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Bhante G’S ZOOM Meditation and Teachings

A HEADS UP. If you have not had the chance to join the daily ZOOM Buddhist teaching and guided meditation led by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, we encourage you to do so. The ZOOM sessions are for anyone with a serious interest in meditation practice, as well as being a master class in the Buddha’s teachings.

This is a rare opportunity to learn meditation from a master. You’ll also gain insights into the point of meditation and mindfulness practice in the Buddhist tradition, which is to gain deep understanding into how we cause ourselves suffering because of how we choose to focus our thoughts and live our lives. And, thus, to attain liberation from all suffering.

This is also an opportunity not likely to present itself again. Bhante G, at age 92, remains at the peak of his prowess in being able to offer practical, straight-up instruction in how to meditate. That instruction is then deepened and enhanced by his discussions before and after the 30-minute meditation, which address why we meditate in the first place.

His daily ZOOM sessions run from 10 to 11 am, but get there about 10-to-15 minutes in advance, and hang around after the meditation, for the series of talks Bhante G has been giving. Among other subjects, he has been discussing the Buddha’s teachings on the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Origination, and other core Buddhist topics.


Bhante G daily ZOOM guided meditations and talks:
10 AM: Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us04web.zoom.us/j/668674778
Meeting ID: 668 674 778


Bhante G is author of the classic guide to starting a meditation practice, “Mindfulness in Plain English,” now translated into more than 25 languages, as well as many other books. A new 2020 Wisdom Publications book distills his answers to common questions from 50 years of teaching about meditation, mindfulness and Buddhism. It is titled WHAT WHY HOW: Answers To Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully.” (Wisdom is featuring a free article series based on the book, at the link above.)

Strong Back, Soft Front

On your inhale, gather your attention;
on your exhale, drop into the body.
Shift attention to your spine.
Your back exemplifies equanimity,
being present for whatever is unfolding right now.
“Strong back.”
Shift your attention to your chest.
Rest in this willingness to open to compassion.
“Soft front.”
Strong back, soft front. Equanimity, compassion.

– Roshi Joan Halifax
_____________________
Roshi Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and pioneer in the field of end-of-life care. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Institute and Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  She and Frank Ostaseski will lead three online webinars on “Bearing Witness Together in Troubled Times” from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Mountain Time) on: April 27, May 4 and May 11. More information here 

Train Yourself in this Way

“You must bring yourself back to mindfulness wherever you are, all the time. Along with your regular meditation practice, add practices such as this one-minute meditation into your daily life. Train yourself in this way—as soon as some psychic irritant arises, stop and take care of it before you proceed with other activities in your day.”

~Bhante Gunaratana
(from “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, Mindfulness and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications 2020. NOTE: See free article series based on this new book at this link)

IMAGE: Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

Bhante Rahula Offers ZOOM Meditations & Talks

NOTE: Apologies to TheMeditationCircle.com subscribers for the multiple posts on Bhante Rahula’s upcoming ZOOM talks. Because of issues regarding the security of posting ZOOM links publicly, we’ve taken down a post that listed the meeting links. To get the meeting IDs, e-mail Bhante Rahula’s retreat center at: info@lionwisdom.org 


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Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, who is tentatively scheduled to visit the Meditation Circle in Huntington and Charleston in August, is offering Dhamma talks and guided meditation via Zoom starting Easter Sunday, April 12 at 2 pm. He plans to continue these talks every Sunday until the current “stay-at-home” situation, due to the Covid-19 crisis, ends.

The talks will be followed by Q&A and guided meditations. He’ll also offer weekly sutta study sessions starting Wednesday, April 15 at 7 pm, also followed by Q&A and guided meditations. The first sutta to be explored will be the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta , the “Turning the Wheel of Dhamma” discourse, the first teaching the Buddha gave after his Awakening.


WEEKLY DHAMMA TALKS and GUIDED MEDITATION on ZOOM w/BHANTE RAHULA: Every week at 2 pm. Eastern Standard Time (U.S. and Canada), starting Sunday April 12, until May 31, 2020 (eight ZOOM gatherings in total):

        Apr 12: 2 pm
        Apr 19: 2 pm
        Apr 26: 2 pm
        May 3: 2 pm
        May 10: 2 pm
        May 17: 2 pm
        May 24: 2 pm
        May 31: 2 pm


WEEKLY SUTTA STUDY AND MEDITATION w/BHANTE RAHULA: Every week at 7 pm —Eastern Standard Time, US and Canada—starting Wednesday, April 15 ( seven ZOOM gatherings):


        Apr 15: 7 pm
        Apr 22: 7 pm
        Apr 29: 7 pm
        May 6: 7 pm
        May 13: 7 pm
        May 20: 7 pm
        May 27: 7 pm


A NOTE ON ZOOM:  If you’re unfamiliar with ZOOM, it’s a popular video-conferencing application. ZOOM meetings can have more than 100 people in an online meeting, with live interaction via video screens and audio for all who “attend.”

You can access ZOOM meetings via your desktop computer, laptop, iPad and smartphone. The first time you click a ZOOM meeting link (GET THE LINKS FOR THESE MEETINGS by e-mailing info@lionwisdom.org), your browser may require you to download and run the ZOOM app. Some notes:

  • IF YOU HAVE A SLOW WEB CONNECTION, consider joining the meeting via audio instead of video, as it takes up less bandwidth and may be less garbled.
  • ZOOM WILL ASK whether you wish to use your computer video and audio.
  • BE SURE YOUR COMPUTER video camera is on if you wish to join with video turned on.
  • WHEN BHANTE RAHULA IS SPEAKING be sure your audio is muted. A small red microphone icon in the lower left corner of your video window will show if it’s muted or not. The monk may have you muted already . Be sure to unmute to ask a question.
  • TURN ON CHAT WINDOW: At the bottom of the ZOOM screen there is a “Chat” option, which will bring up a chat text stream on the right-hand side of your browser. You can send a message to “Everyone” on the chat or send a “PRIVATE” message to anyone else on the chat. Consider typing your questions in the chat window first, so others can see it.
  • HERE’S A ZOOM SUPPORT PAGE on how to use the app.

Bhante Rahula is director and principal teacher at the Paññāsīha Lion of Wisdom Meditation Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was born Scott Joseph DuPrez in Southern California in 1948. After following the hippie trail to India, he eventually discovered Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where he ordained as a novice monk in 1975 at Gothama Thapovanaya, Kalupaluwawa.

He received his bhikkhu upasampada ordination at Wat Thai Los Angeles in May 1979. After returning to Sri Lanka for some years, he came to help Bhante Henepola Gunaratana establish the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery in rural West Virginia, where he served as vice-abbot from 1986 to 2010. Now, after seven years of teaching Dhamma and leading retreats around the world, he has taken on the role as director and chief meditation teacher at Lion of Wisdom .

The rural meditation retreat facility is a branch of the Washington Buddhist Vihara. The center offers Days of Mindfulness, Afternoon Intensives and two- and three-day retreats.

Wise Reflection on the Body

“We don’t meditate to hate our bodies. Unsatisfactoriness depends on clinging to impermanent objects. A mindful meditator should remind himself or herself an attractive object has triggered sense desire. One should then develop wise reflection or mindful reflection.”

~Bhante Gunaratana
(from “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, Mindfulness and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications 2020. NOTE: See free article series based on this new book at this link)

Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of It

“My advice is to not let yourself get wrapped up in doubts and questions. Let them go and directly contemplate whatever you are experiencing. Don’t make a big deal out of any physical pleasure or pain you experience. When you sit in meditation and start to feel tired or uncomfortable, adjust your position. Endure as much as you can, and then move. Don’t overdo it. Develop a lot of mindfulness—that’s the point. Do your walking and sitting meditation as much as you can; the aim is to be developing mindfulness as much as you can, knowing things fully. That’s enough.”

~ Ajahn Chah, from “Everything Is Teaching Us”

Working With Fear

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

“In practising Dhamma, we will meet with many sorts of experiences, such as fear. What will we rely on then? When the mind is wrapped up in fear, it can’t find anything to rely on.

“This is something I’ve gone through; the deluded mind stuck in fear, unable to find a safe place anywhere. So where can this be settled? It gets settled right at that place where it appears. Wherever it arises, that is where it ceases. Wherever the mind has fear, it can end fear right there. Putting it simply: when the mind is completely full of fear, it has nowhere else to go, and it can stop right there. The place of no fear is there in the place of fear.

“Whatever states the mind undergoes, if it experiences nimitta, visions, or knowledge in meditation, for example, it doesn’t matter—we are taught to focus awareness on this mind in the present. That is the standard. Don’t chase after external phenomena. All the things we contemplate come to conclusion at the source, the place where they arise. This is where the causes are. This is important.

“Feeling fear is a good example, since it’s easy to see; if we let ourselves experience it until it has nowhere to go, then we will have no more fear, because it will be exhausted. It loses its power, so we don’t feel fear anymore. Not feeling fear means it has become empty. We accept whatever comes our way, and it loses its power over us.

“This is what the Buddha wanted us to place our trust in; he wanted us not to be attached to our own views, not to be attached to others’ views. This is really important. We are aiming at the knowledge that comes from realization of the truth, so we don’t want to get stuck in attachment to our own or others’ views and opinions. But when we have our ideas or interact with others, watching them contact the mind can be illuminating. Knowledge can be born in those things that we have and experience.”

~ Ajahn Chah, excerpt from “Everything Is Teaching Us.”

The Challenge of Skillful Speech

“Skillful Speech is not something you practice on the cushion. It happens in dialogue, not silence. During formal meditation, however, you can think about your habits of speech and try to convert the thoughts that arise to skillful thoughts—those motivated by generosity, loving-friendliness, and compassion. You can analyze your past actions and ask yourself : “Did I speak correctly yesterday ? Have I spoken only gently, kindly, meaningfully, and truthfully ?” If you find that you have erred in some way, you can pledge to improve your mindfulness of Skillful Speech.

“The most important resolution you can make is to think before you speak. People say, “Watch your tongue !” But it’s more important to watch your mind. The tongue does not wag by itself. The mind controls it. Before you open your mouth, check your mind to see whether your motivation is wholesome. You will come to regret any speech motivated by greed, hatred, or delusion.

“Also make a strong determination not to say anything that might hurt another person. this pledge will definitely help you to think carefully before you speak. When you speak mindfully, you automatically speak truthfully, gently, and kindly. Mindfulness will keep you from using verbal daggers that can pierce people to the marrow. If the intent to speak in a harmful way occurs to you, immediately use mindfulness and Skillful Effort to prevent these thoughts from continuing.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana, from “8 Mindful Steps to Happiness”


EDITOR’S NOTE: We chose the photo of the singer (above) to illustrate this Bhante G excerpt since what we say is broadcast far and wide, if only to our immediate circle of family, friends and strangers we encounter.

Meditation Circle Updates

Bhante Gunaratana, abbot of the Bhavana Society Buddhist forest monastery and retreat center in West Virginia, is now leading daily guided meditations at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., via online ZOOM calls. See the post below for details.

Greetings. We encourage everyone who has visited the Meditation Circle to keep up their sitting practice during this challenging time. If you have a smartphone, you may consider getting the Insight Timer app, which has a neat feature where you can see who elsewhere around the globe and locally is sitting at the time you are. It also features a wide range of guided meditations, including ones by Bhante Jayasara and Bhante Gunaratana (‘Bhante G’), who have led day retreats in the past with the Charleston and Huntington, WV Meditation Circle groups.

ZOOM GUIDED MEDITATIONS WITH BHANTE G

Bhante G also invites members of the Meditation Circle to join him on guided meditations via ZOOM online calls at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily (until further notice).

NOTE: The first time you click to go to one of these ZOOM meditations, go there about 5-10 minutes in advance, since your web browser may require you to download and run the ZOOM app. (I think you can also join by phone.) If you have a slow web connection, join the meeting via audio instead of video as that takes up less bandwidth. Be sure your phone or computer audio and/or video camera is turned on

10 a.m. DAILY MEDITATION w/BHANTE G via ZOOM:

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/668674778
Meeting ID: 668 674 778

NOTE: You can download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system as a reminder:  https://us04web.zoom.us/meeting/u5Ilce6sqTwit_TpHtcTD-ybC2nU2clLjQ/ics?icsToken=98tyKu-upj0tHtOSuFyCe6oqE9r-b8_2i2VxnrN1iBzRJ21KYCCkONcQMb5TGumB

7 p.m. DAILY MEDITATION w/BHANTE G via ZOOM:

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/721395517
Meeting ID: 721 395 517
NOTE: You can download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system as a reminder: https://us04web.zoom.us/meeting/upYsdOCtqzotvGNEAW_qPfcN-Ixi8t30lg/ics?icsToken=98tyKu6qrzgjH9GUt1zHa7UtOa_5b-HulmdphIZ8qyD0MyZQTE7fLusaJuEvHN-B

KEEPING UP YOUR TUESDAY PRACTICE

We might also suggest continuing to sit at home from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, to keep the rhythm of your weekly Meditation Circle practice going. Eventually, we will be back sitting in a circle (or rather a rounded square, given the nice way Mike has been setting up the room.)

QIGONG AT HOME

As we all are required to spend more time at home, it is essential we maintain the body-mind connection. Some of you us have had a little exposure to the “moving meditation” of Qigong and The Eight Pieces of Brocade exercise Thad has shown in the past. Mimi Kuo Deemer is an excellent Qigong instructor you can find on Youtube. Her version of the Eight Pieces of Brocade is a little different than the form Thad has shown, but what version you see depends on where in China the teacher is from. She lives in the UK, but she’s from Arizona and her family lives in San Francisco.

Be well. May all beings be well happy and peaceful!

With metta, Thad, Douglas and Mike, co-facilitators of TheMeditationCircle.com

Meditation Circle Postponed Until Further Notice

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Meditation Circle will not be meeting at the Unitarian Universalist building in Charleston, WV, at 6 pm on Tuesdays until further notice. The UU building has asked all groups renting the space—as we do—to pause holding their gatherings there until the crisis has passed. We will keep circlegoers updated through this website.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to keep up your practice on a daily basis. Here are some resources from our ‘Resources’ page. Below is a guide to mindfulness and meditation.

Here also are some guided meditations:

……………………………………………………….. 

LISTEN | Guided Meditation | Part 2 | Bhante Sujato
Australian monk Bhante Sujato. of Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, Sydney in Australia., can be heard at the above link on the practice of metta or loving-kindness meditation, as taught by a monk in Bangkok with whom Bhante Sujato has studied. In this guided meditation, he leads a 30-minute meditation on the basics of working with the attention as you first begin to sit.

………………………………………………………..

LISTEN | Meditation Introduction | Part 1 | Bhante Sujato
Along the way of introducing this metta meditation practice
, Bhante Sujato undertakes an illuminating survey of the different kinds and methods of Buddhist meditation. The talk heard here is a shortened version taken from a rains retreat — the talk is edited down a bit. Seek out this and other talks by this very interesting Western monk who trained with Ajahn Brahm.
……………………………………………………….

As part of a visit to the PeaceTree Center for Wellness in Huntington, W.Va., Bhante Jayasara, a Theravadan Buddhist monk from the Bhavana Society in High View, W.Va., led a guided meditation on the theme of “lay down the burden.”  Take a listen. You can also download the file for later use.


The Basics of Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here’s how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:

Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.

Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.

Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.

Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.

Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue.

How to Meditate


This meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay.

A Simple Meditation Practice


Sit comfortably. Find a spot that gives you a stable, solid, comfortable seat.

Notice what your legs are doing. If on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor.

Straighten your upper body—but don’t stiffen. Your spine has natural curvature. Let it be there.

Notice what your arms are doing. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural.

Soften your gaze. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. It’s not necessary to close your eyes. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.

Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest.

Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking. When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to the breath.

Be kind about your wandering mind. You may find your mind wandering constantly—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, practice observing them without reacting. Just sit and pay attention. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all there is. Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.

When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.