Category Archives: Meditation

Information, resources concerning meditation

Introduction to Meditation Retreat, June 24-29, 2011

We’ve had a lot of new faces recently at The Meditation Circle, including many folks new to Buddhist meditation practice. If you’re a newcomer with a strong interest in deepening your  practice, we highly recommend you check out the Introduction to Meditation retreat at the Bhavana Society Buddhist monastery and retreat center in Hampshire County, W.Va., near Wardensville. This 5-night retreat takes place Friday, June 24 to  Wednesday, June 29, 2011, and will be led by the Buddhist monk Ven. Olande Ananda. IMPORTANT NOTE: Alas, after checking this out, I note that the retreat is currently full for men, but it is possible to get on a waiting list. There is still space for women.  If interested, sign up soon as may be. Bhavana retreats fill up quickly as you can see here at their full 2011 retreat schedule. The Bhavana website describes the Introduction to Meditation retreat this way:

These retreats are for those new to meditation or who want to learn about meditation. There will be instruction and assistance with sitting and walking meditation and a brief introduction to Buddhism. The schedule is less rigorous, and guided meditations will be given. People of all faiths are welcome to come to any of our retreats.  You should be aware, though, that the Bhavana Society is a Buddhist Monastery and you may see customs and traditions you are not familiar with.  Feel free to ask questions.  We want you to feel comfortable here.  We only ask that you behave in a respectful manner.

Dhamma talk: Introduction to breath meditation

Listen to Dhamma talk on meditation

The downloadbale mp3 link above will fire up a wonderful Dhamma talk introducing breath meditation by Bhante Sujato, of Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, Sydney in Australia’s Southern Highlands. This is actually talk no. 6 in a series of Dhamma talks the Australian monk gave on the practice of metta or loving-kindness meditation, taught in a methodical fashion by a monk in Bangkok with whom Bhante Sujato has studied. Along the way of introducing this metta meditation practice, Bhante Sujato undertakes an illuminating survey of the different kinds and methods of Buddhist meditation. In this talk, he gives a pretty rich introduction to breath-centered meditation.

As always, the Meditation Circle encourages people to listen to a variety of Buddhist teachers on such core practices as breath meditation and find which teachers and specific methods of teaching work best for you, rooted in the basic fundamentals of how the Buddha taught meditation. For instance, I find the counting technique Bhante Sujato suggests here to be a little overly complex for my taste, although since listening to this talk I have been experimenting with it.

In addition, this may well be for some of you a first encounter with a Western Buddhist teacher who speaks of the nimita, which has been described as “a visual light effect that is a byproduct of the mind unifying.” For serious practitioners, committed to pursuing meditation practice until the day they die, the study and understanding of such matters really requires working with a teacher deeply grounded in Buddhist teachings. Which is to say, don’t ask us Meditation Circle facilitators to get into such weighty topics – we’re just here to point in various directions and unlock the door for our weekly Tuesday meditation!

Below are two of Bhante Sujato’s introductory talks on metta in that series, used with permission of the monastery where he teaches. I encourage you to seek out this and other talks by this very interesting and informed Western monk who trained with Ajahn Brahm and who has a colorful past as a performer. Here is his blog, called simply ‘Sujato’s Blog.’

~ Douglas Imbrogno

TALK 1: Bhante Sujato undertakes an illuminating survey of the different kinds and methods of Buddhist meditation. The talk heard here is a shortened version — I edited the talk down a bit to fit into manageable size for listening to at the Meditation Circle.

TALK 2: In this guided meditation, Bhante Sujato leads a 30-minute meditation on the basics of working with the attention as you first begin to sit.

ARCHIVES: The Dalai Lama from the bleachers

A friend and I who attended Miami University together in the late ’70s had hoped to see H.H. the Dalai Lama upon his visit to our alma mater later this month in Oxford, Ohio. Alas, tickets went fast and furiously and mostly to Miami students. I consoled myself with having had the blessing of seeing the Dalai Lama speak on two prior occasions, once in a dialogue in Belfast with a Christian monk and once in 1998. From the archives, I offer this depiction of a day-long Lojong training and talk given by His Holiness at American University in D.C., in November 1998. The article was originally written for Hundred Mountain, a Buddhist online journal I used to publish on the Web.

WASHINGTON, D.C. | November, 1998
by douglas imbrogno

DOWN ON THE CORNER OF 12th AND K STREETS, it sounds like a riot. I push open the rubbery Days Inn curtains and look down six floors to the corner of 12th and K streets. It is 3 a.m. The nation’s capital–or at least this neck of the woods–has not gone gently into the night. Honking cars cram the intersection on this cool November Friday night. A knot of young black guys laughs, shouting at the top of their lungs and then one starts swinging. He is tackled to the ground, scrambles up and flees into the darkness. Women in short skirts sidle up to car windows, lean in.

Can’t hotel staff put the kabosh on this after hours street theater? Don’t people know His Holiness the Dalai Lama is in town? Where are the cops? Those of us who drove hundreds of miles to drink up the fellow who has become a sort of alternative pope for some Westerners need our rest. We have a full day ahead. Six hours of instruction in Lojong mind training. Shut up, world! (Is that an un-Buddhist sentiment?) The revelry continues past 4 a.m., when it finally dries up and blows out. The streets empty. Tendrils of a rosy dawn soon creep into the capital sky.

H.H. the Dalai Lama was the hot ticket in town, and in fact, all along the Eastern Seaboard. It was an odd thing. The Dalai Lama had for years barnstormed across America. Yet this past fall, his appearances in Washington, in Pittsburgh and elsewhere merited widespread mention and coverage in the popular media. Slow news week? Or was the Tibetan spiritual leader still just way cool?

It was no small potatoes to be
in the same room with him. Just to sit in the bleachers in the cheapest seats in the gym at American University—the site of the Lojong training—cost $35. For $85, you got a fold-down seat. And $115 got you down on the gym floor within eye-ball-to-eyeball distance of him. That would be an auspicious thing, I was told. Just to hear him, just to be in the same room with such a highly realized teacher, earned merit for you in the karmic sense of things, said the contractor who had invited me to come with him for the event. A gymnasium, would count, too.

I’d never seen His Holiness in person. My contractor friend, Ken Lewis, had seen him numerous times. He never missed the chance for a Dalai Lama road trip when His Holiness was anywhere within striking distance of Ken’s home in Spencer, West Virginia. This time, he’d lined up his wife and son, as well as a Spencer schoolteacher friend, plus myself, a longtime student of Therevadan Buddhism.

We popped for the $85 fold-downs. The schoolteacher took it to the bank so he could sit down on the gym floor. Income from the talk was to be used to support a multi-year project including an event the summer of the year 2,000 on the National Mall in the capital, something called “Tibetan Culture Beyond the Land of Snows.” Ken won over an niggling doubts about the propriety of spending so much money for what amounted to a five-hour lecture: “If I trust anyone with how my money would be spent, it’d be the Dalai Lama.” Continue reading ARCHIVES: The Dalai Lama from the bleachers

Metta Meditation Talk, 2

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LISTEN | Guided Meditation | Bhante Sujato | Part 2
The Meditation Circle has been listening to
a series of talks on meditation by the Australian monk Bhante Sujato. of Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, Sydney in Australia. The talks are 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.

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LISTEN | Meditation Introduction | Bhante Sujato | Part 1
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 — I edited the talk down a bit to fit into manageable size for listening to at the Meditation Circle. I encourage you to seek out this and other talks by this very interesting Western monk who trained with Ajahn Brahm and who had a colorful past as a performer.
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Re-subscribe Note


The Meditation Circle of Charleston has been
re-focusing itself of late into a more explicitly Buddhist-oriented group. In the process of revising our Web Site, I created a new subscription feed that, alas, in my self-taught Web designer bumbleheadness, erased the link if you have have been a subscriber in the past.

IF YOU WISH TO RECEIVE AUTOMATIC E-MAILS when we post stuff on meditation news and resources (or if you follow Web sites through Google and Yahoo RSS news readers) you’ll need to re-subscribe to this site. Click one of the options at the top right of this home page to subscribe via RSS reader or ‘Get the Meditation Circle delivered by email’

~ With metta, Douglas I.

Metta Meditation Talk, No. 1

Listen to Bhante Sujato on types of Buddhist meditation practices.

Starting this month,
the Meditation Circle of Charleston has begun to listen to a wonderful series of talks on meditation by Bhante Sujato, of Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, Sydney in Australia’s Southern Highlands. The talks are on the specific practice of metta or loving-kindness meditation, taught in a methodical fashion by a monk in Bangkok with whom Bhante Sujato has studied. 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 in the mp3 player above is a shortened version of his introductory talk that I edited down a bit so as to fit into a manageable size for listening at our meeting and online. I encourage you to seek out this and other talks by this very interesting Western monk who trained with Ajahn Brahm and who has a colorful past as a performer.

“Meditation is not easy…” | Reading Selection for Dec. 15 Meditation Circle gathering

HERE IS THE READING SELECTION for the Dec. 15 meeting of the Meditation Circle of Charleston, an excerpt from Chapter 1 of “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Gunaratana, which can be read in its entirety for free online or for purchase through Wisdom or Amazon. See this post for more on the Circle’s ongoing discussion in 2010 on the basics of a meditation practice in the Buddhist style of insight or vipassana meditation.

Excerpt from Chapter 1, “Meditation: Why Bother?” from “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana (Wisdom Publications)

Meditation is not easy. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum it all up in the American word ‘gumption’. Meditation takes ‘gumption’. It is certainly a great deal easier just to kick back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why bother? Simple. Because you are human. And just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time. You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back — usually when you least expect it. All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life.

There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look OK from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you, you keep those to yourself. You are a mess. And you know it. But you hide it beautifully. Meanwhile, way down under all that you just know there has got be some other way to live, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then. You get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. and for a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself, “OK, now I’ve made it; now I will be happy”. But then that fades, too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory. That and a vague awareness that something is wrong.

But there is really another whole realm of depth and sensitivity available in life, somehow, you are just not seeing it. You wind up feeling cut off. You feel insulated from the sweetness of experience by some sort of sensory cotton. You are not really touching life. You are not making it again. And then even that vague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality. The world looks like the usual foul place, which is boring at best. It is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp, yearning for the heights.

Continue reading “Meditation is not easy…” | Reading Selection for Dec. 15 Meditation Circle gathering

Getting to the basics of a sitting practice

As the end of 2009 approaches and a new year commences, the Meditation Circle of Charleston will begin to undertake a discussion of the basics of meditation in the Buddhist tradition and the building blocks of a good sitting practice. We’ll start by using tapes describing insight and metta meditation by Ajahn Sumato along with the book “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. Fortunately, the entirety of Bhante Gunaratana’s book is online. So, those interested in taking an active part in an ongoing discussion about the regular practice of meditation are encouraged to start reading the book online or it can be ordered from Wisdom or Amazon. It’s an excellent introduction to the basics of sitting. We can also print out chapters or reprint significant sections of ones on this site, We’ll also upload to this site some mp3s of Ajahn Sumato’s talks on meditation in advance of meetings, where we will listen to them there (I have them on my iPhone — anyone have an iPhone speaker?). Stay tuned for more details.

~ Read “Mindfulness in Plain English” online here.
~ See Bhante G’s biography here and here.

P.S. Bhante G has a new book out about the jhanas, titled “Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: An Introductory Guide to Deeper States of Meditation” (Wisdom Publications, Boston). More to come about that later.

Douglas | Meditation Circle member

Upcoming Buddhist Meditation Retreats at Bhavana

Bhante Gunaratana giving a dharma talk in the Bhavana Society meditation hall. He is currently traveling on sabbatical until April 2010. Photo by Douglas Imbrogno

THERE WAS SOME DISCUSSION at tonight’s Meditation Circle gathering about finding teachers and seeking out retreats where teachers may be encountered. Below is the list of upcoming retreats at the Bhavana Society Therevadan Buddhist monastery and retreat center in Hampshire County, W.Va., near Wardensville, about five hours east of Charleston.

Here is the remaining retreat schedule for 2009 at Bhavana, which includes two ‘Introduction to Meditation Retreats,’ from Aug. 13 to 16 and Nov. 5 to 8.

For more on the experience of retreats and retreat guidelines, click here. With advance notice (e-mail or call ahead by a couple weeks) you may also just go up when Bhavana is not holding retreats and get a sense of the place and buttonhole a monk or nun (well, their robes don’t actualy  buttonholes) to ask about meditation and the teachings that surround the practice. Here’s a page about visiting Bhavana.

If one of these retreats interests you, you’d be advised to sign up soon as Bhavana gets visitors from across the continent and world and if you wait to the last minute, the retreat may be full. Bhavana supports itself in the traditional way, purely by donation, so there is no set cost for these retreats. But your support is what enables such monasteries to exist at all.

Article: Measuring meditation’s effects

Science is catching up to what meditation masters have taught for a long, long while:

For thousands of years, Buddhist meditators have claimed that the simple act of sitting down and following their breath while letting go of intrusive thoughts can free one from the entanglements of neurotic suffering.

Now, scientists are using cutting-edge scanning technology to watch the meditating mind at work. They are finding that regular meditation has a measurable effect on a variety of brain structures related to attention — an example of what is known as neuroplasticity, where the brain physically changes in response to an intentional exercise…

Read the rest of the article here. (Thanks to Robin for the link).

November Discussion: Right Intention

OUR NOVEMBER 2008 discussion theme is ‘Right Intention.’ Here’s a definition from the website we’re using as we guide ourselves through regular discussions of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Have the intention of sharing your thoughts on this topic in the ‘Comments’ above or at Tuesday’s gathering:

RIGHT INTENTION: While Right View refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion. ~ from www.thebigview.com/buddhism/eightfoldpath.html

Loving-kindness Meditation

We’ve had a couple of requests for the metta (loving-kindness) meditation we do at the Meditation Circle of Charleston. It is adapted from a metta meditation done by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot at the Bhavana Society.

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. Continue reading Loving-kindness Meditation

Resources

> BEGINNING MEDITATION |

– Good starting place: “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Gunaratana
Some suggested authors (by Patrick Hamilton)
Questions about meditation.
Loving-Kindness Meditation.

> BUDDHIST TEACHINGS |

The Big View: A clearly written, cleanly designed website about Buddhist teachings. The Meditation Circle has used the site’s pages for an ongoing discussion of the Noble Eightfold Path.
Wisdom Publications. Leading publisher of Buddhist titles.
Snow Lion Press: Vipassana and a full range of Buddhist title.
Pali Text Society: Original translations of the full range of Pali literature

> AREA CENTER |

Bhavana Society: A Therevadan Buddhist forest monastery and retreat center near Wardensville, W.Va., founded by the internationally known Buddhist meditation teacher and author Bhante Henepola Gunaratana and others. They have a year-long schedule of retreats, including ones for beginners and youth. But be sure to register months in advance as people from form around the world and retreat spaces fill up fast.

> GOOD WEBSITES |

See our blogroll on the homepage

> OTHER WISDOM |
The Tao Te Ching