February 28, 2013

Pitfalls Outline

Dear Friends,

Here is an outline from my notes on last Sunday's dharma talk. Also, the audio of the talk is available on our web site now.

Hope these help,

Common points at which people stop pursuing their practice

1. At the start, people see a multitude of thoughts & get frustrated, feel they’re failing at watching their breathing.We need to understand:

a)  It’s not about the breath. It’s about watching what the mind/heart does when we try to watch the breath.
b)  We should make an effort to be present & develop enough concentration so we can observe the mind/heart.
c)  Staying with breath is relaxing & pleasant -- but not transformative.
d)  No matter how many years of practice we have, there are times when the mind will not settle down.
e)  Distraction doesn’t make it a bad meditation & concentrating doesn’t make you a “good meditator.” 
f)  Just trying regularly (daily) is good .
g)  We need to accept what the mind does & love ourselves (metta) in order to watch the mind.

2. Eventually we see into the mind & notice suffering; for some it’s too much and they run away.
We need to understand:

a)  Thoughts & emotions arise on their own. They are not ME or MINE. (I didn’t choose to think or feel each one.)
b)  Seeing suffering means we’ve begun the process that will change the mind’s habits.

3.  When they see the connection between thoughts & suffering, many let their practice stagnate or stop because:

a)  They’re frustrated they can’t control their thinking,
b)  They don’t like feeling emotions, or
c)  They’re averse to the kind of thoughts & emotions that arise because they contradict their idea of self.
c)  We need to understand thoughts & emotions are not ME or MINE, accept what arises & love ourselves.

4.  Others quit meditation because of a sense that they are “to blame” for all the suffering they see (so I am bad).
We need to understand growth is a process of watching how the mind’s habits cause suffering until they drop away.
5.  People watch themselves have the same reactions (maybe for years) & feel frustrated that the practice isn’t working.
Here a sangha/teacher can really help us see the progress we have made, and that this process is the same for us all.
6.  With study, retreats, and being part of a sangha, we make progress seeing through the idea of self (not destroying it).
a)  The lack of a center amidst the constant change of experience can become overwhelming.
b)  Traditionally, this “rolling up the mat” stage is just before 1st level of enlightenment.
c)  At this point, the student needs a teacher who’s been there to encourage, not create idea of “a goal” to be reached.

Common to all pitfalls is clinging to idea of self
If you find yourself down in one of these pitfalls, ask, “Just who do I think I am?” and “What’s that go to do with it?” Even if there’s no clear answer to either question, exploring them will be a great practice!

February 27, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: Bare Awareness

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Remember to stop for a few moments and feel the warmth, brightness and joy inside the body that this weather brings to our hearts. As James Baraz says, it's important to find at least 6 moments of joy, or at least an absence of suffering and feel it in the body, heart and mind for 30 seconds, each moment. Practicing this for a week will definitely create a shift in one's perspective towards more wholesome mind states.

So this Sunday, we will be exploring yet another tool known as Bare Awareness or Bare Attention. This too will also change one's perspective in dealing with all types of sentient beings in our daily lives. It has been most helpful in taking care of ourselves in what could turn out to be disagreeable situations depending on our individual conditionings.

Hoping to see you all there,

"Bare attention brings order into the untidy corners of mind" Nyanaponka Thera from "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation."

with metta for your practice, Pauletta

February 21, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Pitfalls on the Path

Dear Friends,

As I've watched people's practices develop over the years, I've noticed particular pitfalls that tend to arise along the path. Most people overcome and benefit from these difficulties, especially if they know what they are. But the unwary can be stymied by them and drop a meditation practice that would otherwise have served them well in the long run.

Some of these pitfalls occur in our first few steps along the path; other well-known hazards lie close to the end. So wherever your practice has brought you, this review should answer some questions and offer some previews of coming attractions.

Please join us this Sunday from 7-8:30 pm to meditate and explore this topic. Bring friends! I'll spend some time listing the pitfalls I've learned about, and then we can share – as a sangha – our stories of facing and overcoming these (and other) difficulties.

Best wishes,

February 14, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: Interpersonal Mindfulness

The topic for this Sunday will be Interpersonal Mindfulness. Sometimes the habits of how we interact and react to different people and circumstances are so strong and automatic that all we can do is watch and apologize soon after. Once something has been said, it cannot be undone. There is no delete button, undo or rewind. Interpersonal suffering is a significant subset of our human suffering and a beautiful place to practice mindfulness. On Sunday we will explore this potential practice area.

Blessings and peace.

February 7, 2013

Sun 7-8:30pm Metta & Romantic Love

Dear Friends,

Our culture is in love with love, and Valentine's Day is coming right up.  How easy it is to be swept up by romance, how pleasant!  Being mindful in relationships can cast a different light on love, though, showing us some ways conventional forms of love are not very… well… loving.

What's metta got to do with it?  How far apart are romance and metta?  Is there any way to conduct our relationships in a way that's more nourishing to all beings?  And can we do that with existing relationships as well as new ones?

Come join our exploration of these questions and perhaps find some answers in the nick of time for St. Valentine.  Practice loving kindness and bring someone along.

See you Sunday, 7-8:30 pm,

February 4, 2013

Practice for the Week: The Fourth Noble Truth: The Noble 8Fold Path

Hello Everyone,

What a great turnout last night for SuperBowl Sunday. Thanks for coming and for all the great discussion on Wise Livelihood that was contributed after the talk.

This week, think about contemplating and reflecting on one factor of the Noble 8Fold Path or one aspect such as sila (virtue) and consider practicing for at least a week, something like Wise Speech. Remembering that in order for speech with others or with oneself internally to be wholesome and skillful, 4 components need to be present: the speech has to be 1)truthful 2) helpful 3) kind and 4) appropriate.

Happy practice this week and remember to not hesitate to email if you have any questions. My talk from last night should be up to listen to again in a day or two.

with gratitude for all your practice and metta,