A few tips on standing meditation

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When people think of meditation, many immediately conjure an image of someone sitting cross-legged on the floor. But traditional Buddhist teachings list four meditation postures: sitting, walking, standing and lying down. As Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdall has noted; “All four are valid means of cultivating a calm and clear mindfulness of the present moment.”

Today’s topic is on standing meditation, one of the lesser discussed meditation postures. When on a formal retreat, where hour-long sittings are often the norm, you may notice fellow retreatants arising into a standing posture to do this kind of meditation, to change up their posture or because they feel they need a break from long sittings. We invite members of The Meditation Circle to do likewise during our meditation sessions if they feel so inclined.

In standing meditation, the basic practice is to stand comfortably, feeling the sensations in your feet and the points of contact with the ground beneath you.  One can also continue to pay attention to the breath, but the perception of the body standing becomes the primary object of meditation. Continue reading

Meditation Circle resumes, Monday Jan. 9

Happy New Year to all!
The Meditation Circle of Charleston will resume its weekly gatherings on Monday, Jan. 9. Please come and join the circle and start the new year off with mindfulness. We gather at 5:30 p.m. for discussion and any instruction for beginners or folks renewing a meditation practice. Sitting, standing and walking meditation takes place from 6 to 7 p.m.

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The Buddhamas Carol (or ‘Ode of a Vipassana Yogi’)

There just aren’t that many Buddhist Christmas carols out there. Here is one by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, a Theravadan Buddhist monk who recently made a visit to Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., as part of his worldwide perigrinations. For more on Bhante Rahula (who will be leading a retreat in April 2017 on vipassana meditation at the Bhavana Society in High View, W.Va.), check out his blog at bhanterahula.blogspot.com.

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Here are the lyrics to the song, which are a Dhamma discourse in themselves:

A Buddhamas Carol
or
Ode of a Vipassana Yogi
(Composed by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula)

Silent Night, Peaceful Night,
All is calm, Stars are bright,
Round the hall Yogis sitting still,
Keeping their backs straight, exerting will,
Enduring pain without any ill-will,
Pervading Metta all throughout space,
Wishing good-will to the whole human race.

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Silent Mind, Peaceful Mind,
Thoughts are few, pain is slight,
Focusing mind at the tip of the nose,
Knowing each breath as it comes and it goes,
Perceiving the light that steadily glows,
Feeling the rapture from head to the toes.

Continue reading

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….
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…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.
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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.
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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.
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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…”
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Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“”The Mind’s Song
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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

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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

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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.