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Here is a promo video for The Meditation Circle, which hosts two weekly meetings— one in Charleston, WV, from 6 to 7 pm on Tuesdays (beginners seeking meditation instruction and those who wish to sit longer may arrive a little after 5:30 p.m.); and from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness in Huntington, W.Va. For details and directions, click this link.


A Good Foundation

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“The next basis for success is persistence. You really stick with it, not just while you’re sitting here with your eyes closed, but you also want to learn how to be familiar with how the breath energy feels as you walk around, as you stand, as you lie down. When you talk with other people, can you stay in touch with how the breath energy in the body feels? Because when we talk about “breath,” it’s not just the air coming in and out of the lungs, it’s the energy throughout the body that permeates through all the nerves. You want to get more and more sensitive to those sensations of subtle energies and learn how to stick with them.

“Make this your default mode: that you’re going to stay centered right here. This gives you a good foundation as you go through the day. It’s not just one more thing to add on top of what you’re already doing. It’s actually a solid center from which you can deal with all your other duties and responsibilities as you go out into the world. We all need this center here because otherwise we get blown around by the slightest breeze. So stick with it, stick with it, stick with it. Learn how to pace yourself so you can put in just the right amount of effort that you can maintain.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu
from “Four Bases of Success”

Put your foot down

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“Be cautious and restrained.

“When the mind starts grasping at things and making a big deal out of them, you have to stop it. It will argue with you, but you have to put your foot down. Stay in the middle as the mind comes and goes. Put sensual indulgence away to one side. Put self-torment away to the other side. Love to one side, hate to the other side. Happiness to one side, suffering to the other side. Remain in the middle without letting the mind go in either direction.”

~Ajahn Chah from “Lion’s Roar”

With each and every breath…

“…all in all the premises of breath meditation are based on four observations about the mind that the Buddha called Noble Truths:

1) The mind experiences stress and suffering.

2) The stress and suffering come from the way the mind shapes its experience through its actions driven by ignorance.

3) That ignorance can be ended, opening your awareness to an unconditioned dimension free of stress and suffering.

4) That dimension, even though it’s unconditioned, can be reached by training the mind in the skillful qualities of virtue, concentration, and discernment.” 

The purpose of breath meditation is to help with that training.

from “With Each and Every Breath. A Guide to Meditation.” 2013. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff)

Watch right there…

“Wherever you are still inept, wherever you are still lacking, that’s where you must apply yourself. If you haven’t yet cracked it don’t give up. Having finished with one thing you get stuck on another, so persist with it until you crack it, don’t let up. Don’t be content until it’s finished. Put all your attention on that point. While sitting, lying down or walking, watch right there.

~Ajahn Chah (from “Food for the Heart,” pp. 94-95)

Guard one’s mind

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Difficult to detect and very subtle,
the mind mind seizes whatever it wants;
so let a wise one guard one’s mind,
for a guarded mind brings happiness.

Sududdasam sunipunam,
yatthakamanipatinam;
cittam rakkhetha medhavi,
citam guttam sukhavam.

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~ The Buddha
From The Dhammada, 3:36
A collection of the Buddha’s sayings.
(Translated by Ven. S. Dhammika)

Another word for self-discipline

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“Discipline” is a difficult word for most of us. It conjures up images of somebody standing over you with a stick, telling you that you’re wrong. But self-discipline is different. It’s the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. It’s all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there.

There is only one way to learn this lesson, though. The words on this page won’t do it. But look within and watch the stuff coming up—restlessness, anxiety, impatience, pain—just watch it come up and don’t get involved. Much to your surprise, it will simply go away. It rises, it passes away. As simple as that. There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana

Watch the mind

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Ajahn Chah was one of the great Buddhist teachers of the 20th century. Here, he responds to a question about monks and monastic discipline. But there are many insights in his remarks for those of us layfolk who struggle with meditation practice and who compare our efforts with others.

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“You must examine yourself. Know who you are. Know your body and mind by simply watching. In sitting, in sleeping, in eating, know your limits. Use wisdom. The practise is not to try to achieve anything. Just be mindful of what is. Our whole meditation is looking directly at the mind. You will see suffering, its cause and its end.

“But you must have patience; much patience and endurance. Gradually you will learn…. You must learn the values of giving, of patience and of devotion. Don’t practise too strictly. Don’t get caught up with outward form. Watching others is bad practice. Simply be natural and watch that. Our monks’ discipline and monastic rules are very important. They create a simple and harmonious environment. Use them well.

“But remember, the essence of the monks’ discipline is watching intention, examining the mind. You must have wisdom. Don’t discriminate. Would you get upset at a small tree in the forest for not being tall and straight like some of the others? This is silly. Don’t judge other people. There are all varieties. No need to carry the burden of wishing to change them all. So, be patient. Practice morality. Live simply and be natural. Watch the mind. This is our practice. It will lead you to unselfishness. To peace.”

~ Ajahn Chah
For more teachings by Ajahn Chah, click here.

What makes the year auspicious …

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“What makes the year auspicious is that you do good with the year. What other people do with the year, that’s their business. There is so much in the world you cannot control. But you can control your own thoughts and your own words and your own deeds, if you put your mind to it.

“That’s how to make the New Year a good year. Regardless of how it goes in the rest of the world, your contribution is going to be a good one. Don’t let the bad things other people do discourage you from doing goodness, because this is your gift to yourself and to the world around you.”  

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu

On our habit of ruminating

“RECOGNIZING PAST TURMOILS and future rhapsodies as projections of our mind prevents us from getting stuck in them. Just as the face in the mirror is not a real face, the objects of our memories and daydreams are likewise unreal. They are not happening now; they are simply mental images flickering in the mind.

“Reflecting on the value of our precious human life also minimizes our habit of ruminating. Our wondrous potential becomes clear, and the rarity and value of the present opportunity shines forth. Who wants to ruminate about the past and future when we can do so much good and progress spiritually in the present?

“One counteracting force that works well for me is realizing that all these ruminations star Me, Center of the Universe. All the stories, all the tragedies, comedies, and dramas all revolve around one person, who is clearly the most important one in all existence, Me. Just acknowledging the power of the mind to condense the universe into Me shows me the stupidity of my ruminations. There is a huge universe with countless sentient beings in it, each of them wanting happiness and not wanting suffering just as intensely as I do. Yet, my self-centered mind forgets them and focuses on Me. To boot, it doesn’t even really focus on Me, it spins around My past and future, neither of which exist now. Seeing this, my self-centeredness evaporates, as I simply cannot justify worrying about only myself with everything that is going on in the universe.

“The most powerful counteracting force is the wisdom realizing there is no concrete Me to start with. Just who are all these thoughts spinning around? Who is having all these ruminations? When we search we cannot find a truly existent Me anywhere. Just as there is no concrete Me to be found on or in this carpet, there is no concrete Me to be found in this body and mind. Both are equally empty of a truly existent person who exists under her own power.

“With this understanding, the mind relaxes. The ruminations cease, and with wisdom and compassion, the Me that exists by being merely labeled in dependence on the body and mind can spread joy in the world.”

Thubten Chodron
excerpt from “Ruminating”

About the Meditation Circle

WELCOME. If you are just finding the Meditation Circle, or are interested in joining a meditation support group in the year ahead, here is some background about the group. The Meditation Circle is a meditation group in the Buddhist tradition, practicing vipassana or insight meditation. We have two weekly meetings, from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays in Charleston, W.Va. And 11 to noon on Saturday at the Peacetree Center for Wellness near Barboursville, W.Va.

TUESDAYS: The Meditation Circle meets most Tuesdays, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd., in Charleston, W.Va.
DIRECTIONS: Click here for directions to the UU building, about five minutes from downtown Charleston, W.Va., right across from the Kanawha River.
NOTE: Those wishing instruction in basic, breath-centered Buddhist meditation  are welcome to arrive 5:30 to 6 p.m., along with any seasoned meditators who may wish to sit longer or for whom that time period is better for their schedules.

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SATURDAYS: The Meditation Circle meets most Saturdays from, from 11 a.m. to noon, at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness near Barboursville, W.Va. (about ten minutes from the Huntington Mall).
DIRECTIONSClick here for directions to the PeaceTree Center for Wellness.
NOTE: We often have a communal soup lunch after meditation, which you are welcome to join. If you are interested in yoga, there is usually a community yoga class from 10 to 11 a.m. before meditation in the same room at Peacetree.

THE MEDITATION CIRCLE is a lay support group for people interested in meditation or who wish to deepen their practice through the support of a meditation sangha. Our members come from a wide variety of spiritual traditions and backgrounds. You do not need to be Buddhist to enjoy the benefits of a meditation practice. The circle’s facilitators are not teachers and we encourage people to seek out seasoned teachers to further their practice. Cushions, meditation benches and chairs are available or you are welcome to bring your own cushion. We also have a lending library of books you are welcome to borrow, about meditation practice.

WHAT WE DO:On Tuesdays, the time from 5:30 to 6 p.m. p.m.. is set aside for basic instruction in sitting, standing, and walking meditation for those new to meditation. Seasoned meditators are also welcome to come and sit during this period.

From 6 to 7 p.mtime is set aside for meditation. The format consists of two rounds of meditation, lasting about 20 minutes, with a  5-minute period of standing or walking meditation between rounds.  We close the evening with a Metta meditation. (Metta is the Pali term for loving-kindness or loving-friendliness.) The first Tuesday of every month, the Charleston group hosts a single sitting, followed by a Kalyana Mitta (or Spiritual Friend) gathering with cookies, juice and conversation in the adjacent meeting room.

NEW TO MEDITATION? Visit our Resource page for more information about the type of meditation we practice at the Meditation Circle.

COST & DONATIONS: There is no cost to join the circle. We do accept donations at the Tuesday group in a box titled ‘dana’ (a Pali word that connotes generosity) to offer to the Unitarians for their kind use of the space and also to help defray the costs of occasionally bringing Buddhist monks to town. The same goes for the PeaceTree Center, where you will find donation jars on tables in the center. Please support both institutions.

JOIN THE CIRCLE: We should note, that sometimes it resembles an oblong or parallelogram, but the Meditation Parallelogram didn’t have quite the right sound.

SUBSCRIBE TO E-MAIL NOTICES: Stay up to date on the Meditation Circle postings and news by subscribing on the home page or clicking here.

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