Category Archives: Meditation

Information, resources concerning meditation

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 A Q-and-A with Bhante Rahula

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.

The Meditation Circle is moving: From Tuesday to Monday nights

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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

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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.
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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 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 Spring 2016 Bhavana Society Newsletter

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

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.

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

Just stay

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Image courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_meditation
“In meditation we discover our inherent restlessness. The pith instruction is to stay….stay….just stay. So whenever we wander off we gently encourage ourselves to stay and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay. Discursive mind? Stay.  Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay. Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay. What’s for lunch? Stay. What am I doing here? Stay. I can’t stand this another minute! Stay. This is how we cultivate steadfastness.
~ Pema Chodron
from “The Places That Scare You”

Continue reading Just stay

Sitting through fear

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“States of fear sometimes arise during meditation for no discernible reason. It is a common phenomenon, and there can be a number of causes. You may be experiencing the effect of something repressed long ago. Remember, thoughts arise first in the unconscious. The emotional contents of a thought complex often leak through into your conscious awareness long before the thought itself surfaces. If you sit through the fear, the memory itself may bubble up to a point where you can endure it. Or you may be dealing directly with the fear that we all fear: “fear of the unknown.” At some point in your meditation career you will be struck with the seriousness of what you are actually doing. You are tearing down the wall of illusion you have always used to explain life to yourself and to shield yourself from the intense flame of reality. You are about to meet ultimate truth face to face. That is scary. But it has to dealt with eventually. Go ahead and dive right in.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English,” p. 101

What we do when we meditate

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“… That’s what we do when we meditate: We step back from all the influences inside our mind — ideas that this is good, that’s bad, you should do this, you shouldn’t do that. You have to stop and really take stock of these things, find a place within where you can be really, really quiet, and then look clearly at these voices to see what they are. Instead of identifying with them, you watch them. You watch to see what they’re coming from, where they’re going, seeing them as part of a causal process. What kind of mind state do they come from, what kind of mind state do they encourage? Are those the kind of mind states you want to identify with?

“This is essentially how the Buddha’s teaching on not-self works: seeing the things that have control over our lives, that have power over our minds, and in the course of the meditation stepping back a bit from them, gaining enough independence from them that we can look at them simply as events and see if we really want to identify with them. As the Buddha pointed out in one of his discourses, you can’t really look at these things as long as you’re identifying with them. You’ve got to step back. This applies not only to ideas in the mind, but also to the body, this form we’re sitting with here. The same principle also applies to feelings of pleasure and pain as they come and go, to perceptions, to thought-constructs, even to our consciousness of things. Meditation gives us a place where we can step back from these things and watch them to see the influence they have over the mind, to decide whether that’s an influence we’d like them to continue having.

“So as we practice it’s important to create this space where you can step back. The quietude and seclusion are important….”

~ Thannisaro Bhikkhu
(Read the full Dhamma Talk
“Rites of Passage”)

Loving-friendliness Meditation

There are many metta or loving-friendliness meditations to be found on the web. Here is one from the Meditation Circle’s Resources page, adapted from a metta meditation taught by Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society Therevadan Forest Monastery near Wardensville, W.Va. Metta meditations can be a heartening and expansive way to begin or end a meditation session.

namaste

May I be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to me, may difficulties not last long, may I have a calm, centered mind. May I have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May my parents be well happy and peaceful.  May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May my teachers be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May family members and relatives be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May friends and acquaintances be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May my enemies and those with whom I have trouble communicating be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May indifferent persons be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

May all beings, with form and without form, visible and invisible, near and far, born or coming to birth, from the highest realms of existence to the lowest, be well happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.

Samatha and Vipassana Meditation

Bhante Seelanda gives a Dhamma talk on Day 1 of a retreat on Samatha and Vipassana meditation at the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist Forest Monastery in West Virginia, from April 6-13, 2015. This is an illuminating talk on the relationship and role of these two types of meditation practices, that entail concentration and insight, respectively.

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For more video Dhamma talks and instruction by Bhavana Society monks, visit the monastery’s YouTube Page.