Meditation Circle Postponed Until Further Notice

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Meditation Circle will not be meeting at the Unitarian Universalist building in Charleston, WV, at 6 pm on Tuesdays until further notice. The UU building has asked all groups renting the space—as we do—to pause holding their gatherings there until the crisis has passed. We will keep circlegoers updated through this website.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to keep up your practice on a daily basis. Here are some resources from our ‘Resources’ page. Below is a guide to mindfulness and meditation.

Here also are some guided meditations:

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LISTEN | Guided Meditation | Part 2 | Bhante Sujato
Australian monk Bhante Sujato. of Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, Sydney in Australia., can be heard at the above link 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 | Part 1 | Bhante Sujato
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 — the talk is edited down a bit. Seek out this and other talks by this very interesting Western monk who trained with Ajahn Brahm.
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As part of a visit to the PeaceTree Center for Wellness in Huntington, W.Va., Bhante Jayasara, a Theravadan Buddhist monk from the Bhavana Society in High View, W.Va., led a guided meditation on the theme of “lay down the burden.”  Take a listen. You can also download the file for later use.


The Basics of Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here’s how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:

Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.

Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.

Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.

Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.

Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue.

How to Meditate


This meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay.

A Simple Meditation Practice


Sit comfortably. Find a spot that gives you a stable, solid, comfortable seat.

Notice what your legs are doing. If on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor.

Straighten your upper body—but don’t stiffen. Your spine has natural curvature. Let it be there.

Notice what your arms are doing. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural.

Soften your gaze. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. It’s not necessary to close your eyes. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.

Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest.

Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking. When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to the breath.

Be kind about your wandering mind. You may find your mind wandering constantly—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, practice observing them without reacting. Just sit and pay attention. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all there is. Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.

When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.

Movies of the Mind

“As we start to practice mindfulness, present moment awareness, we soon discover how much of our lives we spend dreaming. Normally, we have no problem noticing our night dreams or those vivid excursions into fantasy that we call daydreams. What we usually don’t notice is that we are dreaming most of the time, caught up in the movies of our mind. These mini-dreams or mini-dramas may only last 10 or 20 seconds. Our mind is constantly imagining reality, and substituting that imagination for direct perception. The practice of mindfulness helps us distinguish between thoughts and awareness, thinking and being.

“”Thoughts, images and moods are not necessarily connected with reality, with what is actually happening in the present moment. There is a big difference between thinking and actually believing that “life is hell”, and having the awareness that we are just having thoughts that life is hell. Only thinking, thinking, thinking. Through paying closer attention to our experience, we begin to make a subtle yet crucial distinction between our shifting judgments, ideas, views and opinions about reality and the vivid, ineffable qualities of immediate experience itself.

“Without awareness, we are easily deluded and confused by mental activity, by too much thinking. In the moment we become aware that our thoughts are just thoughts rather than reality itself, we wake up from their spell and can return to presence. It is empowering to discover that we are not enslaved by our thoughts, by how our mind interprets reality. This sudden taste of freedom provides a glimpse of ordinary magic. It takes practice to wake up, to emerge from our mind-created worlds and delusions, fears and anxieties.”

~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Metta For All

Namaste Art Print by Claudia Tremblay. Order it here

QUESTION: The world seems so full of hatred, violence, and pain. How is it possible to pursue joy and also have compassion for those who commit such cruelties?

BHANTE GUNARATANA: “It is very difficult to imagine how cruel human beings can be. We cannot even say ‘bestial’ since wild beasts don’t commit the kinds of heinous crimes people do. When wild beasts kill, it’s to eat. When full, they don’t bother to kill other animals. So, beasts often behave much better than human beings!

“Fortunately, not all human beings are violent and cruel. There are many kind, compassionate and good people. In fact, they are in the majority when we think about it. Yet only a small minority makes the news—the ones whose cruel-hearted, violent actions shake the whole world.

“So we have to cultivate loving-friendliness—metta—for them along with all others. They commit crimes as they themselves are suffering. As a result, they are totally confused. I don’t think any right-minded person, one who thinks and sees clearly, would commit such violence. People have to be very, very confused to be worse than beasts. We should not give up on them—we must try to share loving-friendliness with them. They need a lot of metta.

“By sending our metta they will not, of course, suddenly change. Sometimes a person’s kamma is so strong, they cannot see the pain they’re causing others or they don’t care. So they commit more bad kamma and suffer yet more.

“We can at least have metta toward them. We can try to understand how much they must suffer to have become so violent and indifferent to other people’s lives.

Please keep practicing metta for yourself and share your metta with all: criminals, the victims of criminals, their bereaved relatives. All deserve our metta. I can send my metta to all of them. May all learn to live in peace and harmony.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana (p. 87, WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications 2020)

Learn About Your Mind

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu from “No Dharma Without Karma”

“There’s no Dharma without karma. I keep running into this again and again – people who want to be told that the reason they’re suffering has nothing to do with them. It’s somebody else’s fault. They’re miserable because someone taught them to fear the world or fear their desires, whereas all you have to do is realize that the world is basically good as it is, your desires are perfectly fine, and you just relax into the goodness within and without, and you won’t have to suffer any more.

“But the Buddha never taught like that. If there’s going to be goodness in the world, it has to start with your *giving* something – giving your time, giving your energy, giving the things that you have control over. And you learn about your mind that way.

Continue reading Learn About Your Mind

Bhante Rahula to visit Huntington/Charleston in August 2020

We will have more details as we lock them down, but American Buddhist monk Bhante Yogavacara Rahula will make a return visit to the Meditation Circles in Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., in early August, 2020. Bhante Rahula will lead a day-long ‘Day of Mindfulness’ at the Peacetree Center for Wellness in Huntington, WV, on Saturday, Aug. 8. He will also attend the Tuesday, Aug. 11, weekly sitting of The Meditation Circle, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 520 Kanawha Bld. W, in Charleston, WV. There is no charge for either event (donations will be accepted). Advance registration will be required for the Peacetree event because of limited space. REGISTRATION IS NOT YET OPEN FOR THE PEACETREE EVENT. We encourage you to subscribe to this site for updates on these and other events, as well as regular quotes and readings on breath-centered meditation and mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition.

Bhante Rahula is director and principal teacher at the Paññāsīha Lion of Wisdom Meditation Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was born Scott Joseph DuPrez in Southern California in 1948. After following the hippie trail to India, he eventually discovered Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where he ordained as a novice monk in 1975 at Gothama Thapovanaya, Kalupaluwawa.

He received his bhikkhu upasampada ordination at Wat Thai Los Angeles in May 1979. After returning to Sri Lanka for some years, he came to help Bhante Henepola Gunaratana establish the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery, where he served as vice-abbot from 1986 to 2010. Now, after seven years of teaching Dhamma and leading retreats around the world, he has taken on the role as director and chief meditation teacher at Lion of Wisdom .

The rural meditation retreat facility is a branch of the Washington Buddhist Vihara. The center offers Days of Mindfulness, Afternoon Intensives and two- and three-day retreats.

Upcoming 2020 events at Lion of Wisdom include:

  • Saturday February 22, Afternoon Intensive, 1-4 pm
  • Sunday March 1, Day of Mindfulness, 9 am-4 pm; bring a bag lunch or potluck item to share.
  • Sunday, March 8, Afternoon Intensive, 1.30-4.30 pm
  • Saturday, March 14, Day of Mindfulness; 9 am-4.30 pm; bring a potluck item to share.
  • Weekend Retreat, Friday, March 20, 7 pm until Sunday, March 22, finish at noon. Register for overnight accommodation.
  • Weeklong Retreat, May 15-23, 2020. The retreat theme will be: Awakening body/mind awareness with vipassana meditation and yoga breathing/exercises. Registration is required; a few spaces are still available; camping in your own tent is possible.

 To register for the above overnight retreats send an e-mail to: info@lionwisdom.org and include the following: Name, age, address, gender, beginner to meditation? Any medical conditions that might limit you movements/participation, prescribed medications?

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)

Mindful Reflection on the Body

“We don’t meditate to hate our bodies or other bodies. Unsatisfactoriness depends on clinging to impermanent bodies. A mindful meditator should remind himself or herself that an attractive object has triggered sense desire. One should then develop wise reflection or mindful reflection.

“The Buddha gave a very meaningful simile to underscore the meaning of mindful reflection, or yoniso manasikara. Suppose you throw a stick to a dog. The dog runs after the stick and bites on it or brings it back to you. But if you throw a stick to a lion, he does not run after the stick. He runs after you! He wants to know where the stick came from. The lion wants to go to the root.

“Similarly, mindful reflection goes to the root. We have six roots. They are greed, hatred, and ignorance on the unwholesome side. And nongreed, nonhatred, and nondelusion on the wholesome side. When an unwholesome emotional state arises, we should be mindful enough to go to its roots and mindfully reflect that it is impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self.”

~ Bhante Gunaratana
(p. 129, “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” from the chapter ‘Working With Thought and Speech.’ Wisdom Publications 2020)

ASK BHANTE G book available

To order the book or sign up for a free weekly WISDOM EXPERIENCE email series featuring Q-and-A excerpts, click here

CHECK OUT THE NEW WISDOM EXPERIENCE BOOK “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully.” The book compiles Bhante G’s answers to both beginning and advanced questions about meditation practice, mindfulness and Buddhist teachings.

Bhante G, as he is known around the world, is abbot of the Bhavana Society Buddhist retreat center and monastery in the West Virginia hills and is a beloved teacher worldwide. (The book details how one of the leading Buddhist teachers and authors in the Western world ended up in the West Virginia backcountry). Wisdom is now offering a free weekly series of emails featuring Q-and-A’s from the book. Click here for more on that and the book.

Meditation Circle co-coordinator Douglas Imbrogno helped compile the book’s contents, along with other Bhavana lay supporters, from questions Bhante G has answered on the cushion, in interviews and on retreats around the world.

We Can Compare Notes

Singing Goldfinch by OlaLiola on Etsy.com

A bird in a secluded grove sings like a flute.
Willows sway gracefully with their golden threads.
The mountain valley grows the quieter
As the clouds return.
A breeze brings along the fragrance
Of apricot flowers.
For a whole day I have sat here
Encompassed by peace,
Till my mind is cleansed in and out
Of all cares and idle thoughts.
I wish to tell you how I feel,
But words fail me.
If you come to this grove,
We can compare notes.

~ Fa-yen

‘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

A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.