December 27, 2012

Sun 7-8:30pm Always New

Dear Friends,

I recently talked about being Free in the Moment,* a possibility we merely need to realize… in the moment.  The corollary to this principle is that the mindful life is Always New.  In each moment we are free.  Once we let go of the causes of our suffering, we step out into a whole new dimension of possibility.   

As we approach the New Year – and each new moment – it's good to recall Mary Oliver's exhilarating question:  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Come join us this Sunday, Dec. 30, from 7 to 8:30 pm with your wild and precious dreams and possibilities for this moment, this next year, this infinite Now.

And bring a friend or two.

Remember, this Sunday Dina will offer yoga to get you settled in for a deeper meditation:  6pm to 6:45pm – bring your own yoga mat, bare feet and an empty stomach.

Warmly,
Rebecca

*A recording of that dharma talk is on our web site.

December 20, 2012

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: The Three Characteristics of Existence - Dukkha, Anicca and Anatta

Hello Everyone,

Come and explore the Buddha's teaching on the Three Characteristics of Existence. Dukkha, aka suffering, or dissatisfactoriness, Anicca or Impermanence (whatever arises ceases) and Anatta or Not Self. We will learn to increase our awareness around these three truths of reality. Initially, it can be sobering and difficult to voluntarily choose to notice and be with but with perseverence, it is possible to reach a liberation and a lightening of our sacks of dukkha that we tend to carry around with us day after day.

We will do a metta guided meditation also to help prepare our mental states for meeting up with family for the holidays.

with gratitude for your practice, Pauletta/

December 13, 2012

Sunday Beginners Class & Free in the Moment

Dear Friends,

We tend to think enlightenment is something we'll get around to about the same time we get our estates in order.  And in the meantime, we're trying to figure out how to work toward it, or toward a reasonable facsimile… something that's actually handy in our everyday lives.

Scheduling enlightenment or working toward it isn't going to work.  There's only one moment in your life when liberation from suffering is possible – now.  And with the holidays bearing down on us, with so many emotional hazards wrapped up in hope and good will, it's a perfect time to realize freedom.

Come this Sunday from 7 to 8:30 pm and explore the wondrous possibilities of This Moment, even when it's tucked under a tree in risky territory.  Give your friends a priceless gift and invite them, too.

And if you're wondering how to deal with difficulties in your meditation practice, come a little earlier.  At 6:40 pm, in the same room where we meet at 7pm, I'll offer a class in meditation for anyone with Beginner's Mind, tailored to your needs and questions.

See you then,
Rebecca

December 6, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012: Reflections on Practice and Retreat

Hi everyone,
This Sunday, I (Anthony) will be leading the group. It was great to see so many people last Sunday with the visiting nuns from San Francisco. I hope it inspired your personal practice through this past week.

The topic this coming Sunday will be my own reflections on practice and the cycles of practice; and more specifically, I'll be talking about my upcoming retreat in which I'll be away for several months. This will be my last time leading Alameda Sangha until May 2013 or so. I also want to use this time to share some of my experience/perspective as I've watched Alameda Sangha grow and mature during the last three years.

I'll look forward to seeing many of you, and saying a (temporary) farewell to this wonderful community.
With gratitude,
Anthony

November 28, 2012

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: The nuns from Aloka Vihara

Hello Everyone,

This Sunday we have a real treat and exciting event! The nuns from Aloka Vihara will be coming and will offer a dharma talk to us. Here is the link to their website if you would like to learn more about them.

http://www.saranaloka.org/

This will be the first time in the history of Alameda Sangha that monastics will be coming to offer us teachings. It will be a chance to experience the embodiment of the Buddhadharma in monastics who have dedicated the rest of their lives to practice and helping those around them (as bodhisatvas) to lessen suffering.

Please reserve the date and Anthony and I will see you all there!

with metta,
Pauletta

November 26, 2012

Practices for the Week: Simple Practices to do with Your Partner

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for all your rich contributions last night in the discussion following the talk, When Your Partner Doesn't Practice. It was definitely a beneficial exploration together that was much appreciated by all.

For this week, please pick only one of the following suggested practices and set the intention to work together to see what is forthcoming through concerted efforts.

1) Gratitude Practice aka Appreciation Practice: Sit quietly together in meditation and spend some time opening the heart. One in the couple can guide a simple lovingkindness meditation sitting. Afterwards, open the eyes and take turns speaking with the other deeply listening and bring forth 2-3 things that the one speaking appreciates about the other who is listening. Reverse roles. Spend time with each aspect of appreciation to have a felt sense in both persons' bodies, look at one another's eyes and feel into how and why these aspects have contributed to a loving and committed relationship between the two persons.

2) Vulnerability Practice: Taking the time to sit together as in the instructions above, open the eyes and take some time together to reflect and discover areas of vulnerability within each other, setting the intention to trust and have the courage to speak to one another about. Ex. it could be shame that one in the couple does not feel as though they measured up in terms of providing for the family, afraid to admit fear in the face of aging, wanting to spend more time with the other but not knowing how to ask, etc.

3) Impermanence Practice: Here we can really feel into and mark by noting/verbalizing the beginnings and endings of our daily life activities together and separately. So the beginning of the day, waking up and taking some time to feel into the stirrings of consciousness, moving the awareness into the body, then getting up together. Saying goodbye to one another as each leaves each other for the day, coming back together at the end of the day, beginning to prepare and then eat dinner together, etc etc. The point of the practice is to notice with a higher degree of mindfulness the beginnings and endings of how we go through our day in our lives together.

Hoping that you will all have a productive week of practice. Do not forget that the nuns are coming next Sunday. This will be the very first time that our sangha will have a night of monastic teachers! Should be an exciting event. Below is the link to the Aloka Vihara website to the history of how it came to be and how the nuns decided to come to the US from the UK.

Aloka Vihara Website and the Saranaloka Foundation who supports them.

with metta, Pauletta

November 21, 2012

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, November 25, 2012 from 7-9 pm: When Your Partner Doesn't Practice

Hello Everyone,

Deep breath for tomorrow's beautiful holiday: Thanksgiving. Remember to set intentions to give yourself some renewal time, especially if you are in charge of the turkey and hosting the holiday, but even if you are travelling to relatives and anticipate some moments of contention, we can set the intention to be kind and respectful without being a doormat or losing ourselves in past deep conditioning ways of relating to whomever we may be dreading coming in contact with.

Announcements: This Sunday, November 25th, Dina will be teaching yoga at 6 pm at the church. Bring your own mat and any other favorite props that you like to use, i.e. strap, block, blanket, etc.

The Aloka Vihara nuns will be visiting us and giving us a dharma talk on Sunday, December 2 at the church. Here is the link to their website if you would like to find out more about them. http://www.saranaloka.org/
Ayya Anandabodhi will be coming to speak so you can listen to her talks on the website to see how she offers the dharma if you are curious.

This Sunday, I will be speaking from direct experience (without airing any dirty laundry of course!!) about how to arrive at your own mutual resolution when your partner doesn't practice by relying on your inner wisdom which we all have cultivated for ourselves through this beautiful practice. This segways from my talk last Sunday on Balancing the Fetter of Delusion with Wisdom. This talk will be up on the website soon.

Hoping that you can come and explore this area of daily life householder practice with me, of course bringing any of your own insights and questions to this topic.




with metta, Pauletta

November 15, 2012

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, November 18, 2012: Balancing the Fetter of Delusion with Wisdom

Hello Everyone,

Hoping that everyone is able to consider the practice of Equanimity or Upekkha as the holiday closely approaches. Deep breaths and relax one's posture!

This Sunday I will be offering how to balance the fetter of delusion, (which is the last in the list of the Three Poisons) with wisdom or panna. This is the last talk in the series of 7 which I introduced with the Six Sense Spheres. There will be a quick overview of the teachings on the Six Sense Spheres (the talks I gave are available on line if any would like to listen to them before this Sunday or sometime in the future) and how to work with the most common three fetters that cause us suffering: Greed, Hatred and Delusion.

Then, we will look at how to recognize delusion as it presents itself in our daily lives, because when we are deluded, how would we know that we are? Finally, we will explore ways to cultivate wisdom in order to transform and dispel delusion. Hoping that you will join me in this fruitful exploration and practice.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

The nuns from Aloka Vihara in San Francisco will be visiting us on Sunday, December 2. We will be requesting them to give us a dharma talk on that evening. Please click on the link below if you would like to learn more about them and what they do and offer in their San Francisco digs.

http://www.saranaloka.org/



--
with metta for your practice, Pauletta

November 8, 2012

Sun 7-8:30pm Wholehearted Living

Dear Friend,

A new friend once told me her goal in life was to get the most out of living. We chatted about travel, and love, and fine things, and eventually she said, "You know, I guess the best way to live fully is to be really present for your experience." Thus began a long, deep friendship.

Commercials would have us believe that wholehearted living takes gusto, enthusiastically grasping what we want. When we're talking about opening to whatever is in the moment (without any grasping), what is the right approach? What about days when we're tired or sick or distracted by powerful emotions? Can we live wholeheartedly even on off days?

Come this Sunday with a friend and we'll explore this question together.

With metta,
Rebecca

November 1, 2012

Sunday 7-8:30 pm Forgiveness

Dear friends,

"Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past." – Jack Kornfield and/or Lily Tomlin

Imagine having no regrets, no guilt or shame about anything: a conscience completely at ease, utterly at peace with your past. Even the little embarrassments, times you mis-spoke and never suspected you'd hurt someone until it was far too late. All gone. Forgiven. There's an expression in the suttas: the bliss of blamelessness.

Now imagine the mirror image: letting go of resentment about every misstep others have made. Feelings that no longer hurt. The grudge almost too heavy to carry, finally dropped like another dead weight on the rock pile, your arms lifting with the delight of release. At peace with your past experience.

What separates us from the bliss of such acceptance? What clinging keeps us from being free of these burdens? Come this Sunday, 7-8:30 pm, with your own stories in mind, of forgiveness found or refused, and help us explore together what binds us to this form of suffering – and what can liberate us. Bring your friends.

Warmly,
Rebecca

October 27, 2012

Rebecca's Dharma Talks Available

Dear Friends,

Five of my recent dharma talks are now available for streaming or downloading  on our website or blog.

I hope to continue posting talks as they're given for those of you who miss them or want to review the material.

Hope that's helpful,
Rebecca

October 25, 2012

This Sunday, October 28th: Yoga at 6pm & Meditation at 7pm -- **Daylong on November 10th

Hi everyone,
Please remember that this Sunday's meditation group is preceded by yoga at 6pm at the church. Please bring your own yoga mat and any yoga props that you need to be comfortable. Dina will be offering a 45-minute yoga session on a donation basis as she usually does the last weekend of the month.

Also, the meditation daylong with Pauletta, Rebecca, and myself is getting nearer every day. It is on November 10th, from 9am to 5pm, and is a rare chance for our sangha to spend a significant amount of time practicing together. Please make a note of the date and invite anyone who you feel may be interested. You can find more details on our website--link at the bottom of this email. You can register on the website as well.

As for this Sunday, we will be meeting for meditation and discussion at 7pm as usual. The topic will be dharma practice.... :) Come and see for yourself!

With wishes for your strength and well-being,
Anthony

October 22, 2012

Aversion and Metta Practices for the Week

Hello Everyone,

Hope all is well for you this evening. For this week, first work with the aversion as I described last night in sitting reflection meditation time and in real time when faced with the object of one's aversion.

Sitting meditation: choosing a time to reflect on the object of aversion

1) After settling into the body and bringing awareness to the sensations of breathing. Set the intention and decide to bring up the object of aversion. If some negative interaction took place recently, bring that up to. Feel the body and how it reacts to this aversion being brought to mind. Do not get caught up in the story.Just observe and acknowledge without judgement towards oneself about being aversive. This is extra and unneccessary suffering. Notice the emotions that come up in relation to this aversion and how the emotion may feed the aversion.

2) Try to list any good qualities or good perspectives to this incident and object of aversion. There are always two sides to a story and two sides to a coin as the saying goes. (this aligns with the moving towards metta as an antidote to this aversion)

3) Employ the acronym RAIN. Recognize the aversion is present as was done in 1), and now A accept, that the aversion is here with all its unpleasant manifestations. Do not get caught up and buy into what the mind is telling us that will move us away from this work. Then I, investigate. Which is also part of 1) above, feeling the aversion in the body, emotions arising and mind and what it likes to tell us to keep us caught in emotion.

4) N for Non-Identification. We are not the aversion. Remind ourselves that like any other empty phenomena (from my Six Sense Spheres Talks Parts 1 and 2) aversion is an energy that moves through us by arising and passing. It is impermanent.

Working with Aversion in Real Time:

1) When we know that we are going to be meeting with our object of aversion, we can set the intention to be kind and respectful and exercise Patience under Insult if necessary. For the full explanation on how this work, check out and listen to my talk on Khanti or Patience as one of the 10 Paramis.

2) Take a few deep breaths and take 1-2 minutes alone if able to do so and pay some attention to the breath to ground ourselves.

3) In the RAIN, during Real Time, it's best to only start out working with R, recognition following the same sequence of steps for this as in the Sitting Reflection above. And A Accept. The Investigation piece can happen after the interaction when we reflect back on how it went and felt in the body and what emotions came up and N can be practiced either in Real Time or later in Sitting Reflection.

Moving towards the metta piece, please listen to my talk once it gets posted online which should be soon. The metta practice needs to happen after we have experienced some successes with working and practicing with the aversion first.

Thanks for your attention and happy practice,


with metta, Pauletta

October 18, 2012

This week at Alameda Sangha: Balancing the Fetter of Aversion (Hatred) with Lovingkindness 7-9 pm Sunday October 21, 2012 at BVUMC

Hello Everyone,

Hope that you are all enjoying the last gasps of Indian Summer weather!

This Sunday I hope you can join me in exploring together how we can work in situations with persons who trigger the arising of hatred or aversion within us, knowing that this energy arises and passes away and is therefore impermanent, and how to balance it with metta or lovingkindness. I know it sounds like a stretch, but small steps taken can go a long way in decreasing our suffering (dukkha) in this regard in our daily lives.

See you all soon,
with metta,
Pauletta

October 15, 2012

Practice for the Week - Cultivating Generosity

Hello Everyone,

In setting the intention to execute various and small acts of generosity this week, remember that the Buddha said that one must feel joyous in the giving in the beginning, middle and end. There should be no feeling of obligation and remember to stop and pause to feel the joy and wholesome mental states as one gives. Last, we can also practice receiving any gifts of generosity with grace. Hoping to hear you all report back next week when we meet again for Balancing the Fetter of Hatred (of Aversion) with Lovingkindness.

with metta,
Pauletta

October 10, 2012

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha October 14 at BVUMC - Balancing the Fetter of Sensual Desire (Raga) with Generosity (Dana)

Hello Everyone,

It's been a while but I'm looking forward to seeing most of you this Sunday evening.

I will begin the evening with a Mind Training guided meditation on watching your thoughts come and go (seeing them as empty phenomena) and letting go of them. I think it will be a great exercise, not necessarily as pleasant as watching the breath can be, but equally iimportant to cultivate nevertheless. It will allow us to see that thoughts are not reality because we tend to layer them with our judgements, stories created, assumptions and expectations. The truth of the reality is in how we experience and intend one moment to the next.

Then, there will be a brief discussion after the stretch break on how the guided meditation on thoughts went for you. The dharma talk will start with a brief revisit of my last two talks on the Six Sense Spheres part 1 and 2 both recorded and online on the website if any of you would like to review it. The revisit will focus on what we talked about and worked on in the fetter of sensual desire. The crux of the talk will be on the wonderful quality of dana or generosity and how it is so accessible and easy to practice in daily life. For you old timers to the sangha, you may remember that Dana or generosity is the first of the ten Paramis or Perfections of the Heart and Mind that we practice in order to liberate ourselves and enable us to be compassionate in our spiritual practice towards ourselves and others. I will offer concrete activities to practice expressing dana in our daily lives and also speak some about the importance of being able to receive another's generosity mindfully and with appreciation. In the Buddhist teaching on Dana, it is important to be able to give without expecting anything in return. So this is an important piece in our cultivation of this wonderful Parami.

Hoping to see you there on Sunday,


with metta, Pauletta

October 9, 2012

Notes from Sue & Sunday's Talk

Dear Friends,

Below are my (Rebecca's) notes from Sunday's talk on "Living (the) Dharma."  But first, here's a note Sue Baizerman wanted to send you:
Dear Teachers and "Sangha Mates"
As my husband John and I make final preparations for our move to Santa Rosa, I want to say "thank you" to all for the last two years of life changing experiences. The Alameda Sangha is such a fine group of individuals.  Our meetings provided me with a lot to think about and a much needed anchor in my week.  I will miss all of that and think of you often. (I will make every effort to attend the Day Long class in November.)
Sue Baizerman
P.S. My job helping to set up the meetings is vacant!  I hope one or two of you will find it in your generous heart to join Mark in setting up.  All that's necessary is to arrive 10 minutes early to the meeting (and stay a few minutes afterwards).  (This job has given me a better chance to get to know many of you as well as our three dedicated teachers.)
Living Dharma, "Daily Life Practice"

In both meditation and daily life, it's about getting back to mindfulness, then: watch body & thoughts, ID suffering, note causes and conditions of suffering's arising & passing

Daily meditation: 1) get anchored, 2) note what's been stirred by past day, 3) hone skills
  • Better a brief session than none at all
  • On awakening -- 3 breaths in a row
  • Regular time or tied to daily event (metta when driving, Vipassana on public trans)
  • Make it a Habit – part of your way of living – "fit life into prax" (Sharda Rogell)
  • Use triggers for mindfulness: breath, standing up, chime on electronics, post-its, left foot
  • Physical feelings of stress
  • Intense emotions – analyze them ASAP afterwards
  • Ethics: speech, conduct, work: non-harming – watch yourself miss ideals
  • Intention: at 1st seeing it at all, then watching causes and conditions
  • How it feels to stray from ideals
Major Life Issues 
  • Addiction (intoxicants, food, activities) – takes us away from mindfulness
  • Crisis – bereavement, material challenges (job, fire, health, incarceration)
  • Psych. Issues – OCD, bipolar, other diagnoses
More Places to Investigate
  • "Off" periods – look for energy issues (restless or dopey), craving/aversion, and doubt
  • Keep investigating workings of the mind:
  • Non-conscious motives for action
  • Memories/associations/attitudes influencing decisions
  • When you are/not mindful & why; also tranquil, equanamous, focused, joyous
  • When you are aware of being aware of dharma!
BTW: This reprises the Satipatthana Sutta's 4th Foundation of Mindfulness, covering:

Noble Truths, Factors of Awakening, Sense-spheres, Aggregates & Hindrances

… just not organized that way. Most daily work with "dharma": just look directly at our actual, immediate experience from the perspective which is developed over time by our exposure to the teachings

October 4, 2012

Living Dharma Sun 7-8:30



Dear Friends,

Andy Olendzki, a prominent dharma scholar, once took a dry and boring sutta and turned it into a powerful guided meditation that awed my class of community dharma leaders. His brilliantly demonstrated point was that Buddha's teachings are basically instructions on how to practice – and live.

How do we live the dharma without leaving "our lives" and taking up robes and bowls? This Sunday I'll offer suggestions and together we can discuss the ultimate role of the dharma in our lives.

Warmly,
Rebecca

September 27, 2012

Sunday, Sept. 30 - Yoga at 6pm and then Right Livelihood

Hi everyone,

This week Dina will be offering yoga beginning at 6pm. Please bring a yoga mat and any blankets or props that you need to be comfortable.

The topic for the group after yoga will be right livelihood. Last week I brought up my concern with using the term "right" in terms of formal meditation practice, and now this week we can further investigate what that means for us in a different context. In general, the word that is being translated here could be understood as "doing something well, rightly, perfectly, etc."

Right livelihood is one of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the standard description of the approach to life in Buddhism. I have found that this aspect, of how we make a living and spend a good portion of our lives, is a great area for discussion about how dharma practice pervades our lives; especially when we can discuss with others who are struggling, or thriving, with the same dilemma. How do we make a living and sustain our lives with awareness, compassion, and wisdom?

I hope to see many of you this Sunday.

With peace,
Anthony

September 20, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 7pm: Wise Reflection

Hi everyone,
This week the topic will be Wise Reflection. When we stop and think, is it usually productive? Are our moments of reflection and contemplation beneficial, or do they just stir up our emotions and distract our minds? This is some of what I'd like to talk about this week. 

The practice of meditation, specifically, and Buddhist practices of developing the heart and mind, more generally, require clear understanding of what is happening. It is harnessing the abilities and capacity of our minds to know accurately. However, this process can continue into reflection and contemplation. Thinking is not bad or wrong. But we can consider whether our thoughts and thought patterns are useful or not; whether they are true or not; whether they are kind or not.

Okay, so I hope to see many of you this Sunday evening. Enjoy the end of your week,
Anthony

September 17, 2012

Notes for Oct. 17 Talk on Determination

Dear Friends,

Here are notes I took in preparing for last Sunday's dharma talk, in the hope they might be useful.

Best wishes,
Rebecca

Ajahn Sumedo: Buddha didn't teach about the mind so we could be scholars of the theory, only to point the right direction for practice. Holding a concept of the mind or even of practice is itself a kind of clinging.

"We keep trying to be mindful, rather than just being aware of the mind. … The important thing in meditation practice is to be constant & resolute in practice, determined [to let go] of everything that arises & passes that we cling to & identify with."

"If you fill your mind with more concepts & opinions, you're just increasing your ability to doubt. … Keep letting go of whatever [is impermanent] – but if it doesn't go, don't force it. Use this practice gently, but with resolution. Meditation is a skilful letting go, deliberately clearing out the mind…"

"When the mind is empty, say 'Who is it that lets go? … A state of uncertainty arises; bring this up, allow it to be…"

This practice = repeatedly investigating the cycle of suffering which arises & passes, without attachment, until we are no longer the victims of this cycle.

Ajahn Chah: Buddha said to cultivate clear knowing; all phenomena arise within this knowing. When "that which knows" sees the cause & end of suffering, we see the mind is not "us" or "ours." And we let go. Our job is to be aware & know the nature of all that arises.

Cultivate clear knowing by ethics, wisdom & practice. Once established, we investigate with determination all experience that arises, and know its - and our - true nature.

This process matures at its own rate, but we never stop putting effort into practice. Progress is not under our control. We need faith that if we do work (not clinging to an idea or goal), results will follow. This = determination.

Trying to force results in practice = pure delusion. We let go of 'goal' or 'progress' & keep doing our part. It's a common craving to not be agitated or distracted, etc. But it's still craving and that means suffering. Recognize that & keep practicing.

When we encounter mood/emotion, we should examine its qualities of anicca, dukkha, and anatta & note the excessive thinking that accompanies it. Spy on it. See if mood/emotion causes joy or suffering, its causes & effects. Ajahn Chah says the Knowing has to teach the mind the nature of what arises until the mind is able to let go of it. "This leads to peace of mind."

Contemplate causes & effects of mental phenomenon until you know this thoroughly & it falls away on its own. Anything that comes up & sticks, investigate. Don't give up till it releases its grip. Keep repeating this process. Buddha taught that you have to know this for yourself in the depths of your heart.

"Practice with unflinching dedication!" If you want to practice Dhamma, then please try not to think too much. If you're meditating & you find yourself trying to force specific results, then it's better to stop. … Take every opportunity to put effort into practice. Whether it's peaceful or not, don't worry… If you do the work, the results (that are right for you) will follow."

September 13, 2012

Determination, this Sunday 7-8:30pm

Dear Friends,

Last week I talked about Letting Go, and this week we'll look at the other end of the spectrum, at determination, the quality that enables us to hang on, and keep going.  While we're at it, we'll have an opportunity to look at when we should have one of these two approaches, rather than the other.

Bring a friend and come sit and share the dharma with us.

Best wishes,
Rebecca

September 11, 2012

Letting Go or "Garage Sale of the Mind"

Dear Friends,

For those of you who would like to review my "Garage Sale of the Mind" talk last Sunday, you can find it here. Other resources you may find helpful are here.

Best wishes,
Rebecca

September 6, 2012

Letting Go -- Sunday 7-8:30

Dear Friends,

Letting go is sort of an ideal for those who practice mindfulness. It sounds simple, easy. In real life, though, it's often complicated and difficult, or can even appear impossible. It's not uncommon to want to be rid of a habit of thought or an attitude and find that no amount of "letting go" will make it go.

What's the trick to letting go? Come this Sunday, 7-8:30 and we'll look at the actual process by which our minds change. Maybe we'll let go of some misconceptions about it. And it's quite possible we'll end up more relaxed about the whole thing. Bring a friend.

See you then,
Rebecca

September 3, 2012

Practice for the Week: The Six Sense Spheres: Fetters

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for coming last night on this beautiful holiday weekend. Remember to save the dates! Saturday November 10th from 9-5 pm will be our first daylong at the church. All three of us will be teaching and leading the day of practice.

Sunday, December 2nd, the Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend, the nuns from Aloka Vihara will be coming to visit us and we can request they do a dharma talk. Here is the link to their website to find out all about them. Do please listen to the dhamma talks by Ayya Anandaboddhi and/or Ayya Santacitta as one of these nuns will be coming along with a novice to visit us. It would be good to get a flavour of how they teach before you come. They are here: saranaloka.org

In the second set of instructions of the Buddha, he showed us how to work with the fetters that arise when they meet one or more of the 6 sense spheres through which we experience moment after moment in  our daily lives.

To prevent an unarisen fetter from arising, think of the triggers that usually bring the episode of greed, hatred or delusion and set the intention to avoid it, sidestep it or find another way of meeting it when it appears. i.e. if you know that you tend to drink too much at business parties, set the intention to not drink or only drink water before entering the party and notice what could be different about one's experience of the party.

In knowing what conditions led to the arising of the fetter, reflecting back on times during which we have been steeped in greed, hatred or delusion and seeing the patterns of behaviour or situation that comes up that encourages this fetter to make its appearance in our relations with ourselves and others. Working with the body sensations when the fetter is present, makes for good practice for future transgressions because the body can clue us in to the arising of red flag warnings that we may be about to say or do something unskillful.

If we get caught and find ourselves in the middle of acting out a fetter, there is still hope! Backtrack to vedana, discerning whether it's pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, whatever the sense object is at the moment, how it feels in the body, and just staying present with all that is happening - thoughts, sensations, contractions, etc at that moment. Noticing the increased mental activity attempting to add more fuel to the fire, etc.

As we are staying fully present in the craving and clinging step of Dependent Origination (see second attachment sent in previous email) and apply Wise Attention, we may actually get to see the process of craving and clinging end without having acted out on it in an unwholesome way. When this happens, really highlight and enjoy this moment of being out of the grip of whatever it was that led one to believe that we need this in order to be happy.

Then, reflect on how this fetter can be prevented from arising in the future. Avoiding sitting at the computer just to "browse" and check out my wish lists on various retail websites, know that walking by my favorite bakery is going to tempt me to have just one cookie, etc etc.

And last but not least, remember that Mahasi Sayadaw is known to have said: "100% of our dukkha is due to the defilements of the mind" It's never too late to engage in Mind Training now!

When I return to teach again on October 14th, I will begin offering teachings on the counterparts to the main three fetters/poisons/defilements of greed, hatred and delusion which are generosity, lovingkindness and wisdom respectively.

with much gratitude and metta for your practice,

Pauletta

August 31, 2012

Two Attachments for this Sunday's teaching on the 6 Sense Spheres

Hello Everyone,

I'm sorry that I forgot to attach these handouts yesterday when I sent out the weekly email about the upcoming talk on the Six Sense Spheres Part 2.

I have attached these for you to print out if you wish, If you are planning to come this Sunday you may find it  easier to follow if you have the charts to refer to while I am speaking.

They are on the Resource/Handout section of the website here.

May you have a good weekend, Pauletta

August 30, 2012

This Sunday September 2 at Alameda Sangha 7-9 pm: The Six Sense Spheres Part 2

Hello Everyone,

The talk for the Six Sense Spheres Part 1 is now up on the website. Please listen to it before this Sunday if you get a chance and plan to come.

Last Sunday, we learned about the Buddha's first set of instructions in teaching us how to use this category of experience of the Six Sense Spheres as a doorway to liberation. They are:

"He knows the eye, he knows forms....he knows the ear, he knows sounds.....he knows the nose, he knows odours.....he knows the tongue, he knows favours.....he knows the body, he knows the tangibles, ....he knows the mind, he knows mind-objects......and he knows the fetter that arises dependent on both....." from Analayo, "Satipatthana, the Direct Path to Realization"

We will review and work with the above set of instructions this Sunday just to reinforce for those of you who were here this last Sunday.

Then, we will learn this coming Sunday, the Buddha's second set of instructions in his teaching on the Six Sense Spheres where we work with the defilements of the mind that can come up for us at each sense door creating the conditions for us to resort to our deeply conditioned automatic reactions thus bringing us back again and again to repetitive dukkha. Wouldn't we all like to get off the wheel of suffering? The Buddha shows us how.

"...he knows the fetter that arises dependent on both, and he also knows how an unarisen fetter can arise, how an arisen fetter can be removed, and how a future arising of the removed fetter can be prevented."

We use our mindfulness to help us see these fetters and how they can manifest and be removed. The practice itself is simple. It's just difficult for us to remember to do. Come and explore how we can get closer to liberation by applying the instructions of the Buddha.

Looking forward to seeing you all,


with metta, Pauletta
--

August 27, 2012

Practice for the Week: The Six Sense Spheres Part 1

Hello Everyone,

Still basking in the glow of last night's beautiful and delicious picnic with a great turnout of people! The memory got me through my IVIG treatment at the hospital today. Thank you all for coming and bringing such delicious food to eat - it was amazing!

For your reference and to help you with practice of the Six Sense Spheres this week, I have posted the chart I brought last night on the Resource/Handout section of the website here. I will reference this chart throughout the talks.

Before I recap how to practice this week in silent sitting as well as in daily life, I would like to remind you all that to have sense consciousness or as the Buddha says a "knowing" of the eye, ear, nose, mouth and touch, and knowing of a fetter that may be arising,, three important factors or conditions must be in place and they are:

1) Presence of one of the organs or sense bases (see chart)
2) The sense object being experienced corresponding to the sense base (see chart)
3) Mindfulness:  the choice to become aware and bring our attention to the six sense spheres in a way in which we have never done so before and have characteristically taken these sense spheres for granted, which then gives way to sense consciousness or the "knowing" that the Buddha talks about.

Remembering the beautiful metaphor of the Buddhist nun I mentioned: "Why can't we open the clenched fist of the mind and let go?"

Wanting to clarify the Three Poisons as most common form of fetters or defilements (see chart), Greed, Hatred or Delusion and the idea that I ended the talk with last night that Ajahn Jumnien described of a mind that is liberated from defiled mental states. He said, "......a perfect balance of mind with no reaction, there is no longer any doing." I also talked about how we can awaken and become liberated in ways (through practice repeatedly) in which we may feel or see the fetter arising in a momentary experience of our world through the six sense spheres, but be able to not feel pulled in any direction to grasp at it (greed) or try to push it away(hatred).

Once again, these are mental states from fetters arising that are unwholesome and may even hurt ourselves and/or others. Someone mentioned last night, is it ok to help a sentient being if we can help them ease and/or rid them of suffering. This is a wholesome desire and if the skillful action can be accomplished without hurting oneself or others, then go for it! Perhaps the confusion was in the idea of not being pulled strongly in one direction or another, so I just wanted to clarify.

Practicing on the cushion this week:

Feeling the tactile sensations of the breath in the body. While bringing mindfulness and attention to the breath, begin to notice if there is any resistance, any wanting, or an aversion that is very subtle. (like for me last night during our guided meditation of noticing vedana in the sitting, I was unable to stay with the bloatedness and fullness of my tummy from all the good food at the picnic because it was unpleasant.) Or even if there is any resistance or wanting in the actual practice of the sitting, like wanting to push on the breath and "effort" too much to try to get to a more deeper and peaceful place quicker. These are just examples. Please note your own experiences.

Practicing in daily life

Allocate 15 to 30 minutes of time, preferably alone so it will be easier to be very mindful. As you move through your home doing various tasks bring mindfulness and attention to each moment, moments engaged in action and moments deciding to do one thing or another. DO NOT MULTITASK.

If you choose to fold the laundry, just fold the laundry. And here our work with the six sense spheres begins. I automatically move to the body and touch because I tend to always palpate the world around me. You could certainly start with the eye. As we explored last night, mind will probably always be at the forefront, regardless of the sense sphere we decide to focus on.

So for this particular example, we note, body, touch. Spend some time feeling each garment we are folding with care and attention. After a few moments, while still engaged in folding, notice Vedana; is this pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? This happens to be my favorite tasks, so it is very pleasant for me and I delight in making nice stacks of underwear, T-shirts, pants, etc.  See if there is any craving; do you want to do more? Perhaps there is a hidden agenda of procrastination or something else. And, there may be no craving at all, but just a nice resting in the accomplishment of this particular task.

You may also want to try this practice while you are peacefully taking some time to pause in your busy day to look out the window and just revel in the garden or other view.

I hope these suggestions for practice help and I look forward to seeing you all next Sunday for Part 2 of this important teaching of the Buddha.

Reference: Satipatthana, The Path to Realization by Analayo. Thanks to the foresight of one of our sangha members, this book is available at the Alameda Library

with gratitude for all your practice and energy,

Pauletta

August 22, 2012

Sangha Picnic this Sunday at McKinley Park on Buena Vista 530 pm then Alameda Sangha 7-9 pm at the church: The 6 Sense Spheres Part 1

Hello Everyone,

It's great to be back from a short vacation and saying goodbye to Natasha (my daughter off to Tulane University).  This Sunday we will be getting together at the park a few blocks down from the Buena Vista United Methodist Church (away from Park Street). It starts at 530 pm and all three of us teachers will be there. We are looking forward to socializing and sharing a meal before we reconvene for our usual weekly meeting at the church at 7 pm. Please bring something to share.

After the picnic, we will be exploring the 6 Sense Spheres. This is one of the 5 dhammas (mental qualities or categories of experience) in the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness in the Satipatthana Sutta - an important teaching of the Buddha on how we can awaken and live a liberated life. The 6 Sense Spheres is one of the many doors (with detailed sets of instructions) that the Buddha offers us to become awakened. The ways in which we respond to what we come in contact with from one moment to the next through the 6 Sense Spheres determines whether we remain stuck in repetitive dukkha or move towards liberation. Come and explore together all that this set of instructions from the Buddha can offer to each one of us!

Looking forward to seeing all of you again, with metta,
Pauletta

August 21, 2012

Phrases for Metta for Yourself

Dear Friends,

Here is the text of the metta (lovingkindness) meditation I led on Sunday, followed by a couple paragraphs of explanation.  You can spend a few minutes of your meditation time doing metta, or devote a whole session to it, altering the phrases to suit you if you like.

Best wishes,
Rebecca

Metta for Oneself
by Rebecca Dixon

May I feel peaceful and happy,
            Imagine a feeling free of agitation, of infinite calm and relaxation, without the disturbance of any cares or concerns.  Peaceful.  Give yourself permission to have that feeling, to savor it, luxuriate and revel in it.  Say to yourself, "May I feel peaceful," and enjoy the feeling which those words evoke.
            Then bring into this tranquility the element of energy, delight, or whatever else for you is the essence of being happy.  And give yourself wholehearted permission to thoroughly enjoy that feeling, too.


safe, secure,
            How would it feel to have no fears?  What would it mean to live without anxiety, worry, or a sense of vigilance against real or potential or imagined threats?  Let yourself feel what it would be like to be completely free of these feelings.  Safe.
            And imagine this sense of complete safety being permanent, with a confidence that you would never need to be anxious again.  Safe and secure.  Wish this for yourself, saying, "May I feel safe and secure."


patient and kind,
            Think of how you feel when nothing irritates you.  The behavior of others doesn't affect you personally in any negative way, leaving you tranquil and able to respond to them from a heart that is warm and wishes them well.  Revel in this expansive feeling of patience and lovingkindness, and wish it for yourself now and in the future.

free from suffering of body or mind.
            What if you were free of all suffering?  Imagine that whatever suffering arose, whether related to the body or mind, would not "stick" to you, that you are actually free from taking in that suffering or making it a part of "you."  Free from suffering.  Even if you can't see how this would work, explore how it might feel to live without the burden of dukkha, suffering.   Give yourself this gift, saying, "May I feel free from suffering of body or mind."


May I take care of myself joyfully,
            Consider all the tasks required to take care of yourself, the hours spent trying to meet your needs and those of others.  Imagine doing all these things with a clear sense of their value to your wellbeing, enjoying this service to yourself and your loved ones.  Being alert to all your needs and happily setting aside the time to rest, to practice, to let your mind follow its own leads, to be relaxed and present with others.  Give yourself permission to take care of yourself joyfully.


loving and accepting myself just as I am.
            Imagine that there is nothing about yourself that you don't know and accept.  No forgotten shames or hurts or regrets.  Everything acknowledged and accepted with a sense of embracing yourself and loving yourself fully.  Allow this feeling into your heart, saying, "May I love and accept myself just as I am."



These are phrases I developed for an intensive practice of metta to help me love myself and live happily.  Please note that these phrases do not "pray" for the world to magically become void of unhappy factors or events.  These phrases are designed to evoke feelings, not to alter reality.  Even if saying these phrases doesn't evoke these feelings in the moment, it is healing because it conditions the mind to think soothing thoughts that are kind to oneself.

Please feel free to use these particular phrases or whatever works for you.  If you discover any kind of backlash, like thoughts or feelings popping up that are contrary to the intention of your phrases, consider them as another part of the practice, like the thoughts that take you away from the sensations of breathing in mindfulness meditation.  Examine them and how they make you feel – without getting caught up in the stories – and return to the phrases next time you do your metta practice.  In the unlikely event that something comes up that feels like it might be overwhelming, pick up the phone and use your support network. 


August 17, 2012

Sunday 7-8:30pm Loving Ourselves

Dear Friends,

I grew up hearing that I could be anything I wanted, if I was determined and worked hard.  Who I was seemed like something to be ambitious about, a goal that ought to be lofty and hard to reach.  These were messages from teachers and preachers, in speeches and ads -- they floated in the cultural air I breathed.  We were all being taught, essentially, not to accept who we already are.

This is a sad truth of Western culture, that it's rare for us to truly love ourselves just as we are.  Unfortunately, not loving one's self makes it hard to love others, too -- in a fully accepting, open way.  But it isn't impossible for us to re-wire our thinking about ourselves.  In fact, it isn't very hard.  It takes an attitude adjustment, an opening of the mind and heart, and of course... practice.

Join us this Sunday as we look at loving ourselves, what that means and how our practice can help us do that.  Bring someone you like.

And I have three (3!) announcements:
  1.  Alameda Sangha is offering a day-long meditation retreat on November 10, from 9 to 5, at the church where we usually meet.  More information will be available on the web soon.  For now, save the date and tell your friends!
  2. Our second annual sangha potluck is coming up.  A week from this Sunday, on August 26, from 5:30 until just in time to get to the church by 7pm.  For more information go to  Second Annual Sangha Potluck Picnic August 24
  3.  Because of the picnic, Dina will not be offering yoga that evening, but the following Sunday, September 2.

Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday,
Rebecca

August 8, 2012

Sunday, August 12: Intention and Actions

Hi everyone,
This Sunday the topic I will bring up is intention and actions. In Buddhist teachings, there is the understanding that action is basically intention. The well-known word for action in Buddhism being 'karma'. So, what does it mean to us if our intentions are seen as equivalent to our actions; and vice versa? How do we develop an awareness that can see our intentions and actions clearly? And what if our intentions and our actions do not seem to match up? Or, more problematic at times, what if other people's intentions and actions don't appear to align?

These are just things to think about. Honestly, there is a lot to say on this subject, but it really begins with how the movements of the mind and heart impact the movements of our mouths and bodies... a relevant topic, I believe.

Hope to see many of you this Sunday evening, and I hope the end of your week goes well,
Anthony

August 6, 2012

Intense Emotions Explored with 5 Questions

Dear Friends,

Sunday night we had a lively and thoughtful discussion about difficult emotions that grow so intense we "lose control."  As a way to gradually see them coming in time to gain perspective and control, we worked with 5 questions we can ask ourselves after a passion has swept us away.

As Jack Kornfield says in The Wise Heart"Wisdom knows what feelings are present without being lost in them."  It's important to remember that there's nothing wrong with emotions -- if they're allowed to flow through us, neither suppressed nor allowed to fill up our consciousness until there's no space left for making reasonable decisions about how to speak or act.

Looking at a recent incident or a pattern of times when we've been swept away by anger, we used these questions as a guide for our exploration.

  1.  How do you know you are angry?
This question focuses on your 'internal' experience.   What sensations in your body let you know you are intensely angry?  It could be your breathing or heart rate changes, or your muscles tense up.  One friend feels his ears burn.  Some people feel their stomachs tighten or feel queasy.  Sometimes there are habitual thoughts that arise, or maybe your own conduct is the clue when you see yourself tearing up papers, slamming the table top or using harsh words.  Spend some time investigating this aspect of the experience with a calm mind and without judging  yourself or others.  Becoming familiar with the physical feelings of an intense emotion equips us with an "early warning system," so gradually we learn to see it coming and keep our equanimity.

  1.  How did you get there?
This doesn't ask about the actions of other people or events that you think "caused" you to become angry.  Reviewing "the story" can get us stuck there, reinforcing our anger.  Instead, this invites an exploration of your inner experience.  In a sense, it's looking for the "set-up," the conditions in your mind that were waiting like tinder for the event(s) that sparked your reaction.  It could be expectations that you were clinging to and suddenly felt thwarted or endangered, or an old hurt that felt wounded again.  Maybe it was wounded pride.  You may find that your sense of fairness was offended, but don't stop your investigation there.  We can oppose injustice without becoming overwhelmed by anger – in fact we do so far more effectively with cooler heads.  What made the difference between a moral objection, and the intense reaction you experienced?

  1.  What happens when you're intensely angry?
 See if you can identify behavior on your part that was triggered or influenced by your emotional state.  Perhaps it reflects a pattern of past responses.  Look at the effect your anger had on the immediate situation, and look for any long-range effects.

  1.  How did you know when it had passed?
This is similar to the first inquiry, and looks for physical sensations, conduct or thought patterns that let you know the anger had passed.  Try to remember what it was like at the time you were no longer so angry. Remembering how it feels to recover from anger will help us recover in the future.

  1.  What brought about its passing?
Sometimes it just takes time – but reflect on how long that was.  Maybe there were particular words spoken that soothed the anger, or thoughts that occurred to you.  Just look and see what helped the anger pass. 

Hope this helps,
Rebecca

August 2, 2012

This Sunday: Dealing with Passions

Dear Friends,

Intense emotions – passions – can be hard to bear and hard to deal with.  There's a reason "passion" also means "suffering."  Even enthusiasms thought to give life its zest can become strong to the point of pain, leading us into actions that do us and others harm.

It would probably be best if we could just snap out of intense anger or desire, but that's not always possible.  The best way to deal with passions, then, may be to examine them in retrospect.  Come join us this Sunday, 7-8:30 pm, for an exploration of how we get into such states and how we can deal with them in the long run.  If you like, bring your stories and your friends.

Looking forward to seeing you all,
Rebecca

July 27, 2012

Yoga this Sunday evening before Alameda Sangha, at 6pm

Hi everyone,
My apologies for the extra email, but I forgot to mention that yoga will happen this Sunday night before the group.

So, please join Dina for yoga at 6pm-6:45 this Sunday before sitting meditation.
Bring a sticky mat and props (blocks, blankets) if you have them.

Take care,
Anthony

This Sunday, July 29th, 7pm: Reviewing the Path

Hi everyone,
This week the topic will be "Reviewing the Path." What I mean by this is that in meditation practice it is good to learn methods and tools for reflecting on the practice. We may have tendencies to be severely judgmental or harsh when reflecting on our own life. To counteract this, we can also think about ways to honestly, compassionately, and realistically evaluate how we are doing and whether what we are doing is useful for us.

So, that's the idea. In preparation, if you want to think back about your life situation when you started practicing meditation (even if it was just 2 weeks ago!), and then reflect on your life now. Just noticing the changes that have occurred, or those that haven't. Feel free to bring in examples from your own life.

Alright, see you Sunday, and I hope you have a good weekend until then.

With peace,
Anthony

July 23, 2012

Moods & Attitudes Daily Life Exercise

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday's talk on Moods & Attitudes used a meditation session to look for and explore these "background" aspects of the mind.  Here is an exercise that's easy to try during daily life.

During a conversation with someone (probably not a crucial one at work) pay close attention as the other person speaks.  Focus on their words and meaning.  You will probably notice other thoughts zipping through your mind.  Look to see if these thoughts reflect an attitude or mood of yours.  Observe any such background mental processes neutrally, scientifically -- not personally.  Just accept that it's there and take note of how it affects your listening, comprehension and retention of what's being said.  Try not to judge or to suppress this process.  Just be mindful of it.  Change will come later, naturally.  For now, all we need to do is be aware.

You're invited to share your observations on our blog or write me in reply to this email.

Have fun,
Rebecca

July 19, 2012

Sunday 7-8:30pm Moods & Attitudes

Dear Friends,

Most of us believe we know what we're thinking and feeling, but sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between an event that seems to have caused our emotions, the variety of thoughts we think about what happened, and the way we actually feel.  

If these familiar territories of the mind can be tricky, the areas of mood and attitude can be quite baffling.  We often don't even see them.  But they can have a powerful effect on us and the way we conduct our lives.  So this Sunday we'll try to get a handle on them.

Until then, see if you can identify what mood you're in.  Maybe you wake up in one and go to bed in another, or maybe you've been in the same mood for weeks and it shows no sign of packing.  How do moods affect your daily life?  Attitudes tend to be more permanent and even harder to spot.  Maybe we don't like to see how current decisions are influenced by old judgments that have been preserved as attitudes.  See if you can spot a few.  Bring your stories, and any friends who themselves have moods or attitudes. 

See you then,
Rebecca

July 16, 2012

Practice for the Week: Urgency to Practice

Hello Everyone,

May this find you well. Acknowledge and give yourselves some joyful credit for coming last night and being met with the opportunity to practice in yet a different way. For those of you that came, I am referring to the beautiful, loud and amazing music that was being played across from all of us in the sanctuary. We worked in guided meditation with loud sound and from the discussion afterward, I would conclude was very successful.

John a sangha member who has been wanting to get a group together to meditate outdoors, announced last night that this will happen tomorrow, Tuesday at 4:30 pm. He and others will be at the wooden deck landing at the bird sanctuary at Alameda Beach near South Shore. Please join him if you would like to participate.

For the practice this week, please spend some time reflecting on what brought you to this practice in the first place and why you stay. You might consider ways in which your life has been different before and after starting the path.

You can also continue with the equanimity practice during sitting, repeating a phrase and reflecting on the phrase for the situation and/or person you bring up during the sitting. During the course of your day, how you can find opportunities to move back to balance and neutrality in different heightening moments.

May you all have a fruitful week of practice,

with metta and gratitude, Pauletta

July 12, 2012

This Sunday 7-9pm: The Urgency to Practice

Hello Everyone,

May this find you well. In preparation for this Sunday, please read and bring a copy to the sangha, the sutta titled, The Simile of the Mountain. See link below. I will be reading parts of this sutta. Spend some reflection time with the poem at the end of it.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn03/sn03.025.than.html

The urgency to practice meditation and arrive at greater happiness with less suffering can be like fire lit underneath one. Of particular enthusiasm right now is to note the 6 Senses (I talked about this the last time I taught there 2 Sundays ago) as one or more come into contact with any momentary experience; is it hearing, seeing, tasting touching, smelling and/or thinking? Then mindfully bring attention to whether the feeling tone of the momentary experience is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Bringing awareness to how the feeling tone manifests in the body, heart(emotions) and mind(thoughts) consider one's intention for the next moments. (This really stopped an irritation arising in me from manifesting through unwise speech when this past weekend, we were trying to find the handicapped parking at the Alameda County Fair and my husband would not ask anyone for direction - men are from Mars type situation) Then ask oneself the question, How am I going to respond to this CONTACT and VEDANA (feeling tone) that accompanies it and why? When will any reactive tendencies I am experiencing abate and dissipate? How does this feel once it passes away?

Is it possible to acknowledge and accpet our tendencies which are a part of our deep conditioning? It's important to know it is not our fault but the good news is that the Buddhist teachings offer us a way out of the same old automatic and unwholesome way of reacting that we've done for most of our lives which has caused so much dukkha(dissatisfaction). Liberation is a true reality for those who put in the time to practice and the time is NOW. Not when one has retired from jobs or can have more time to devote to practice in some vague future time. The time is NOW in the midst of the chaos of our daily lives with the partner, kids, extended family, unfair bosses and grinding jobs.

This is true because in the midst of the chaos is the suffering that we have control over. We can choose to continue to create it or nip it in the bud through increased mindfulness. The choice is ours. Will we take on the challenge?

Looking forward to seeing all of you,

with metta, Pauletta

July 5, 2012

This Sunday, July 8th: Impact of Compassion

Hi everyone,

I hope you all are doing well. I (Anthony) will be leading the group this Sunday, and it seems like a long time since I was last there in May.

The topic I would like to bring up this week is the impact of compassion. There are many different angles from which I would like to approach this subject. Some of these include: how our compassion impacts others, how our compassion impacts our own lives, how the compassion of others affects ourselves, how an attitude of compassion can impact awareness of each arising moment, etc.

As a reflection prior to Sunday, I would invite you to think about the phrase 'Impact of Compassion.' How do you hear it? What does it mean for you? What questions do you have?

I hope to see many of you this Sunday evening, and I wish you a good end of the week,
Anthony

July 2, 2012

Equanimity Practice for the Week

Hello Everyone,

Thank you all for coming last night and exploring Equanimity practice with me. Here are your goodies to think about for the week:

"Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight. But in its perfection and unshakable nature, equanimity is not dull, heartless and frigid. Its perfection is not due to an emotional "emptiness," but to a "fullness" of understanding, to its being complete in itself. Its unshakable nature is not the immovability of a dead, cold stone, but the manifestation of the highest strength."  Nyanaponika Thera, "Vision of Dhamma" pp. 193-196

Traditional Sequence of Formal Equanimity Practice
Neutral person
Benefactor
Dear Friend
Difficult Person
Self
All Beings

Other Phrases for Equanimity Practice

You are the owner of your karma. Your happiness and unhappiness depend on your actions, not so much on my wishes for you. (I used this towards my daughter in Louisiana for the story I told last night)

May I accept things just as they are.
May I be undisturbed by the coming and going of events.
I will care for you but cannot keep you from suffering.(I used this towards my mom when I used to believe that I was responsible for her happiness in her life and needed to fix things for her accordingly)

All things arise and pass away.
No matter how I might wish things to be otherwise, things are as they are. (to counteract the craving, clinging of the far enemy of Equanimity)

Contemplate the question: "What's difficult for me to accept?"

Work with the 6 Sense Spheres to sharpen mindfulness which will lead to clarity and wisdom for how our reactive tendencies kick in so quickly, creating the spaciousness that is needed to rest and come back to the balance of Equanimity.
So first note, hearing, seeing, smelling tasting touching thinking which can be one, or more of these 6 senses coming into contact with whatever it is in our present moment. Then quickly note pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Feel this in the body, see what emotions may be coming up in the heart and mind. Note whether you still quickly resort to a conditioned reactivity in this moment or not whether it's pleasant or unpleasant.

Don't hesitate to email with any questions, with metta,



Pauletta

June 28, 2012

Yoga with Dina from 6 to 6:45 this Sunday, July 1st and Equanimity at Alameda Sangha from 7-9 pm

Hello Everyone,

Dina will be teaching yoga this Sunday from 6 to 645 pm at BVUMC and we will meet for Alameda Sangha as usual afterwards.

This Sunday come and learn about Equanimity or Upekkha, the fourth and last of the Four Brahmaviharas. Considered by some teachers to be an advanced practice because of the ability to accept and be with all that arises and to remain balanced in the midst of it, find out how many of us are already experiencing upekkha in our daily lives through the wisdom of our practice without being completely aware of this happening for us. Learn the far and near enemies and also how upekkha inter-relates to the other three Brahmaviharas when we are able to bring them forth as skillful tools and uncover their being covered over by our reactive tendencies through its cultivation.

Here are some Equanimity phrases you can reflect upon and use as yours in Equanimity sitting meditation practice:

You are owner of your karma. Your happiness and unhappiness depend on your actions, not so much on my wishes for you.
Whether I understand it or not, things are unfolding according to a lawful nature.
All Beings meet their joys and sorrows according to a lawful nature.
Things are just as they are.
May I accept things just as they are.
May I be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events.
I will care for you but cannot keep you from suffering.
No matter how I might wish things to be otherwise, things are as they are.
All things arise and pass away.


Order of practice for Equanimity are:

Neutral person
Benefactor
Dear Friend
Difficult person
Self
All Beings



with metta and gratitude, Pauletta

June 21, 2012

This Sunday 7-8:30: Attention Control??

Hello, everyone,

I can't remember exactly what I meant months ago when I picked this title for this Sunday's talk, but maybe together we can figure it out.  Sometimes the most productive way to learn about practice is to reflect on just what does happen during our normal meditation practice.

So if you meditate before the meeting on Sunday, you might take a minute at the start to:
  • remind yourself that you are about to devote this time to being mindful and present
  • form the intention to set aside concerns of your daily life, and
  • choose to be open to whatever does enter your awareness during the meditation session
At the end:
  • reflect on what happened
  • notice if you tend to judge what happened and how that feels, and
  • remember that you're just trying to strengthen your mindfulness through this exercise in recollection
If you feel like taking notes, it would be great to bring them on Sunday.  I'll make a few remarks, and then together we'll compare observations about where our attention goes and how it's used during practice.  It could be surprising.  And fun.

See you there,
Rebecca

June 14, 2012

Sunday June 17, 7-8:30 pm Divine Investigation

Dear Friends,

It was great to see so many friendly faces last week, after being away for a couple months.  This Sunday I want to offer another dharma talk along similar lines to last week's, which was about the relationship between wisdom and practice.  This week I've set myself the task of investigating how that relationship works. 

I hope you'll be able to join us and bring friends.  Many of you have been doing that, contributing new faces and energy to our growing sangha.  Many thanks.

With best wishes,
Rebecca

June 7, 2012

Sunday June 10, 7-8:30pm, Wisdom & Practice

Dear Friends,

Many stories about people becoming enlightened involve epiphanies – moments when the person fully gets it.   That seemed in keeping with the fact that Buddhism is called a "wisdom tradition."   But when I started going to the Zen Center, I was surprised at the emphasis on daily practice, reinforced by retreats.  Vipassana also stresses the importance of time spent in formal meditation.

Which is most important, wisdom or practice?  Or rather, what is the relationship between cultivating wisdom and practicing meditation?

I hope you will join us this Sunday from 7-8:30 pm to practice together and explore the ways the Eightfold Path can work together in our experience.

I'm glad to be back after a couple months away, and looking forward to seeing you all and your friends on Sunday.

Best wishes,
Rebecca

June 4, 2012

Mudita Practices on and off the Cushion for the Week of June 4, 2012

Hello Everyone,

May this find you all well.

So keeping it short and simple, allow yourselves to fully experience joy at any given moment as it arises through the course of your day and week. Stop short and feel the joy in the body, the opening in your heart center and really breathe deeply into it. Enjoy its presence in your awareness and your body, heart and mind.

Adopt a gratitude practice. Simply keeping a daily journal and/or eliciting a friend (gratitude buddy) to email one line of whatever you are grateful for each day. And like in the above paragraph, feel into that gratitude, experiencing the appreciation in your body, heart and mind.

With daily sitting, you can bring up the image of someone you are rooting for and care deeply about. Bringing to mind an event or situation with this person that has brought happiness and/or success. Feeling into the radiance of joy for this person and saying two phrases, "May your happiness continue" and "May your happiness grow." Keeping the attention on the image and the feeling of mudita towards this person. Using the breath sensations to come back if the mind gets lost.

May you have a week of joy and fruitful practice,


with gratitude, Pauletta

May 31, 2012

This Sunday, June 3: Mudita or Sympathetic Joy, the Third Brahmavihara at Alameda Sangha 7-9 pm

Hello Everyone,

May this find you well.

Come and explore what is purported to be the most difficult of the Brahmaviharas to develop: Mudita, or Sympathetic Joy. Mudita is about the ability to experience happiness for the good fortune of others, including those we have difficulty with. Learn about the constricting mind states that impede our ability to easily develop this "sublime state".

The road is filled with obstacles that the Buddha teaches we can work through and the rewards are increased happiness both for ourselves and others with an opened heart and mind that inclines more and more towards joy. Mudita balances the pain we are instructed to turn towards and aids us in not getting overwhelmed by it.

Tonight, Baruch and I are teaching the 5 Aggregates in our workshop on the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness. All are welcome even if you missed last week and cannot come to all  5 sessions. Each session is a complete teaching in itself. Please see postcard attached.

This Saturday from 12 - 6 pm at Island Yoga, come and give yourself the gift of deepening your practice with Anthony and I. We will be leading an afternoon of silent sitting and walking with guided meditation. Please see postcard attached.


Hope to see you at all events in this sati (mindfulness) filled next few days of practice!


with metta, Pauletta

May 28, 2012

Karuna Practices for the Week

Hello everyone,

We had a record high attendance of 30 people last night! Thank you all for coming on a holiday weekend! May this find you all enjoying the sunny day at long last after a few past days of fog.

Keeping in mind last night's offering of the near and far enemies of Compassion which are pity, that creates a sense of separateness between oneself and the other as opposed to interconnection, and cruelty from which arises anger, aversion and/or potentially a wish to extract vengeance for a perceived wrongdoing, remembering that we can use the grounding of upekkha or equanimity to help us in our responses to originate from kindness and care.

In daily life, attempting to have the perspective towards arisen situations of "dukkha and the end of dukkha" to dispel any rigidity and judgements, will go a long way towards reaching equanimity as part of the total operating system of karuna or compassion.

In sitting, bringing up the image of oneself or another who is having difficulty right now in life and saying the phrases,

May you/I be free of suffering and pain. May you/I have peace.

It is important to attempt to establish a heartfelt connection between the phrases (please do try to customize them) and the person that the kindness is being directed towards.

May you all have a fruitful practice,

Pauletta ps see you all next Sunday for Mudita or Sympathetic Joy.

May 25, 2012

This Sunday, May 27, 2012 at Alameda Sangha: The Second Brahmavihara - Karuna (Compassion) 7-9 pm

Hello Everyone,

May this find you well.

Come and learn to cultivate karuna (compassion) the second heavenly home of the heart's awakening. Karuna is the capacity to turn towards pain in the world in ourselves and others without getting overwhelmed or debilitated by it. It enables us to be able to just simply be present in the face of the pain afflicting all beings including ourselves or to respond to the situation with kindness.

Learn how karuna when cultivated, inter-relates and works in concert with upekkha, (equanimity) and metta(lovingkindness) the two other Brahmaviharas. We will explore the full Pali sense of the word karuna, learn about its near and far enemies and most importantly learn to cultivate it on and off the cushion. A deep sense of vulnerability may arise through the practice that we do with this particular Brahmavihara. Rewards promise to be transformative in our lives.

Looking forward to offering this teaching to you all,


with metta and gratitude for your practice, Pauletta


May 21, 2012

Metta Practice and things to remember about its cultivation for the week

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for your enthusiasm for the teaching of metta and understanding of my cracking voice last night with this virus I've acquired.

Attached are the metta handout I passed last night in case any of you would like to send them to any friends, etc. Also, forgot to remind you all last night of the 5 week workshop that Baruch and I are beginning to teach this Thursday, May 24th from 630 to 830pm on the Fourth Foundation of Mindfulness. This Thursday night we will begin with The Five Hindrances.

Just wanted to touch base and remind what you can think about in generating or maintaining a metta practice this week. Remembering the near enemy and the far enemy of metta - the near enemy is what masquerades itself as metta but is definitely not what it's all about. The near enemy is sentimental love. This is the love we have for another that has conditions. Ex. I will love you forever if you stay......... I will love you only if you do ......for me.......etc etc.  It's important to remember the "indiscriminate" aspect of metta in one of its two root meanings - that of "gentle" as in the gentle rain metaphor.

The far enemy of metta is its complete opposite - which is hatred. Remembering that there is a fine line between love and hate as the old song goes.

So this week, come up with your own personal and unique phrases that have meaning for yourself and spend some time in sitting meditation directing metta to yourself. Note how that feels and goes and bring it to the check-in next Sunday. One other time to practice metta that I forgot to mention last night in the talk is whenever one is standing in line somewhere during the day. Metta can be directed at everyone around, and most especially including the postman or cashier who is stressed because the line is long and they happen to be short staffed. And first and foremost, remember to take some breaths before and after directing metta, and just anytime during the course of the day to reground and balance once again.

May you have a fruitful week of practice, with metta, Pauletta

May 14, 2012

This Sunday May 20th: The First Brahmavihara: Metta (Lovingkindness) at Alameda Sangha 7-9 pm

Hello Everyone,

May this find you all well. I am sending out the weekly email early this week because I'd like to ask you all to listen to my talk, Introduction to the Brahmaviharas given on March 27th 2012. You will find it by googling Alameda Sangha and choosing Audio Dharma Talks. It is the perfect intro to this upcoming Sunday's talk which will be on metta.

Come join and explore with me, the definitions, manifestions and functions of metta, how to practice it and the benefits of daily metta practice on and off the cushion. Those of you who have been doing it awhile know what I'm talking about. I will be bringing handouts on the benefits of metta, the metta sutta and phrases we can practice on the cushion, directing the wishes of well-being towards ourselves first and foremost, a neutral person (an acquaintance), someone we care about, i.e. teacher, mentor or dear friend), a difficult person and all living beings.

May you have a loving and peaceful rest of your week,


Pauletta

May 12, 2012

URGENT Artist Talk Cancelled Today at Joyce Gordon Gallery

Hello Everyone,

I am so sorry but my artist talk was cancelled today by Joyce Gordon because she has rented out her space for another event. I learned about this at noon today. Please accept my sincere apologies for this late notice and mishap for which I had absolutely no control over.

Thanks for your understanding in this matter,
Pauletta

May 11, 2012

Sunday - May 13, 2012: Seeing the changing self

Hi everyone,
I hope to see many of you this Sunday. The topic will be the last in the series of four on identity and self. I will wrap up what we have been talking about during the last three weeks, and then talk (and discuss, hopefully) about what we are doing when we are watching our "selves" in life and formal meditation. Specifically, what qualities are developed by clear awareness of our identity and ever-changing self?

If you have any remaining questions about the subjects I have been covering in this four-week series, please bring them with you on Sunday.

Enjoy the end of your week,
Anthony

May 3, 2012

Sunday, May 6: Meeting at Island Yoga for this week only


Hi everyone,

As we've been announcing for a while now, this Sunday's meditation group will be held at Island Yoga. Please see below for details.

I also encourage anyone who is interested and able to drop by the church during the day on Sunday for the annual bazaar that the church hosts. It should be fun and there will be lots of good food. Alameda Sangha will also be having a table so that people can find out more info about what we are doing. Thank you very much to the volunteers who will be there at the table. We appreciate it greatly!

As for the topic for Sunday, I will continue with the theme of self/identity that I've been discussing the past couple of weeks. This week's topic may seem a little out of place with the theme, but I believe it is very important. The topic will be "Thinking and Knowledge", and what I am referring to here is the aspect of our 'selves' which thinks, learns, deliberates, etc. How does this mental aspect of our experience fit into the Buddhist teachings on self and identity? It can be a confusing aspect of our practice, but, of course, it plays a crucial role.

Hopefully, many of you will be able to make it this Sunday evening.

Just a note, Island Yoga has a limited number of chairs (maybe 10) for sitting. So, if you use a cushion at home, feel free to bring that with you so that we can make sure there are enough chairs for everyone to sit comfortably. The yoga studio does have many blankets and things to provide extra padding for those who are able to sit on the floor.

See you soon... with peace,
Anthony


May 6 Meeting Moved to Island Yoga, 911 Central Ave. 

Click here for directions. 

Our hosts, the Buena Vista United Methodist Church, will have their annual fund raiser on May 6. An afternoon of music, companionship is offered, along with box dinners for $10. Because the cleaning up after then event may not be complete we will be meeting that evening, at our regular time of 7pm at Island Yoga, at 911 Central Ave.