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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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:

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,