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,


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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,