October 24, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness of Mind

Hi everyone,
I'm sending out my reminder email early this week, because I'm going to be away from email at the end of this week.  It was great seeing many of you last night, and I hope the sangha was of benefit to you.

This Sunday, I'll continue looking at the four foundations of mindfulness by looking at the 3rd one; which is called mindfulness of mind.  It is another way that we can orient our awareness both when we are in formal meditation periods, or when we are moving about our daily life.  So, we'll look at this on Sunday evening.

I hope you all have a great week, and I'll look forward to Sunday,

October 20, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness of Feeling

Hi friends of Alameda Sangha,

This week, I'll be discussing the second 'Foundation of Mindfulness' as presented in Buddhist teachings.  It is being mindful and fully aware of feelings as they arise in our experience.  'Feeling' is a word that has a lot of connotations, so first we'll try to understand what is exactly being pointed to in this teaching.  And then I'll explore ways of working with it both in our formal practice and in our daily life.

I hope you can make it this Sunday, and if not, I hope you have a lovely weekend,

October 17, 2011

Understanding Kamma this week

Hello Everyone,

Happy Monday. Remembering that the practice for kamma is twofold. The first is discerning whether or not an attitude shift is necessary of the present effects of past causes. The second is to pause and start with intention before performing an action in either speech or act to ensure greater chances of wholesome effects. Also, as per Munindra-ji, the Indian teacher I quoted from, remembering that our future will soon become our present moment and the present moment our past.

Much metta and gratitude for all your practice, Pauletta

October 13, 2011

This Sunday: Kamma - Cause and Effect

Hello Everyone,

Talks from this past Sunday of the three of us about the Three Characteristics of Existence are up on our website. As is Anthony Rodgers' Guided Meditation so you now have 2 choices of guided meditation to listen to during your home sitting daily meditation practice.

Hoping to see you this Sunday for an offering of the teaching on Kamma (Pali word for Karma, from the Sanskrit): Cause and Effect. This talk is inspired by one given on this topic by Ajahn Amaro, my favorite monastic teacher who really has a great perspective on this teaching and how we can apply ourselves for more wholesome effects from our intention which fuels our actions, right here and right now, in this very lifetime which is so exciting to me!

There continues to be lots of controversies with Buddhist and Pali scholars regarding whether or not the Buddha himself really got behind the whole Indian cultural/religious idea behind rebirth and so this talk really focuses on what we can do ourselves in the present moment that will have skillful or unskillful consequences for the future.

Hope that you will join me. Don't forget to tell your friends about the partial daylong of practice that Anthony and I are offering on November 5th. I will leave a huge pile of the postcards at the sangha this Sunday - and the following Sunday, please don't forget to remind Anthony that they are there for him to take a few to pass around in Berkeley.

May your practice benefit yourselves and yours this week, much metta,


October 5, 2011

Three Teachers Speaking on the Three Characteristics of Existance

Hi everyone,

This Sunday Rebecca, Pauletta, and I will all be there and we will be talking about the three characteristics of existence in the Buddhist teachings -- dukkha, anicca, and anatta, roughly translated as dissatisfaction, impermanence, and not-self.

Rebecca, Pauletta, and I make an attempt to teach together a few times a year. It is a great opportunity to get multiple perspectives on the dharma.  It is also a great chance to become more familiar with the sangha as a whole. And it can be a great introduction for any new people who come to the sangha.  So, please invite those in your lives who are curious about what you do every Sunday evening

I hope you are enjoying this stormy weather!  Thank you for your interest in Alameda Sangha, and I look forward to seeing many of you this Sunday.

With care,

Notes on Taking Refuge

Dear Friends,
Here are notes prepared for my dharma talk last Sunday on Taking Refuge.

Much Metta, Rebecca

Dhammapada verses 188-192:
They go to many a refuge,
to mountains and forests
to park and tree shrines:
people threatened with danger.
That's not the secure refuge,
not the supreme refuge,
that's not the refuge,
having gone to which,
you gain release
from all suffering & stress.
But when, having gone
to the Buddha, Dhamma,
Sangha for refuge,
you see with right discernment
the four noble truths
the cause of stress,
the transcending of stress,
the noble eightfold path,
the way to the stilling of stress:
that's the secure refuge,
that, the supreme refuge,
that is the refuge,
having gone to which,
you gain release
from all suffering and stress.

Other false refuges: eating, sex, drugs, shopping, gossiping, surfing the web, watching TV, etc. Distraction through the illusion of pleasure, like smoking – thought the first puff was gratified the desire, by the 3rd puff it was yucky. The real benefit was pausing to light up, taking a deep breath or many, just taking a breath = refuge.

One friend started a job in a nursing home and the sights and smells horrified her. Every cell in her body screamed at her to run. But she'd just been reading about the refuges. She stopped and took a breath.
She said, "I was able to identify fear – of suffering, aloneness, and confinement. At that moment I realized I was fully present and willing to, as Sharon Salzburg says, 'just see what happens now.'"

Another friend worked with developmentally disabled college students with poor social skills, many aggressive. If he was reactive, their interaction would be impaired, possibly permanently. So each time a student was difficult, he would take refuge and
1) let himself feel the stress,
2) breath and watch it release, and then notice and respond to the situation as a whole

Historically, 'taking refuge' has many meanings: taking robes, becoming "Buddhist" etc. I think of it as making a commitment to live a spiritual life, to turn 1st to my Buddha nature, or the teachings, or to a spiritual friend, rather than turning to false pleasures.How you deeply understand the 3 jewels is very personal.

Blanche Harman of the San Francisco Zen Center offered these options:

  • Trusting your own fundamental wisdom and goodness
  • Accepting unreservedly the perfection you share with all being
  • Trusting that you don't need anything – that you and all being is perfect
  • Abandoning oneself to the security of having no attachments and no aversions
  • Making full effort, with no attachment to outcome

For some people, taking refuge in Buddha can be finding strength and comfort in the presence
of one's own Buddha nature - accessible when we think of it. For people in 12 steps  their Higher Power often serves this purpose.

Deb Kerr says:
Remember to take refuge, return to mindfulness, "safe space" of cushion or confidence, or remember your  commitment to the path of awakening.

I take refuge, something useful to cling to until you don't have to cling any more to any thing,which is a shorthand to the entirety of practice. My experience with guy throwing up at Zen Hospice Project, I remembered how it felt to meditate and gag response gone, forever, I could help my clients.

Samyutta Nikaya says:
I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then a certain deva, in the far extreme of the night, her extreme radiance lighting up the entirety of Jeta's Grove, approached the Blessed One. On approaching, having bowed down to the Blessed One, she stood to one side. As she was standing there, she addressed him with a verse. 
"Many devas and human being
give thought to protective charms,
desiring well-being.
Tell, then, the highest protective charm." 
The Buddha replied:
"Not consorting with fools,
consorting with the wise,
homage to those deserving of homage:
               This is the highest protective charm. 
Broad knowledge, skill,
well-mastered discipline,
well-spoken words:
               This is the highest protective charm. 
Giving, living in rectitude,
assistance to one's relatives,
deeds that are blameless:
              This is the highest protective charm. 
Avoiding, abstaining from evil;
refraining from intoxicants,
being heedful of the qualities of the mind:
             This is the highest protective charm. 
Respect, humility,
contentment, gratitude,
hearing the Dhamma on timely occasions:
             This is the highest protective charm. 
A mind that, when touched
by the ways of the world,
is unshaken, sorrowless, dustless, secure:
             This is the highest protective charm. 
Everywhere undefeated
when acting in this way,
people go everywhere in well-being:
            This is their highest protective charm."

October 1, 2011

5-part series on Being with Grief beginning Oct. 13

Dear Friends,

Alameda Sangha is sponsoring a series of evenings on death, dying and loss presented by MK Nelson and Daniel Doane on Thursdays 7-9 pm, Oct 13 - Nov 10, 2011.

For more information go to Being With Grief

With metta,

This Sunday: Taking Refuge

Dear Friends,

Last week we looked at the opportunities to be found in those moments when mindfulness appears to have "failed."  This week we'll take the opposite approach and look at how to re-gain serenity (or at least, functionality) when we find ourselves overwhelmed by events and our reactions to them.

Buddha offered his followers three refuges which they took formally even before beginning their instruction in practice or the dharma.  What does it mean, though, to "take refuge?"  How do we do it, and what does it do?

Come Sunday and find out.

Best wishes,