is a significant element of the meditation experience, something that can be put to use toward liberation.

Come Sunday and find out how.  This topic might interest your friends!

Best wishes,

April 20, 2011

Notes on Interest dharma talk on April 17

For those of you who couldn't attend last Friday, or want to review what was covered, here is a cleaned-up version of my notes:

Part of the difficulty many of us have staying aware of the breath is a lack of Interest.  This is an aspect of Vicaya, the third Factor of Awakening.  Interest is what engages us with any activity.  It's energizing in a heart-opening way. 

There are several techniques for arousing interest in the breath, including: 
    • notice characteristics of each breath,  whether it's long, deep, fast, etc.
    • notice the pause between breaths
    • remember how vital breathing is;  maybe imagine being underwater breathing through a straw
    • look for the subtle pleasure in breathing (sometimes not so subtle)
There's one commonly used device that's quite unskillful:  using the ego, as when we scold ourselves when attention strays.

Another aspect of Vicaya is Investigation, which includes what's often called "Divine Investigation," of the dharma.
            We do this while sitting by looking into the experience of the body, mind, heart – especially the body
Buddha said all the dharma can be found in this fathom-long body.

A key use of Investigation is in the 4 Wise Efforts, to encourage states of mind that lead to freedom and discourage those that lead to suffering.   
How do we know what causes suffering?  We feel it.  In the body.  This is important because the mind can tell us  old habits are good when they actually make us suffer.

We can practice seeing the effects of thoughts & emotions in the body, both in sitting practice and in life.  The best way to start is to look closely at how the body feels when we have thoughts that have an impact on us.

Reminder:  this is not just watching the breath; it's using wisdom to direct attention usefully.

In Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, Jack Kornfield said:
            "The power of investigation increases with the depth of our practice.  We can investigate & actually explore all the elements that make up this body & mind…  We can discover our deepest fears and places of identification and clinging, and we can see their patterns of operation in our life…  Maturity in practice will have us investigating… all aspects of our lives."

Remember the acronym RAIN.  Before real investigation must come Recognition of mind states, and the Acceptance  to observe openly & honestly.
            For Investigation to be true & useful, we must also Not take what we observe personally, or think of it as I, me or mine.

A final caveat from Jack Kornfield:  Investigation must include a balance of faith and wisdom.  Avoid intellectualization (talking to yourself) or blind faith . 
            "What is necessary is a faith or confidence in the possibility of awakening and the investigation to see how it actually can be done – a commitment to our own direct understanding."

Hope this is helpful and interesting!


April 19, 2011

No Sangha meeting May 1; we will meet April 24

Dear Friends,

The week after this coming Sunday, on May 1, the church will hold its annual Bazaar, to which we are all invited.  Come to the Sangha meeting this next Sunday, April 24, and you can buy tickets which include a great chicken dinner and support Japanese recovery efforts.

Because the bazaar will be held in the church, it will not be available in time for our Sangha to meet that night.  We're letting you know now to give you plenty of notice.  I hope it isn't confusing.

We will be meeting this coming Sunday, April 24, when I will give a dharma talk on a very interesting Factor of Awakening:  pleasure.  So, come this week, and the week after that, go to the Bazaar!  We'll meet as usual after that, May 8 through the foreseeable future.

With metta,

April 14, 2011

This Sunday: Interest

Dear Friends,

I'm looking forward to seeing you all again Sunday 7-8:30, when our topic for the evening will be the 3rd Factor of Awakening, Interest.

It would probably be easier for everyone to start meditating if they just felt that watching their breath was really interesting.  We have an advantage if we able to summon interest in whatever we're engaged in.  This week, we'll look at ways to do that.

We'll also explore an aspect of interest that is useful in our sitting and our life practice.  Investigation is the occupation of the mind that roots out the significance of our experience.  There are techniques to enhance this mental activity so it will lead us to wisdom and peace.

Please come, bring friends and questions -- whatever interests you.

With metta,

April 8, 2011

This Sunday: Continuing the Discussion of Self-Care

Hi everyone,
This week we'll continue the topic from last week which we didn't quite get all the way through.  So, the topic will be self-care and some teachings of the Buddha that could be relevant for this subject.  Since we met last week, you may have had some situations arise that made you consider this topic in your life, or you may have new thoughts that came out of our discussion last Sunday.  Either way, please feel free to bring examples and questions this week, so we can see how to apply the idea of self-care to our lives.

I hope to see many of you this Sunday.  And, in case you were really wanting the other topic for this week (the one on the website for this week), I'll try to remember to include that further on down the road.
With gratitude,