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Right View…plus some Encouraging Words

“The ability not to get discouraged by events comes down to your ability to keep talking to yourself with the right tone of voice, saying the right things to yourself. That’s what right view is all about. Remind yourself that no matter how bad things get or how long the dry stretches seem to last, it’s not the end. The possibility for knowledge is always there. This is one of the amazing things about the mind: It’s always aware. There’s always that potential for knowledge, for understanding. Sometimes it may seem weak, but it’s there, and you can encourage it. That’s how, when things get bad, you can become your own best counselor, your own best advisor, so that when things crash, not everything gets demolished. Your determination not to keep on suffering: That’ll see you through.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “When Things Aren’t Going Well”

https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/Meditations5/Section0027.html

 

 

 

 

Essential Attitudes for Meditation

“The mind itself is a set of events, and you participate in those events every time you look inward. Meditation is participatory observation: what you are looking at responds to the process of looking. In this case, what you are looking at is you, and what you see depends on how you look. Thus, the process of meditation is extremely delicate, and the result depends absolutely on the state of mind of the meditator. The following attitudes are essential to the success in practice:

1. Don’t expect anything. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself, but don’t get distracted by your expectations about the results. For that matter, don’t be anxious for any results whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and its own directions. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to our expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspention of all our preconceptions and ideas. We must store our images, opinions, and interpretations out of the way for the duration of the session. Otherwise we will stumble over them.

2) Don’t strain. Don’t force anything or make grand, exaggerated efforts. Meditation is not aggressive. There is no place or need for violent striving. Just let you effort be relaxed and steady.

3) Don’t rush. There is no hurry, so take your time. Settle yourself on a cushion and sit as though you have the whole day. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Patience, patience, patience.

4) Don’t cling to anything and don’t reject anything. Let come what comes, and accommodate yourself to that. Whatever it is. If good mental images arise, that is fine. If bad images arise, that’s fine, too. Look on all of it as equal and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don’t fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully.

5) Let go. Learn to flow with all the changes that come up. Loosen up and relax.

6) Accept everything that rises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even ones you hate. Don’t condemn yourself for having human flaws or failings. Learn to see all the phenomena as being perfectly natural and understandable. Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times with respect to everything you experience.

7) Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are all you’ve got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.

8) Investigate yourself. Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy man said it. See for yourself. That does not mean that you should be cynical, imprudent, or irreverent. It means you should be empirical. Subject all the statements to the act or test of your own experience, and let the  results be your guide to truth. Insight meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight into the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges on this desire to be awake to the truth. Without it, the practice is superficial.

9) View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don’t run from them, condemn yourself or bury your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great. More grists for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate.

10) Don’t ponder. You don’t need to figure everything out. This cursive thinking won’t free you from the trap. In meditation the mind is purified naturally by mindfulness, by wordless bare attention. Habitual deliberation is not necessary to eliminate those things that are keeping you in bondage. All that is necessary is a clear, conceptual perception of what they are and how they work. That alone is sufficient to dissolve them. Concepts and reasoning just get in the way. Don’t think. See.

11) Don’t dwell upon contrast. Differences do exist between people but dwelling upon them is a dangerous process. Unless carefully handled, this leads directly to egotism. Ordinary human thinking is full of greed, jealousy, and pride.

The meditator’s job is to cancel this unskillful habit by examining it throughly and then replacing it with another. Rather than noticing the differences between oneself and others, the meditator trains him- or herself to notice the similarities. She centers her attention on those factors that are univeral to all life. Things that will move her closer to others. Then her comparisons, if any, lead to feelings of kinship rather than of estrangement.

Bhante Gunaratana (2015)
Mindfulness in Plain English
20th Anniversary Ed.
Wisdom Publications, p 33-36

 

A Definition of Mindfulness

Bhante Gunaratana’s Definition of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness (Sati)
Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word  sati .  Sati  is an activity. What exactly is that? There can be no precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind, and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness is presymbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, mindfulness can be experienced—rather easily—and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the moon itself. The actual experience lies beyond the words and above the symbols. Mindfulness could be described in completely different terms than will be used here, and each description could still be correct.
Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal—quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality that gives rise to words—the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So it is important to understand that everything that follows here is analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. It will always remain beyond verbal logic. But you can experience it. The meditation technique called  vipassana  (insight) that was introduced by the Buddha about twenty-five centuries ago is a set of mental activities specifically aimed at experiencing a state of uninterrupted mindfulness.
When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a state of awareness. Ordinarily, this state is short-lived. It is that flashing split second just as you focus your eyes on the thing, just as you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally, and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before you start thinking about it—before your mind says, “Oh, it’s a dog.” That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is mindfulness. In that brief flashing mind-moment you experience a thing as an un-thing. You experience a softly flowing moment of pure experience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it. Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. Yet this moment of soft, unfocused awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the mindfulness step is so fleeting as to be unobservable. We have developed the habit of squandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, cognizing the perception, labeling it, and most of all, getting involved in a long string of symbolic thought about it. That original moment of mindfulness is rapidly passed over. It is the purpose of  vipassana  meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness.
When this mindfulness is prolonged by using proper techniques, you find that this experience is profound and that it changes your entire view of the universe. This state of perception has to be learned, however, and it takes regular practice. Once you learn the
technique, you will find that mindfulness has many interesting aspects.

 

 

Bhante Jayasara to visit area May 19-20 and 21, 2018

The Meditation Circle is pleased to announce a return visit to Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., by the Theravadan Buddhist monk Bhante Jayasara (Bhante J), from the Bhavana Society Theravadan Buddhist Monastery in High View, W.Va. He will be here:

Saturday, May 19 (Huntington: day-long quiet retreat); Sunday May 20 (Huntington: guided meditation, talk and questions)
Monday, May 21 (Charleston: guided meditation, talk and questions).

Below is the schedule for his visit. We encourage folks interested in attending the Saturday day-long quiet retreat to sign up early as space is limited at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness and registration is limited to the first 45 people who sign up through EventBrite, in order not to overwhelm the room. There is also a sign-up for Studio 8 in Huntington because of the size of the room.

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SATURDAY, May 19: Silent Day Retreat: ‘Deepening a Meditation Practice’
LOCATION: PeaceTree Center for Wellness, 5930 Mahood Dr., Huntington, W.Va. 25705
WHEN: Morning: 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lunch break: 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Vegetarian lunch provided.) Afternoon: 1 to 3:30 p.m.
WHO: For people familiar with sitting meditation, wishing to deepen their practice. There will be several sessions of guided and silent meditation and walking meditation. We ask that folks who sign up stay for the entire day if possible. The day will be conducted in Noble Silence, except for talks by Bhante J and question and answer sessions.
COST: Admission is free with donations accepted at the door, to pay for travel costs, and to offer donations to the Bhavana Society and PeaceTree.
SIGN-UP: Click on this Eventbrite link

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SUNDAY, May 20: Guided Meditation, Talk and Questions
LOCATION:Studio 8 Yoga and Wellness, 803 8th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701
WHEN: 12:30 to 2 p.m.
WHO: For anyone interested in meditation
DETAILS: Bhante J will give a Dhamma talk, lead a meditation and answer questions
COST: Admission is free with donations accepted at the door, to pay for travel costs, and to offer donations to the Bhavana Society and Studio 8.
SIGN UP: Click on this Eventbrite link to register.

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MONDAY, May 21: Guided meditation, talk and questions
LOCATION: Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 520 Kanawha Boulevard, Charleston, WV
WHEN: 5:15 to 6:45 p.m.
WHO: For anyone interested in meditation
DETAILS: Bhante J will give a Dhamma talk, lead a meditation and answer questions

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MORE on Bhante J:

Bhante Jayasāra (“Bhante J”) is an American-born Buddhist monastic who currently resides at Bhavana Society, a Theravadan Buddhist Monastery and retreat center near High View, W.Va. He was born in 1978 and raised Catholic. He came to Buddhism in his late 20s and officially took refuge and precepts to become a practicing Buddhist lay disciple on Vesak in 2008. In 2011 he took the Eight Lifetime Precepts with Bhavana Abbot Bhante Gunaratana and was given the name Jayantha.

By this point, the practice had instilled in him a desire to become a monastic. Bhante J began to regularly attend retreats and weekend visits to Bhavana and learned all he could about the monastic life. He began living at Bhavana Society in September 2014, became an Anagarika (postulant) in March 2015, became a Sāmaṇera (novice monk) in October of 2015, and a Bhikkhu (fully ordained monk) in October 2016. NOTE: Bhante (BON-tay) is an honorific that refers to Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition. Bhante literally means “Venerable Sir.”

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For more on Bhante J, visit his personal blog at:
bhikkhujayasara.wordpress.com 

What’s a Kalyana Mitta Group?

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sakyans. Now there is a Sakyan town named Sakkara. There Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.”

“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.  

more here…

The Meditation Circle is starting a Kalyana Mitta group which will meet the first Tuesday of each month, beginning April 3, 2018.

What is a Kalyana Mitta group?

Kalyana Mitta is a Pali term which means “spiritual friend.” Often used to describe someone in the teacher role, it can also refer to anyone on the path of Dhamma, monk or layperson, who is a guide, support or merely co-traveler. A Kalyana Mitta  group  makes it possible for sangha bonds to grow strong as well as providing an intimate enough setting for true exploration of Dhamma topics. This deepens the development of daily life as practice.

Since none of the members of the Meditation circle are teachers, as such,  we all fit the definition of “co-travelers”.  On the first Tuesday of the month, at the usual start time of 6:00, we will sit one twenty minute round of meditation instead of the usual two rounds. That meditation period will be followed by a time for conversation, questions, discussion of problems or experiences encountered in our practice, and occasionally, sutta study. The format will be flexible. Refreshments will be available. All are welcome.

Independent happiness

Ajahn Sumedho

With mindfulness, we can be independent of the positions other people are taking. We can stand on our own two feet and take responsibility for acting in a virtuous way, regardless of what the rest of society is doing.

I can be kind, generous, and loving toward you, and that is a joy to me. But if I make my happiness dependent upon your being kind to me, then it will always be threatened, because if you aren’t doing what I like—behaving the way I want you to—then I’m going to be unhappy. So then, my happiness is always under threat because the world might not behave as I want it to.

It’s clear that I would spend the rest of my life being terribly disappointed if I expected everything to change—if I expected everybody to become virtuous, wars to stop, money not to be wasted, governments to be compassionate, sharing, and giving—everything to be just exactly the way I want it! Actually, I don’t expect to see very much of that in my lifetime, but there is no point in being miserable about it; happiness based on what I want is not all that important.

Joy isn’t dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn’t dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving. It’s that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness.

Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control—I can’t go around making everything how I want it—still, I can be kind, generous, and patient, and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that’s worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn’t make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

Ahahn Sumedho, from “The Mind and the Way: Buddhist Reflections on Life.” pp. 158-159

 

Brief Instructions for Loving-Kindness Meditation

METTA MEDITATION

The practice of Metta meditation is a beautiful support to other awareness practices. One recites specific words and phrases evoking a “boundless warm-hearted feeling.” The strength of this feeling is not limited to or by family, religion, or social class. We begin with our self and gradually extend the wish for well-being happiness to all beings.

There are different descriptions of the practice. The following is a basic set of instructions from the book “The Issue at Hand” by Gil Fronsdal written as a gift to the community. It is freely given.

To practice loving-kindness meditation, sit in a comfortable and relaxed manner. Take two or three deep breaths with slow, long and complete exhalations. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations. For a few minutes, feel or imagine the breath moving through the center of your chest – in the area of your heart.

Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others without first loving ourselves. Sitting quietly, mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases:

May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. Loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness. However, if feelings of warmth, friendliness, or love arise in the body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. As an aid to the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.

After a period of directing loving-kindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of loving-kindness toward them:

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.

As you say these phrases, again sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning. And, if any feelings of loving-kindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words.

As you continue the meditation, you can bring to mind other friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers, animals, and finally people with whom you have difficulty. You can either use the same phrases, repeating them again and again, or make up phrases that better represent the loving-kindness you feel toward these beings. In addition to simple and perhaps personal and creative forms of metta practice, there is a classic and systematic approach to metta as an intensive meditation practice. Because the classic meditation is fairly elaborate, it is usually undertaken during periods of intensive metta practice on retreat.

Sometimes during loving-kindness meditation, seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there. You can either shift to mindfulness practice or you can—with whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct loving-kindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.

Excerpts gratefully reprinted from the book The Issue at Hand by Gil Fronsdal, guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Center. 

click here to view the full text or download a pdf format

Working with the body

Following the Buddha’s instructions, you can work with the body and body awareness as part of your own spiritual path, most fundamentally as a means for learning to stay present. This is called mindfulness of the body, which the Buddha taught as the First Foundation of Mindfulness practice. When you first begin to meditate, it becomes immediately obvious why the Buddha started with the body-you continually get lost in your thoughts.

~NewBuddhist.com comment

Seeing life

In vipassana meditation we cultivate this special way of seeing life. We train ourselves to see reality exactly as it is, and we call this special mode of perception mindfulness. This process of mindful- ness is really quite different from what we usually do. We usually do not look into what is actually there in front of us. We see life through a screen of thoughts and concepts, and we mistake those mental objects for reality. We get so caught up in this endless thought-stream that reality flows by unnoticed. We spend our time engrossed in activity, caught up in an eternal pursuit of pleasure and gratification and eternal flight from pain and unpleasantness. We spend all of our energies trying to make ourselves feel better, trying to bury our fears, endlessly seeking security. Meanwhile, the world of real experience flows by untouched and untasted. In vipassana meditation we train ourselves to ignore the constant impulses to be more comfortable, and we dive into reality instead.

~Bhante Gunaratana, “Mindfulness in Plain English”

http://www.wisdompubs.org/author/bhante-gunaratana