Where we take our mindfulness

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“We take our training in mindfulness with us into our everyday lives and apply it in all circumstances: on the bus, at work, when we are feeling ill, when we are out shopping. Otherwise, what’s the use of so many hours on the cushion?” P.85

-Bhante Gunaratana
from “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: Walking the path of the Buddha.” Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications (2001).
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Quotebox courtesy of the Facebook page of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery in Highview, W.Va.

Foundations of Mindfulness Practice: Attitudes and Commitment

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” Seven attitudinal factors constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice… They are non-judging, patience, a beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. These attitudes are to be cultivated consciously when you practice. They are not independent of each other. Each one relies on and influences the degree to which you are able to cultivate the others. Working on any one will rapidly lead you to the others… together they constitute the foundation upon which you will be able to build a strong meditation practice of your own… ”

Jon Kabat-Zinn,   Full Catastrophe Living  (New York: Bantam Books, 1990, 2013), p. 21.

Introduction to Meditation Retreat sign-up

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The main meditation hall at the Bhavana Society.

For those interested in a formal introduction to meditation in  a retreat setting, the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist Monastery and retreat center in High View, W.Va., is offering an “Introduction to Meditation” retreat for beginners, led by Bhante Seelananda, from Thursday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug.  21.

Registration for Bhavana retreats opens 30 days before they begin, which should be Monday, July 18. Bhavana retreats fill fast, so if interested consider registering as soon after midnight as July 18 dawns as possible.

Bhavana retreats are offered in the traditional fashion of Buddhist teachings— free. But as the monastery survives entirely on donations (or ‘dana‘ to use the Pali term), donations are welcome to help keep the place going.

Here is more on this and other Bhavana retreats for 2016.
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Here is more on the concept of ‘dana.’

 

A discourse on Anapanasati Meditation

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Ven. Buddhadàsa Bhikkhu

In 2016, The Meditation Circle has been focusing on the Buddhist meditation known as Anàpànasati (the development of mindfulness of breathing)  To learn more about this meditation technique, we encourage you to download this .pdf of a teaching on Anàpànasati by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.

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As the introduction to this document notes:

Originally published in Thai, this manual is one of the major works of the Ven. Buddhadàsa Bhikkhu and delivered in 1959 in the form of a series of lectures to monks of Suanmokkha Monastery, Chaiya, Thailand.

Ven. Buddhadàsa Bhikkhu, a major voice in the Buddhist world, is an accepted master of Buddhist meditation. In constructive positive language, the manual guides the meditator through the 16 steps of ânàpànasati. Every difficulty that the meditator is liable to face as well as the benefits of practice is examined at length. All that remains is for the aspirant to the noble path to get on with the job.

Spring 2016 Bhavana Society Newsletter

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If you have never checked out the newsletter of the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va., the Spring 2016 quarterly newsletter of “The Forest Path” would be a good place to start. It has a long excerpt by Bhavana abbot Bhante Gunaratana on “Meditation: Why Bother?” It’s drawn from his international bestselling guide to meditation, “Mindfulness in Plain English,” which has been translated into more than 20 languages. You can download a .pdf of the Spring issue and past issues of The Forest Path at: bhavanasociety.org/newsletters/issue/spring_newsletter_2016

(NOTE: The Meditation Circle has a limited number of copies of “Mindfulness in Plain English” for your use for free, or you may order your own copy at this link.) Below is an excerpt from the Spring newsletter.

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meditationMeditation is not easy. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination, and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities that we normally regard as unpleasant and like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum up all of these qualities in the American word gumption. Meditation takes gumption. It is certainly a great deal easier just to sit back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself?

Continue reading

Gradual training

“The gradual training essentially involves learning how to quiet down and observe your thoughts and behavior and then to change them into something more conductive to meditation and awareness. It is a slow process, not to be hurried.”   p16-17

~ Bhante Gunaratana
(from “Eight mindful steps to happiness: Walking the path of the Buddha.” Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.)

Quote courtesy of the Bhavana Society Facebook page

Don’t be in a hurry

“So don’t be in a hurry and try to push or rush your practice. Do your meditation gently and gradually step by step. In regard to peacefulness, if you become peaceful, then accept it; if you don’t become peaceful, then accept that also. That’s the nature of the mind. We must find our own practice and persistently keep at it.”

~Ajhan Chah

2016 Bhavana Retreat Schedule Posted

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Bhavana Society Meditation Hall (courtesy this page)

The Bhavana Society Theravada Buddhist Monastery near High View, W.Va., in Hampshire County, has announced its retreat schedule for 2016 on the monastery’s website. Retreat sign-ups begin 30 days before a retreat begins and you are encouraged to sign up quickly as Bhavana retreats are attended by people from around the country and world and fill up fast. There is no charge for retreats,  in the spirit of Buddhist traditions that sees teachings as given freely because they are considered priceless. But dana — generosity — is always welcome as Bhavana survives entirely upon the generosity of its supporters and visitors.

The Introduction to Meditation retreat, Thursday, March 24 to Sunday, March 27 is open for registrations, but only for women, as all the spots for men have been filled. Here is the schedule for the year:

March 24-27, 2016 Introduction to Meditation 3 nights Monastic Community Beginner Yes
April 19-23, 2016 Introduction to Samatha & Vipassana Meditation Retreat 4 nights Monastic Community Any Yes
May 10-15, 2016 Noble Eightfold Path Retreat 5 nights Bhante Seelananda Intermediate Yes
May 22, 2016 Vesak Celebration Day This is not a retreat. Yes
June 6-11, 2016 Monastic Retreat (Buddhist Monastics Only) 5 nights Bhante Gunaratana Intermediate Yes
June 20-25, 2016 Awareness of Death Retreat 5 nights Bhante Seelananda Intermediate Yes
July 8-10, 2016 Youth Retreat 2 nights Monastic Community Youth Only Yes
July 24-30, 2016 Jhana Retreat 6 nights Bhante Gunaratana Intermediate Yes
August 18-21, 2016 Introduction to Meditation 3 nights Bhante Seelananda Beginner Yes
Sept. 2-5, 2016 Fall Family Work Weekend Retreat 3 nights Monastic Community Any Yes
Sept. 18-24, 2016 Seven Factors of Enlightenment 6 nights Bhante Gunaratana Intermediate Yes
October 3-9, 2016 Metta Retreat 6 nights Bhante Seelananda Any Yes
October 23, 2016 Kathina Celebration This is not a retreat. Yes
Nov. 10-13, 2016 Three Characteristics of Existence 3 nights Bhante Gunaratana Any Yes
Nov. 23-27, 2016 Thanksgiving Retreat 4 nights Bhante Seelananda Any Yes
Dec 15-22, 2016 Year End Retreat Part I 7 nights Bhante Gunaratana Intermediate Yes
Dec 24-Jan 1, 2017 Year End Retreat Part II 8 nights Bhante Seelananda Intermediate Yes

Taking it breath by breath in 2016

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In 2016, the Meditation Circle will be focusing on anapanasati, a core meditation practice in the Buddha’s teaching, focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath and the 16 steps or instructions involved with deeply investigating the breath. This was one of the chief methods of meditation the Buddha likely practiced and taught throughout his 40 years of teaching. The 16 steps are divided into four sections or ‘tetrads.’

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First Tetrad:
1.
Breathing in a long breath, one knows one is breathing in a long breath.
Breathing out a long breath, one knows one is breathing out a long breath.
2.
Breathing in a short breath, one knows one is breathing in a short breath.
Breathing out a short breath, one knows one is breathing out a short breath.
3.
Breathing in, one experiences the whole body.
Breathing out, one experiences the whole body.
4.
Breathing in, one relaxes the bodily formations.
Breathing out, one relaxes the bodily formations.
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Second Tetrad:
5.
Breathing in, one experiences joy (or enjoyment).
Breathing out, one experiences joy (or enjoyment).
6.
Breathing in, one experiences pleasure (or well-being).
Breathing out, one experiences pleasure (or well-being).
7.
Breathing in, one experiences one’s mental formations.
Breathing out, one experiences one’s mental formations.
8.
Breathing in, one relaxes one’s mental formations.
Breathing out, one relaxes one’s mental formations.
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Third Tetrad
9.
Breathing in, one experiences the mind.
Breathing out, one experiences the mind.
10.
Breathing in, one has satisfaction of mind.
Breathing out, one has satisfaction of mind.
11.
Breathing in, one composes the mind.
Breathing out, one composes the mind.
12.
Breathing in, one liberates the mind.
Breathing out, one liberates the mind.
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Fourth Tetrad:
13.
Breathing in, one contemplates impermanence.
Breathing out, one contemplates impermanence.
14.
Breathing in, one contemplates fading away (of clinging).
Breathing out, one contemplates fading away (of clinging).
15.
Breathing in, one contemplates cessation (of clinging).
Breathing out, one contemplates cessation (of clinging).
16.
Breathing in, one contemplates relinquishment.
Breathing out, one contemplates relinquishment.

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If you wish to explore on your own the teachings on  anapanasati, here are some suggestions:

  1. The Anapanasati Sutta: Mindfulness of Breathing. This is the sutta (Pali– ‘sutra’ in Sanskrit) in which the Buddha lays out his guidance on practicing this kind of meditation.
  2. Larry Rosenberg talks. Lay Buddhist teacher Larry Rosenberg (author of “Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation“) says of his teaching approach: “The method I use most in teaching is anapanasati or mindfulness with breathing. Breath awareness supports us while we investigate the entire mind-body process. It helps calm the mind and gives us a graceful entry into a state of choiceless awareness–a place without agendas, where we are not for or against whatever turns up in the moment.” Here is a link to a page of audio files of his teachings at DharmaSeed.org. Click on the white bar that says ‘Select from Larry Rosenberg’s 308 Talks’ and find a host of them on anapanasati.
  3. Gil Fronsdal: Fronsdal is a leading lay Buddhist teacher and you can find his teachings on anapanasati practice at this link at AudioDharma.org.

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Come join the circle! Beginners are always welcome or those who are renewing a meditation practice. You don’t need to self-identify as a Buddhist  to gain the benefits of a regular meditation practice. The Meditation Circle meets every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 520 Kanawha Blvd W, in Charleston, W.Va. For directions, click here.

Daily Words of the Buddha

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Dadato puññaṃ pavaḍḍhati;
Saṃyamato veraṃ na cīyati;
Kusalo ca jahāti pāpakaṃ,
Rāgadosamohakkhayā sanibbuto.

Listen: http://host.pariyatti.org/dwob/digha_nikaya_2_197.mp3

Who gives, one’s virtues shall increase;
Who is self-curbed, no hatred bears;
Who so is skilled in virtue, evil shuns,
And by the rooting out of lust and hate
And all delusion, comes to be at peace.

Dīgha Nikāya 2.197

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Quote courtesy of Bhavana Society Facebook page:

 

Establishing a meditation practice

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The following encouragement and advice about establishing a regular meditation practice comes from Samanera Jayantha, a recently ordained novice monk at the Bhavana Society Theravada Buddhist forest monastery near High View, W.Va.

Are you having a hard time building a consistent daily meditation practice? Rather than worrying about how long your sessions should be, focus on really trying make daily meditation a habit.

Start out with the expectation of just sitting or walking for 5-10 minutes a day. Trust me when I say from experience that doing 5-10 minutes of meditation a day is much more fruitful then doing 30-60 minutes once or twice a week.

When you build up the habit of every day sitting, even for 5-10 minutes, you are creating a skillful habit that will bring you and others great benefit. As you start to see these benefits you will naturally have the desire to meditate longer periods and the seeds of your initial practice will grow.

That’s not to say it will be easy, or that you reach a point where meditation is all sunshine and rainbows. Meditation is hard work and you will have your good and bad days, cycles of practice where you feel like a meditation master followed right after by cycles that make you feel less then a newbie, it’s all the nature of the practice, and it’s all worth it. Consistently practicing through the ebbs and flows is how it’s done.

Remember consistency breeds stability, start small and build a strong base that will lead you to peace.

~ Samanera Jayantha

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