singing along to the mind’s song

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“Ajaan Lee used to say that there are two steps to getting started in the meditation. One is to get your body into position…The next step is to get your mind in position. And that’s more difficult because the mind doesn’t usually want to stay in any one particular position. It’s always running around, always quick like a high-strung cat to jump at anything that comes along. Ajaan Mun once talked about “the mind’s song.” There are rhythms that go through the body, rhythms that seem to go through our awareness. And we start singing along with them without really realizing it, and then we’re off wherever the melody will take us. When we put the mind in position, we stop singing along. We just watch what’s going on….
~
…We come here to meditate to help heal the mind from all the damage it does to itself. We tend to think more of the stress coming in from outside, but actually, we’re playing along with the outside stress, we’re singing along with the outside stress, which is why it gets into the mind.
~
So we come here, close our eyes, sit in a still position, and give the mind a chance to wash out all the unhealthy energies it’s picked up. This is a good thing to be doing, but it would be even better if we could maintain this position of the observer all the time. That’s a healthy lifestyle for the mind. This is what you want to try to do as the mind gets accustomed to settling down with the breath. Not only when you’re sitting here, but also when you get up and start moving around: Try to maintain this same inner position, this same inner posture of being the observer.
~
And try to notice when you lose it. That’s a sign you’ve run across something important: one of those tricks the mind plays on itself to go someplace it knows it shouldn’t. That’s one of the reasons for these lapses. The other is that it simply forgets itself and just starts singing along with whatever thought comes along, whatever mood comes along.
~
These things seem to have so much reality simply because we sing along with them. But if you can maintain the position of the observer, you watch these things as they come, and you begin to see the damage they can do if you take them in. You realize that you have the choice. You don’t have to play along with them, you don’t have to sing along with them, you don’t have to take them in. You’re now in a position of strength, a position where you can watch, where you can see these things simply as events rather than as the worlds to enter into…”
❀❀❀
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“”The Mind’s Song
~
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Published/Meditations3/0305n5b1%20M3%20The%20Mind’s%20Song.pdf

(Quote from The Skillful Teachings of Thanissaro Bhhikku Facebook group)

 

PART 3 | Q-A with Bhante Rahula

Here is a recording of a Q-and-A session with Bhante Yogavacara Rahula during his visit to Charleston and Huntington, WV, in early October 2016. This session took place after a guided meditation at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Below is an excerpt from the Q-and-A.

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QUESTION: Sometimes when I meditate I just space off and then forget what I’m doing and then I just pop back in. Is that a good practice or a bad practice?

BHANTE RAHULA: That’s what happens . The idea is we want to prevent the mind from spacing out or t least to shorten those periods of time when were either lost in our thoughts or spaced out. And to keep bringing it back to state of more concentrated awareness.

Training the mind takes a long time. If a person’s really interested in developing the meditation it has to be practiced a lot.  Even during the day not allowing your mind to get aimlessly lost in things

You see, we always have the body with us and that’s the wonderful thing about using the body as our anchor in the present moment, It’s always there, anytime, during the day. We just pause and just bring the attention back to the body and take a deep slow breath and bring the attention back to the body and relax.

This is part of a series of recordings from Bhante Rahula’s visit to Charleston and Huntington, WV, from Oct. 12-15, 2016:

PART 2: Bhante Rahula Dhamma Talk on Meditation
PART 1: Bhante Rahula Leads a Guided Meditation
Visit Bhante Rahula’s blog at: bhanterahula.blogspot.com

AFTER THE ELECTION

buddha_stonefaceWherever you fall on the political spectrum (or non-spectrum, as the case may be), here is some food for thought, post-election:

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Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard posted the following quote to his blog, which upon first reading seemed like direct commentary upon the post-election jitters. But then note the source and date of the quote:

The underlying sense of uneasiness that we have now is actually a good thing: it is the expression of our sensitivity. Those who go through life without feeling ill at ease are unconscious. The uneasy feeling caused by our awareness holds tremendous potential for transformation. It is a treasure of energy that we can grasp with both hands and use to build something better. Indifference doesn’t lead anywhere.

JIGME KHYENTSE RINPOCHE (b. 1964) Oral advice transcribed by the author.

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And the staff of the Buddhist publication “Lion’s Roar” released a special roundup, titled “After the Election: Buddhist Wisdom for Hope and Healing” in which  the day after the  election, they asked some of America’s leading Buddhist teachers to offer their comments, advice and teachings to address how so many of us were feeling. (Thanks to Patrick Hamilton for passing this on.) The special edition is available as a downloadable PDF file. Here are some samplings:

“Cultivating the mind of love is so crucial. When love is the ground of our being, a love ethic shapes our participation in politics. To work for peace and justice we begin with the individual practice of love, because it is there that we can experience firsthand love’s transformative power.” ~ bell hooks

“It’s OK to freak out, grieve, and vent for a while. Then we can get back to work, as always, for the good.” —Norman Fischer

“When we look at the world around us — our immediate world and the bigger world beyond — we see a lot of difficulty and dysfunction. The news we hear is mostly bad news, and that makes us afraid. It can be quite discouraging. Yet we could actually derive inspiration for our warriorship, for our bodhisattva path, from these dire circumstances. We could recognize the fact, and proclaim the fact, that we are needed.” —Pema Chodron

PART 2 | Bhante Rahula Talk on Meditation

https://soundcloud.com/douglaseye/bhante-rahula-talk-on-meditation-10-14-16

Here is a Dhamma talk on meditation given by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Oct. 14, 2016, during his visit to Charleston and Huntington, W.Va. Bhante’s talk concerns the practice of mindfulness meditation. Below are the opening minutes of the talk.

This is part of a series of recordings from Bhante Rahula’s visit:
PART 1: Bhante Rahula Leads a Guided Meditation
Visit Bhante Rahula’s blog at: bhanterahula.blogspot.com

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BHANTE RAHULA: In general. the practice of meditation helps a person to kind of cool their hot-tempered mind down a bit and helps their mind deal with the stresses of fast-paced living and also the general ups and downs of life. How to handle the crises and other surprising events and situations  that throw people’s mind a little bit off balance and cause them to do some unskillful types of actions of body speech and thought. And then they have to suffer the consequences. Or just generally, learning to help free the mind of its repetitive habits, whether its unskillful speech or just the habits of useless thinking, especially thoughts about weakening one’s over-dependence on sensory stimulation, and learning how to develop more inner calmness and balance of mind that’s not  so dependent on sensory overload.

So, there are many kinds of benefits that can be acquired from the practice of meditation. Although, of course, mindfulness meditation  a  lot of times it’s taught in a very secular way, it does come from the tradition of Buddhist meditation as taught by the Buddha for also helping to overcome suffering. One of the main aspects of the Buddha’s teachings is about the nature of suffering and happiness. And how we create it in our own minds and how we can use meditation and the whole practice and teachings of the Eighfold Path and so on as a way to help sort of bring more order and calmness and understanding and wisdom and also love into our mind and to help to deal and live with our fellow beings in a more skillful way.

The word mindfulness — or sati — it means to remember. But specifically to remember the present moment. So, it’s a way of helping to train the mind and allowing the mind to kind of rest a little bit more in the present moment, without so much this neurotic rushing to the future and remembering the past. Most of people’s problems come from obsessing about the past — either guilt, worry or remorse or fear. Or pining about the past  to bring it back, which you can’t. Also, then, fearing about the future. What’s going to happen to me in the future, whether it’s health-wise, job-wise, or other things, obsessing about the future that also you cannot control. The future hasn’t come but yet most of the time people’s minds are caught back and forth between the past and future. Rarely does a person ever actually rest in the present moment….

 

Bhante Rahula Guided Meditation

The Meditation Circle was honored to host Bhante Yogavacara Rahula at events in Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., from Oct. 13-15, 2016. Below, is a 25-minute guided  meditation he led at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston on Friday,  Oct. 14, 2016. The audio is downloadable to your computer by clicking the white arrow in the upper right corner or you may share it to social media, as well. Stay tuned for more audio files from his visit. Visit Bhante Rahula’s blog at: bhanterahula.blogspot.com

 

A Q-and-A with Bhante Rahula

bhante_y_rahula

Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, former vice abbot of the Bhavana Society Buddhist Forest Monastery and retreat center in High View, has an intriguing back story, told in his book, “One Night’s Shelter: Autobiography of an American Monk.”

Born Joseph Scott DuPrez in California, he served in Vietnam, then took off across the hippie trail in Europe and India, was jailed for smuggling hashish in Afghanistan and then — after attending a meditation retreat in Nepal — abandoned the stoner life and became a globe-trotting monk.

Rahula, 68, will visit Charleston and Huntington Thursday through Saturday, making several public appearances. I interviewed him via email in advance of his visit

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Q: What was your early life growing up?
RAHULA: I was born and grew up in Southern California. I had a typical middle-class upbringing — went to activities with the local Methodist Church youth group, wasn’t particularly religious-minded.

We lived in Riverside, about 50 miles away from the coast. My brother and I started surfing in 1962 when the Beach Boys songs were getting popular. We never did get particularly good at surfing.

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Q: How did you wind up in Vietnam?
RAHULA: I graduated from high school in 1966 and enlisted in the Army in 1967. I did not really have any pros or cons about the war, but all my friends were either getting drafted or enlisting.

I thought, what the heck. I would have eventually gotten drafted anyway. Continue reading

Bhante Rahula on meditation

Bhante Yogavacara Rahula will visit Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., in the week ahead. Click on this previous post for details on his visit (Thursday evening and Saturday morning in Huntington and Friday evening and Saturday night in Charleston). Here is a 16-minute video of Bhante Rahula, a globe-trotting American-born Buddhist monk, giving a Dhamma talk on the nature and function of vipassana or insight meditation in the Buddhist tradition.

Being quiet

lotus

“Try to be quiet in every way. The body is sitting here quietly. The breathing is quiet, and as for the chatter of the mind, don’t get involved. There are two ways of dealing with it: one is to block it out, say, with a meditation word like buddho. You can just think buddho, buddho, buddho, very fast. It’s like jamming the circuits. Or try to immerse yourself in the breath as much as possible. The chatter may be in the background, but don’t pay any attention to it, don’t give it any importance. If you don’t feed it, you’ll find that it gets weaker and weaker. The mind really does get quieter. And only when the mind gets quiet can you begin to notice things.
~
Once when I was in Rayong a group of people from Bangkok came up the hill to where I was staying in the old ordination hall. They plopped themselves down in the hall and exclaimed how peaceful, how quiet it was there in the monastery. Then they pulled out their boom box and turned it on—all the better to hear the peace and quiet with.

That’s the way a lot of us are when we meditate. The body’s still, the breath is still, but the mind is like a boom box, broadcasting all kinds of thoughts and concerns. For many of us, meditation is the only time of the day when we get to sit and be with our thoughts without any interruption. But that’s not what it’s for. We’re here to watch, to observe. So, we have to do what we can to discourage the mind’s involvement with all that chatter…”

~Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Read the full talk, “Quiet in Every Way,”  at this link
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Quote courtesy of the Facebook page, “The Skillful Teachings of Thanissaro Bhikkhu”

Online Dhammapada resource

The Meditation Circle has begun reading “The Dhammapada,” in a translation by Gil Fronsdal.  (See post below.) But there is a free online version of this classic collection of the Buddha’s core teachings translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita.

Comparing translations is always an educational and interesting exercise as different translations turn phrases differently and use different words that can add nuance and other shades of meanings to these teachings. You can find Acharya Buddharakkhita’s translation here to read online.  Or can download versions of it here in various formats.

 

This week’s Dhammapada verse

 

namaste

The Meditation Circle has begun to read verses from Gil Fronsdal’s translation of “The Dhammapada,” a collection in verse form of some of the Buddha’s core teachings. As we are not certified teachers, but just facilitators of the Meditation Circle, our goal is just to offer some food for thought for folks to ponder and not to “explain” or interpret these verses. In the next few weeks, we will be reading from Fronsdal’s introduction to “The Dhammapada,” which gives a good overview of the verses, which are among the most widely known of the Buddha’s teachings. If interested in the book, you can find it here: “The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic With Annotations.”

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Below are the verses  — verse 3-6 — we will be reading next  in the group:

He abused me, he attacked me,
Defeated me, robbed me!”
For those carrying on like this,
Hatred does not end.

She abused me, attacked me,
Defeated me, robbed me!”
For those not carrying on like this,
Hatred ends.

Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is an ancient truth.
Many do not realize that
We here must die.
For those who realize this,
Quarrels end.

Note on change in meditation schedule

 

two blooming white water lilies (lotus) close up

two blooming white water lilies (lotus) close up

This Monday Sept. 26 , the gathering of the Meditation Circle will feature an annual visit from students in the world religions class at Charleston Catholic High School. As a result, much of the gathering will be devoted to a Q-and-A about meditation and basic instruction in sitting meditation.

Also, the Meditation Circle will temporarily be suspending the Qigong instruction due to some scheduling issues caused by the move to the new Monday meeting format, which is in the process of being tweaked.

We will continue to meet from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Except for this Monday’s visit from the students, we will us the 5:30 to 6 p.m. time for basic instruction in sitting, standing and walking meditation, discussion about maintaining a regular practice and a weekly reading from the Dhammapada, a collection of core Buddhist teachings.

As ever, your feedback is most welcome.

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Please also note the upcoming visit by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, who will be in Charleston and Huntington form Thursday, Oct. 13 through Saturday, Oct. 15. He will make two Charleston appearances: from 7 to 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation building where the Meditation Circle meets, and from 5 to

Below is the full schedule of his visit. For more, see our previous post about Bhante Rahula:

DOWNLOAD: Read or download  pdf’s of Bhante Rahula’s books here.
BLOG: Visit Bhante Rahula’s blog here.
_______________________________
THURSDAY, Oct. 13:  6 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: PeaceTree Center, 5930 Mahood Dr., Barboursville, W.Va., (located about ten minutes from the Huntington Mall).
WHAT: Bhante Rahula will speak on “An Introduction to Meditation,” followed by meditation and Q-and-A.
_______________________________
FRIDAY, Oct. 14:  7 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd W, Charleston, W.Va.
WHAT: Meditation, Talk and Q-and-A.
_______________________________
3/ SATURDAY, Oct. 15:

11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
WHERE: PeaceTree Center, 5930 Mahood Dr, Barboursville, W.Va., (located about ten minutes from the Huntington Mall).
WHAT: Yoga session followed by meditation and then Q-and-A.

5 to 7 p.m.:
WHERE: Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle Rd., Charleston, W.Va.
WHAT: Yoga session followed by talk on “Mindfulness in Daily Life”,  short meditation and Q-and-A.

Studying the Dhammapada: Verses 1-2

screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-12-26-14-am

The Meditation Circle of Charleston has a new schedule that began this week, moving our regular Tuesday meeting to every Monday. We’ve also expanded the meeting time, adding an optional half-hour session from 5:30 to 6 p.m., featuring Qigong moving meditation and a new weekly study of verses from the Dhammapada, a book of the Buddha’s essential teachings. Meditation follows from 6 to 7 p.m., with two rounds of sitting meditation, with a short period of standing or walking meditation in between.

So, we begin with our Dhammapada study during the 5:30 to 6 p.m. timeframe on Monday, Sept. 6. We’lll be using Gil Fronsdal’s book “The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic With Annotations.”

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We will start with verses 1-2 for our Sept. 6 meeting:

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a corrupted mind,
And suffering follows
As the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox.
All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind, Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows
Like a never-departing shadow.

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For a little background on The Dhammapada, here is a portion of Jack Kornfield’s introduction to the Fronsdal translation:

These verses of the Dhammapada sum up in the simplest language the core teachings of the Buddha. Memorized and chanted by devoted followers for thousands of years, these words remind all who hear them of the universal truths expounded by the Buddha: Hatred never ends by hatred. Virtue and wise action are the foundation for happiness. And the Buddha’s teachings offer the possibility of a thoroughly unshakable peace and liberation of heart for those who follow the way of the Dharma and free themselves from clinging.

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And here is an excerpt by Fronsdal himself, from his preface to his translation:

The Dhammapada was first introduced to the non-Buddhist modern world during the second half of the nineteenth century. It has come to be recognized as a great religious classic, one bearing an uncompromising message of personal self-reliance, self-mastery, and liberation.

The major audience for the Dhammapada historically has been the ordained Buddhist community. Thus a number of the verses understandably address issues of monastic life. However, many of these verses can apply to anyone who seeks a life dedicated to dharma practice.

The challenge for lay practitioners is to discover how to appropriately incorporate into lay life the renunciation and purity that characterize monastic life. I have taken them that way for myself. When verses 9 and 10 state that the monastic form is useless unless the monk or nun is virtuous, self-controlled, and honest, I translate that for myself as saying that the lay life is similarly worthless without these qualities. Anyone who lives in this way may figuratively be called a monastic, as is done in verse 142.

The second issue—whether the text has a world-rejecting message—is more challenging, perhaps because the text was meant to challenge our relationship to the world. An initial reading of a number of the verses seems to reveal a negation or an aversion to the world (in fact, some English translations seem to translate the entire text based on this impression) …

While initial appearances may sometimes suggest a world-negating message, I believe that the issue in the Dhammapada is neither negating or affirming the world. The issue is becoming free of clinging to the world. For those who take on this challenge, the resulting freedom helps us live in the world as wisely as possible, which includes experiencing joy.

The Meditation Circle is moving: From Tuesday to Monday nights

moving

We’re moving! Starting, Monday, Sept. 12, the Meditation Circle of Charleston (WV) will be moving from its long-time Tuesday evening session to a weekly Monday evening session. We are staying in the exact same place, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on the West Side of Charleston, W.Va. But we are slightly expanding our gathering time, in order to include more instruction in Qigong, the ancient Chinese moving meditation practice,  as well as time to talk about your sitting practice and instruction for beginners to meditation. (We’d also like to now and then share tea and discussion, too, and get to know one another better).

HERE IS OUR NEW SCHEDULE: Please note that the new 5:30 to 6 p.m. additional time is optional. If all you wish is to sit quietly, as we have been doing, then please arrive for the 6 to 7 p.m. time frame. And as ever, if you are physically leery of undertaking Qigong or walking or standing meditation, we invite you to sit and enjoy the peacefulness afforded us by the Unitarian’s use of their lovely space.

5:30 – 6 p.m., every Monday:

This period is designed to be flexible. It is primarily used for Qigong practice and instruction, although if the need arises it can be used as either a question-and-answer period to address issues that arise from practice or for instruction in basic meditation techniques for newcomers.

6 to 7 p.m.:

This time is set aside for meditation. The format consists of two rounds of meditation, each lasting 20 to 25 minutes, with a short 5 to 10 minute period of standing or walking meditation between rounds. The sitting period ends with a Metta or loving-friendliness meditation.

We welcome your feedback on the changes and look forward to everyone getting to know one another better as we create the space for a supportive group of folks interested in deepening their meditation practice.

Thad and Doug

P.S.: Please also note details about the upcoming visit to Charleston and Huntington of the globe-trotting, American-born Buddhist monk Bhante Rahula from Thursday, Oct. 13 through Saturday, Oct. 15. He has a fascinating personal history and is a wonderful meditation and yoga instructor who has taught worldwide for decades. See more details here.

Bhante Rahula to visit Charleston and Huntington, W.Va. Oct. 13-14-15, 2016

Bhante-Rahula-Tiergarten-6_2011-

The Meditation Circle of Charleston (WV) is pleased to host a visit to Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., by the globe-trotting American-born Buddhist monk Bhante Yogavacara Rahula. (‘Bhante’ — BON-tay — is an honorific akin to ‘Reverand.’) Below is our tentative schedule for his visit, subject to modifications as we get closer. But we wanted to put the dates out there for people to reserve the time, if interested in attending. All events are free but we encourage people to show up before the starting time.

Bhante Rahula has a fascinating personal history, told in his autobiography, “One Night’s Shelter.” As described on one site:
“This candid and highly readable autobiography of the well-known American Buddhist monk describes his transformation from a GI and drug-dealing hippie to becoming an ascetic contemplative in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The unvarnished accounts caused some stir, as Bhante Rahula describes dealing drugs and getting arrested for smuggling a kilo of hashish from Afghanistan prior to his becoming a monk. He is now most well-known for integrating Hatha Yoga with Vipassana meditation.” He is also author of “The Way to Peace and Happiness,” “Meditation: The Mind and Body Connection” and “Breaking Through the Self-Delusion.”

DOWNLOAD: Read or download  pdf’s of Bhante Rahula’s books here.
BLOG: Visit Bhante Rahula’s blog here.
_______________________________
THURSDAY, Oct. 13:  6 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: PeaceTree Center, 5930 Mahood Dr., Barboursville, W.Va., (located about ten minutes from the Huntington Mall).
WHAT: Bhante Rahula will speak on “An Introduction to Meditation,” followed by meditation and Q-and-A.
_______________________________
FRIDAY, Oct. 14:  7 to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd W, Charleston, W.Va.
WHAT: Meditation, Talk and Q-and-A.
_______________________________
3/ SATURDAY, Oct. 15:

11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.:
WHERE: PeaceTree Center, 5930 Mahood Dr, Barboursville, W.Va., (located about ten minutes from the Huntington Mall).
WHAT: Yoga session followed by meditation and then Q-and-A.

5 to 7 p.m.:
WHERE: Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle Rd., Charleston, W.Va.
WHAT: Yoga session followed by talk on “Mindfulness in Daily Life”,  short meditation and Q-and-A.

A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.