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Mindfulness Comes to the Rescue

Photography Pablo Orcaray | unsplash.com

“Look at the particular emotion that might be driving the proliferation of thoughts. And as you are watching, take some deep breaths. Looking at it, breathe out deeply—looking at it, breathe in deeply. You will see it disappearing. Mindfulness comes to rescue us from getting carried away with runaway thoughts, to offer support to increase wholesome mental states. Mindfulness works in both ways—one is to address negative states that have arisen. The other is to encourage us to direct the mind into more wholesome paths.”

~Bhante G (p.127, “WHAT WHY HOW’: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications, 2020)

‘The Skillful Heart Gives Us Happiness’

Unsplash photo by Debby Hudson

“There are times when the heart is in bad shape. Bad mental qualities get mixed up with it, making it even worse, making us suffer both in body and mind. These bad mental qualities are said to be “unskillful” (akusala). The Buddha teaches us to study these qualities so that we can abandon them.

“There are other times when the heart is in good shape: at ease with a sense of wellbeing. We feel at ease whether we’re sitting or lying down, whether we’re alone or associating with our friends and relatives. When the heart gains a sense of ease in this way, it’s said to be staying with the Dhamma. In other words, skillful (kusala) mental qualities have appeared in the heart. The skillful heart is what gives us happiness. This is why the Buddha taught us to develop these skillful qualities, to give rise to them within ourselves.“

~ Ajahn Suwat

Meditation Circle Holiday Break

The Meditation Circle will gather Tuesday, Dec. 17, and then take a break for the holiday season for two weeks, and will NOT meet on Dec. 24 and 31 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Charleston WV. The group will commence its gatherings in 2020, starting Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the usual time of 6 to 7 pm.

The Meditation Circle at the Peacetree Center for Wellness in Huntington WV will also take off on Saturday, Dec. 22 and 28 and Jan. 4. The Peacetree Circle resumes Saturday, Jan. 11, at the usual time of 11 am to Noon. NOTE: The same holds true for the Community Yoga sessions on a donation basis, which precede the Saturday meditations from 10 to 11 am.

Beginners; those wishing to restart a meditation practice; or meditators wishing to find a community of fellow practicioners are welcome at both groups. The Meditation Circle is in a circle for a purpose. We are led by co-facilitators, not formal meditation teachers. We practice meditation in the Buddhist tradition of breath and body-centered meditation and are not formally connected with a specific school. We encourage practicioners to seek out teachers and attend formal meditation retreats.

Have a restful season.
With metta (loving-friendliness) from The Meditation Circle.

Meditation Circle Meets 6 pm Tuesdays in Charleston WV | and 11 am, Saturdays in Huntington, WV

IN ADDITION TO THE REGULAR WEEKLY gathering of The Meditation Circle from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation building, 520 Kanawha Blvd., W., 25302, on the west side of Charleston, WV, the Circle also gathers 11 a.m to noon Saturdays at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness, 5930 Mahood Dr., Huntington, WV, 25705 (about ten minutes east of the Huntington Mall at Barboursville). A Peacetree community yoga class (by donation) precedes the Saturday sit from 10 to 11 am.

BEGINNERS AND THOSE WISHING TO DEEPEN a home meditation practice are welcome at both circles. We are a meditation group in the round, with facilitators and no formal teachers. Small donations are welcome to help our generous sponsoring spaces with their electric bills and for occasional visits from teachers for day retreats.

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.

Making a Move against the Hindrances

Chess image by jeshoots | unsplash.com

By LYNN J. KELLEY | from ‘The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople’

Here we are, considering the fourth framework for cultivating mindfulness: principles/phenomena/dharmas. Specifically, we’ll take up how we can practice mindfulness with the hindrances. As a reminder, the hindrances are:

  1. sensual desire,
  2. anger,
  3. sloth-and-torpor
  4. restlessness-and-worry, and
  5. doubt.

To be clear, we are mainly thinking of our own hindrances, not other peoples’. We can learn from observing other folks’ mistakes, but the errors we make ourselves are the ones most likely to make a lasting impression on us.

Before we get into specifics on each of the hindrances, we should remember that the fourth framework asks us to observe the conditions that lead to the arising of the hindrances and the conditions that lead to the fading or overcoming of the hindrances. Unfortunately, there is not a simple list of things to avoid and things to draw near to us. Because our life experience is unique, we need to figure some specific things out for ourselves.

Ven. Anālayo offers an excellent metaphor in his book “Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation: A Practice Guide” (p. 154). We can imagine ourselves as a chess player…

Our friend has just made a threatening move, attacking our queen (gardez!). We will not get angry because of that. After all it is a game and the other player is our good friend. Yet at the same time we do want to win.

With this type of attitude, wanting to win without getting angry, we examine the situation: “Let me see, how did I get into this? How come I am now in the situation of being about to lose my queen?” On examining how this happened, we keep a lookout for the type of move that will save our queen. In other words, we try to identify the condition that will lead us out of this situation.

Ven. Anālayo goes on to point out that by seeing an arisen hindrance as a chess move, we are less likely to take it personally. That is, we don’t need to see our sensual desire or anger as something to feel guilty about or get annoyed with. It is simply what is happening now. It is also likely that whatever our favored hindrance is will arise in the future. Can we prepare ourselves by changing our attitude to our own obstructions, or by adjusting how we handle them?

The degree to which this particular mental condition can actually function as a “hindrance”, in the sense of obstructing our inner clarity, is inexorably interwoven with the degree of our identification with the images and associations it conjures up in the mind.

That is to say, the more closely we identify with our desire or anger or agitation or sloth or doubt, the harder it is to work with. By creating a little distance between “me” and the present obstructive mind state, we make a space we can work in.

The hindrances obstruct our mental clarity and actually block our pathway towards non-clinging, towards liberation. Only we have the power to mindfully, methodically, remove those obstacles.

NOTE | Follow future posts by Lynn E. Kelly by subscribing to her free blog at https://buddhasadvice.wordpress.com/

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” 

READINGS | The Way It is with desire

The cause of suffering, the Second Noble Truth, is desire (tanha)—attachment to desire out of ignorance. Here we’re not trying to rid ourselves of desire, or become somebody who doesn’t have any desires. We’re recognizing desire: desire is like this, it’s an object. So you begin to notice the desire to have something, desire for sense pleasures. Desire is a kind of energy, it takes us over. If we’re not aware of it, if we don’t recognize or understand it, we become slaves to it.

Continue reading READINGS | The Way It is with desire