Category Archives: Meditation

Information, resources concerning meditation

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 |

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> OTHER WISDOM |
The Tao Te Ching