All posts by Thad Settle

DhammA for kids

Meditation Circle members are invited to check out Bhante Gunaratana’s YouTube videos where he teaches the Mangala Sutta to young children. There is also a live Zoom session available if member’s children would wish to join.

From the Bhavana Society website:



.Join us every Sunday at 3pm with Bhante G for Dhamma talks specifically for children.
Though Bhante G is in seclusion this winter, he has taken one hour out of his day each Sunday in order to teach children.
Throughout winter, we will be studying the Mangala Sutta* — 30 minute talk with 30 minute question and answer. ‘
To join, use this link with passcode metta
or
You can join using the meeting ID: 668 674 778 using passcode metta.

* The Mangala Sutta is a discourse by the Buddha on the subject of ‘blessings’ (mangala).  In this discourse, the Buddha describes those qualities that are conducive to happiness and prosperity.

QIGONG UPDATE

Due to scheduling difficulties, the Eight Pieces of Brocade will no longer be offered prior to the weekly sitting at the Meditation Circle. For those who would like to incorporate Qigong into their personal practice at home there are numerous tutorials available on YouTube. The best among them is one by Mimi Kuo Deemer. Following that instruction will prepare one to practice and benefit from this Qigong form.

Qigong returns to the Meditation Circle

Beginning October 22nd, practice of the Eight Pieces of Brocade Qigong form will be offered on Tuesday evenings from 5:45 until 6:00, prior to the evening meditation . This time will provide an opportunity to stretch and prepare for the meditation period to follow. Qigong is a Chinese system of breathing exercises, body postures and movements, along with mental concentration, intended to maintain good health and control the flow of vital energy. Instruction will be provided.

Wisdom for Dummies

“The Buddha simply taught basic principles for people who want to wise up:

The first principle is to realize that your actions are important, that they make a difference, that they come from your ideas and intentions, and that they can be changed for the better.

Second, focus on what really is your responsibility, and let go of things that are not.

Third, train your mind to develop better and better answers to the question that focuses on what you’re really responsible for: what you can do that will lead to your long-term welfare and happiness.

Then take advantage of the tools the Buddha offers so that it’s easier to give up the things that you like doing that are harmful, and to get yourself to do the things that are difficult but will lead to the long-term happiness you want.”


~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Wisdom for Dummies” 

Kalyana Mitta meeting


A reminder from the Meditation Circle. This Tuesday, September 3rd, is our monthly Kalyana Mitta group meeting.

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-five 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.

Schedule and Format Change for Sept. 25

Next Tuesday, September 25th, the World Religions class at Charleston Catholic High School will make it’s annual visit to the Meditation Circle. There will be a schedule and format change for THAT NIGHT ONLY.

The CCHS students will arrive at 5:30. There will be an informal introduction to the MC along with meditation instruction.

At 6:00 there will be a short “guided meditation” session of about 15 minutes. The round of meditation will be followed by a period of questions and answers focusing on the topic of Mindfulness Meditation. Meditation Circle members are encouraged to attend, participate, and share their experience.

The following Tuesday, October 2, the format will return to the regular schedule. The monthly Kalyana Mitta meeting will be held after the sit on Oct 2nd.

 

 

 

 

Why meditate?

…What the Buddha did teach, though, is to focus on what’s the most skillful thing we can do now, given the situation. That’s where the emphasis should lie. And one thing we can do is to help the world through our meditation. Many people think that to sit with your eyes closed like this is irresponsible, that we’re running away from the world. But when you think about the unhealthy energies people are putting out in the world all day, everyday, through their thoughts, words, and deeds, the world really needs people who are putting out peaceful energy. That’s where meditation has a lot to offer.

The mind is like a broadcast station. It sends out currents. If we create a peaceful, steady, calming current, that has an effect on the world in ways that are hard to trace, but they’re there.

So reflect on the fact that all who are born into the human race have unskillful karma. There’s no need to wish ill on anyone, no matter what. The best you can do in difficult circumstances is to figure out the most skillful thing to do right now. You try not to give in to your emotions, not to give in to your fears, but to create within your mind as skillful a state as possible, as calm and steady and mindful a state as you can, and then offer that to other people. That’s one way of helping. And when the people are far away, it’s probably the best thing to do right now.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “For the Good of the World” (Meditations2)

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.

 

 

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.