Tag Archives: Meditation

Video: On Trying too hard to meditate

Bhikku Piyadhammo, a monk friend who resided recently at the Bhavana Society, told me about a rich collection of Buddhist-themed videos that he maintains on a YouTube channel called “Dhammatube.”  The channel, which features pithy short videos on useful topics to anyone interested in Buddhist practice, has a series of short interviews with a thoroughly charming young monk named Tan Dtoon.  I like what a commentator to the video above said about him:

I like Tan Dtoon because he doesn’t seem lofty and rehearsed. There’s wisdom in his honesty and spontaneity…..even if he’s searching for the answer himself. There’s something about knowing yourself without putting on an act. I find that more impressive then pretending you have authority.

In this video, the monk talks about what Ajahn Chah and other monks have had to say about trying too hard in meditation, always a good topic to consider for anyone who has ever tried to keep a regular meditation practice going. We’ll be e-posting more Dhammatube videos.



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.

“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

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