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Seeing the Story of “Me”

Image by Charis Gegelman | unsplash.com

Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.

The Pali word most often translated into English as mindfulness is sati, and here’s something important Anālayo Bhikkhu has to say about it:

Another aspect of the early Buddhist conception of sati is that mindfulness is a mental quality that we have to bring into being. Mindfulness has to be established; it is not just a quality that is present anyway in any type of experience. This marks the difference between mindfulness and consciousness. Consciousness … is a continuously present process of knowing [which allows us to register experience]. … Whether we are mindful of a meditation object or caught up in a dream or fantasy, the flow of consciousness is always there. The same does not apply to mindfulness.

This is a point that is often overlooked or ignored. Mindfulness includes a clarity about the context of our experience, and there’s a vividness to engaged attention that keeps us planted in the here and now.

When we are not attending fully, we often experience events through a filter we’ve developed over time. We may be looking for ways in which we are being ignored, or treated unfairly, or noticed when we don’t want to be, or even that we’re being appreciated and admired. There tends to be a story about “me” that we reinforce with our observations. So of course, what stands out in our memories are the instances that confirm our ready-made attitudes. Mindfulness with clear comprehension can cut through this way of experiencing our lives.

Ven. Anālayo suggests that we can view sati as our good, supportive, pleasant-to-be-with friend, available whenever we turn towards her (female, as the word sati in Pali is feminine). We may not notice her company for periods, but she is always there for us to share our experience with. 

Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.


NOTE: For an interview with Anālayo Bhikkhu and a link to his books, some of which are avaialble for free download, see this link.

Let the Meditation Teach You

Photo by Simon Migaj | unsplash.com

“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 result whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and in its own direction. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to your expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspension 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.”

~Bhante Gunaratana
from “Mindfulness in Plain English”

So, Be Aware

Swirled planet photo by DAVID IMBROGNO | cowgarage.com

AJAHN SUMEDHO: “The first ordination for bhikkhus (monks) at the time of the Buddha, before it got all complicated, was simply ‘ehi bhikkhu,’ which means ‘Come, bhikkhu‘ and that was it. Now we have to go through a whole procedure … But according to the scriptures the original was just ‘Come, bhikkhu.’ Just like that. You know the kind of immediacy. So ehipassiko: come and see. There is always this sense of ‘wake up, pay attention.’

Sometimes meditation can seem like a cop-out. A lot of people think we are just contemplating our navel or our breath, not facing the real world. ‘You should be out there, trying to make everything right in society, and here you are sitting at Amaravati all these days watching your breath. What good is that to anybody??’

On the worldly level there are all kinds of things that need to be done. There are so many problems at this time, it is overwhelming. You just have total collapse and burnout when you think about it—the problems that face humanity on this planet. And so this is not to dismiss this, but trying to make the world right is an endless process. You are not getting to the source of what is wrong: the delusion, the ignorance, the cause of the suffering.

And now we are looking here, not blaming the government anymore but looking at the cause; we are not blaming someone else, but recognizing the ignorance in our lives, the illusions we create and operate from. We are learning to recognize that which isn’t deluded. That takes a willingness to be patient with yourself, and being receptive and open to whatever you are feeling, whatever results you are having from your practice, whether you feel calm or confused, peaceful or angry. I’m not asking you to become anything, but—this: ehipassiko—come and see, trust this awareness more and more, recognize it. This is the real Dhamma. This is the refuge that I can always be, because I trust it more and more, I tend to be this way more and more. So be aware.

~Ajahn Sumedho
from “The Sound of Silence: Volume 4,” p. 87
NOTE: Book available for free .pdf or e-book reader download here


Peacetree Silent Retreat, May 11, 2019: Morning Talk and Meditation | Part 1

Bhante Jaysara gives a short talk and leads a guided meditation in this audio.

Bhante Jayasara (‘Bhante J’), of the Bhavana Society Theravadan Buddhist Forest Monastery and Retreat Center in High View, WV, gives an introductory talk and leads a guided meditation in the morning of a day-long silent retreat at the PeaceTree Center for Wellness in Huntington, WV on May 11, 2019. | NOTE: This is Part 1 of audio from the silent day retreat.

A Long-term Project

John Fornander photo | unsplash.com

“So keep reminding yourself that meditation is a long-term project. When you have a sense of that long arc of time, it’s a lot easier to sit back and work very carefully at the basic steps. It’s like learning any skill. If, in one afternoon, you want to gain all the skills you’re going to need to play tennis, you end up doing them all very sloppily and won’t get the results you want.

“But if you realize that this may take time, you can work on one skill at a time: How do you keep your eye on the ball? How long is your backswing? Take the skill apart step by step by step and be willing to work on small things like this, bit by bit by bit. So, that you really understand them deep down in your bones.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu | “Judicious vs. Judgmental” (Meditations1)

Whether Sitting, Walking, Standing or Lying Down

Bhante Jayasara, a resident monk at the Bhavana Society Theravada Buddhist Forest Monastery and Retreat Center near High View, W.Va., recently posted this meditation meme to his Facebook account. ‘Bhante J,’ as he is called, recently visited Huntington and Charleston and spoke about “the Ember of Mindfulness.” Click on his link below to learn more. PS: If you are on Twitter, follow him at: @BhikkhuJayasara

BHANTE JAYASARA: Remember to carry the Ember of Mindfulness (https://maggasekha.com/ember). The practice doesn’t stop when you get off the cushion, and if your practice IS just the cushion, then you are missing out on the full practice and it’s benefits.

The Best Thing You Could Be Doing

“This is the best thing you could be doing right now: getting the mind to settle down, getting a sense of being at home with the breath, being friends with the breath. Don’t think of the meditation as a struggle. If you regard your breath as your enemy, you’re really in bad shape, because wherever you go, there it is.

Learn to be friends with it. Listen to it. Work with it. Play with it. Learn how the breath and the mind can cooperate with each other. This requires paying careful attention. As with any friendship, it takes time. But that length of time can be shortened if you’re really attentive, if you really watch.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu | “Friends with the Breath”

Bhante Jayasara to visit Huntington and Charleston WV May 10-11-12

NOTE: There is still space available for the Saturday, May 11 silent retreat from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Peacetree Center for Wellness in Huntington, WV.

The Meditation Circle is pleased to announce a return visit from Friday, May 10 to Sunday, May 12, 2019, to Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., by Theravadan Buddhist monk Bhante Jayasara (Bhante J), from the Bhavana Society Theravadan Buddhist Monastery in High View, W.Va. All events are free with donations accepted to support travel costs and make a donation to the Bhavana Society, which survives entirely upon “dana” or the generosity of visitors.

Advance registration is required for the Saturday and Sunday events due to limited space. Read on for more details and how to register. (PS: “Bhante” is pronounced BON-tay and is a title that means ‘Venerable Sir.’).


FRIDAY, MAY 10: TALK, MEDITATION & QUESTIONS:

FRIDAY, May 10, 6 to 7:30 p.m.: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building, 520 Kanawha Blvd., Charleston WV: Talk and discussion on “Mindfulness in Daily Living,” followed by a short guided meditation and Q-and-A. 
NOTE: This is a free event with donations accepted and no registration.


SATURDAY, MAY 11: DAY-LONG SILENT RETREAT:

PLEASE NOTE: IF REGISTERING FOR THIS EVENT, WE ASK YOU PLAN TO BE THERE FOR THE ENTIRE EVENT, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Space is limited to the first 30 registrants and we wish them to go to folks who wish the full experience of a day’s silent retreat.

SATURDAY, May 11, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Silent Day Retreat on “Developing a Meditation Practice,” 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; PeaceTree Center for Wellness, 5930 Mahood Dr., Huntington, W.Va. This is a free event with donations accepted to defray travel/lunch costs and to make a Bhavana Society donation. If you have a meditation practice and wish to deepen it or are interested in starting up a regular practice, consider this day-retreat. It will be conducted in “Noble Silence”—mindful silence throughout the retreat—with a chance to ask written questions of Bhante J. A vegetarian lunch will be provided. Registration required and capped at 30 advance registrations. This event will fill up so register early. REGISTER HERE.

SEE Q-and-A below about this event.

NOTE: Please arrive by 8:30 to 8:45 p.m. Cushions and chairs available. Or you are welcome to bring your own cushion.


SUNDAY, MAY 12: TALK, GUIDED MEDITATION & QUESTIONS

SUNDAY, May 12, 12:30 to 2 p.m.: Guided Meditation, Talk and Discussion; Studio 8 Yoga and Wellness, 803 8th Ave., Huntington, W.Va., 12:30 to 2 p.m. Free but registration required. NOTE: This is a free event with donations accepted but you must register as there is limited space. REGISTER HERE: NOTE: Scroll down to bottom of page for Bhante J event.


More Details

Bhante Jayasara often goes by ‘Bhante J’

QUESTIONS ABOUT MAY 11 PEACETREE RETREAT:

WHO IS THE RETREAT FOR?
Anyone who has a meditation or mindfulness practice and is interested in deepening it. Or if you have a serious intention to begin a meditation practice. Bhante J will guide participants in meditation in the breath and body-centered tradition of Buddhist insight meditation. You should feel comfortable with both guided and silent meditation periods of up to 20-30 minutes.

WHAT IS NOBLE SILENCE?
We ask retreatants to maintain ‘Noble Silence’ during the day, a mindfulness practice that can deepen the retreat experience. If you need to speak or if there is an emergency, please speak to one of the organizers who will be introduced at the outset. NOTE: Please silence all cellphones before the retreat begins.

CAN I ASK QUESTIONS OF THE MONK?
Of course! But for this retreat, unlike in last year’s Bhante J retreat, we are going to import a tradition from Bhanava Society silent retreats in which people write down their questions and put them in a box. At the end of the retreat, Bhante J will answer the questions. Noble Silence will end at 3 p.m. that day.

ARE THERE AGE REQUIREMENTS?
No, but parents should not bring children in need of supervision. Young adults interested in meditation or with a meditation practice are welcome.

WHERE SHOULD I PARK?
There is ample parking behind the PeaceTree Center and a glass back door with steps up to the room where the retreat will be held. If you cannot manage steps, pull up in yor car out front of the center and ask for help.

DO I NEED TO SIT ON A CUSHION?
No, but they will be available or you can bring your own. Chairs will be set up at the back and sides of the room, with cushions in the middle and front.

CAN I SHAKE HANDS OR HUG THE MONK?
Buddhist monks don’t generally shake hands or hug retreatants. A namaste or a smile is a fine greeting. There will also be a chance to take photos and monk selfies after the event.

HOW CAN I CONTACT THE ORGANIZERS?
E-mail any questions to the Meditation Circle’s co-facilitator, Douglas, at douglasjohnmartin AT icloud.com

The most important moment in meditation

“ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE EVENTS in your meditation career is the moment when you first realize that you are meditating in the midst of a perfectly ordinary activity. You are driving down the freeway or carrying out the trash and it just turns on by itself. This unplanned outpouring of the skills you have been so carefully fostering is a genuine joy. It gives you a tiny window on the future. You catch a spontaneous glimpse of what the practice really means.

“The possibility strikes you that this transformation of consciousness could actually become a permanent feature of your experience. You realize that you could actually spend the rest of your days standing aside from the debilitating clamoring of your own obsessions, no longer frantically hounded by your own needs and greeds. You get a tiny taste of what it is like to just stand aside and watch it all flow past. It’s a magic moment.

“That vision is likely to remain unfulfilled, however, unless you actively seek to promote the carryover process. The most important moment in meditation is the instant you leave the cushion. When your practice session is over, you can jump up and drop the whole thing, or you can bring those skills with you into the rest of your activities.”

Bhante Gunaratana, from “Mindfulness in Plain English”

Can I Let This Go?

HERE ARE THREE MINUTES OF some good advice by Bhante Jayasara. A resident monk at The Bhavana Society in Hampshire County, West Virginia, “Bhante J” (as he is called) will visit Charleston and Huntington, W.Va., on Friday, May 10 (Charleston); Saturday, May 11 (Huntington); and Sunday, May 12 (Huntington). His visit is co-sponsored by TheMeditationCircle.com, the PeaceTree Center for Wellness and Studio 8 and the Huntington meditation group that meets there every Sunday.

NOTE: There are still a few spots left for the silent day-retreat he leads May 11 at the PeaceTree Center near the Huntington Mall. The event is free, with donations accepted to defray travel, meal and donation costs (a vegetarian lunch will be provided). But there is limited space at both the Saturday and Sunday events, so advance registration is required. See details of his visit at the link.

Worth Trying

“For many or most of us, keeping up a regular sitting practice is a challenge. We can pursue any number of diversions and excuses for procrastination. It is normal that we are reluctant to experience our own physical and mental phenomena directly, clearly, and impartially. The only way to overcome this reluctance is to recognize it and decide that it’s worth trying, persistently and consistently, to be mindful. The rewards will be commensurate with our efforts; we will still experience stress, but will be better able to handle whatever comes.”

Lynn J. Kelly from her blog post “Heedlessness”

Step by Step

“Try to get the mind as still as possible. This is the basic pattern in all the tetrads of the breath meditation. You sensitize yourself to what you’re doing, and then you try to do it in a way that leads to more calm, to more subtle forms of concentration and more subtle levels of pleasure.

“You work through this process of sensitizing and refinement step by step by step, which means that you have to be very observant. The Buddha gives you some guidance. If you notice that things are inconstant in the mind, especially if the level of stress or ease in the mind is inconstant, look at what you’re doing. When the level of stress goes up, what did you do? When it goes down, what did you do? When things seem to be perfectly still and perfectly at ease, try to maintain that stillness as a baseline, to see if you can begin to sensitize yourself to more subtle ups and downs.

“This keeps throwing the responsibility back on you. The Buddha’s there with guidance. He gives you lots of different meditation methods to deal with specific problems as they come up. Breath meditation is your home base because that’s the method that sensitizes you directly to bodily, verbal, and mental fabrication and points you in the direction of learning how to calm these things.”

~Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from “One Thing Only”