“Skillful Speech is not something you practice on the cushion. It happens in dialogue, not silence. During formal meditation, however, you can think about your habits of speech and try to convert the thoughts that arise to skillful thoughts—those motivated by generosity, loving-friendliness, and compassion. You can analyze your past actions and ask yourself : “Did I speak correctly yesterday ? Have I spoken only gently, kindly, meaningfully, and truthfully ?” If you find that you have erred in some way, you can pledge to improve your mindfulness of Skillful Speech.
“The most important resolution you can make is to think before you speak. People say, “Watch your tongue !” But it’s more important to watch your mind. The tongue does not wag by itself. The mind controls it. Before you open your mouth, check your mind to see whether your motivation is wholesome. You will come to regret any speech motivated by greed, hatred, or delusion.
“Also make a strong determination not to say anything that might hurt another person. this pledge will definitely help you to think carefully before you speak. When you speak mindfully, you automatically speak truthfully, gently, and kindly. Mindfulness will keep you from using verbal daggers that can pierce people to the marrow. If the intent to speak in a harmful way occurs to you, immediately use mindfulness and Skillful Effort to prevent these thoughts from continuing.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: We chose the photo of the singer (above) to illustrate this Bhante G excerpt since what we say is broadcast far and wide, if only to our immediate circle of family, friends and strangers we encounter.
“Meditation in the strictest sense is a very special way of training our mind. For that you don’t need any particular posture, time, or place. At any time, any place, and in any posture, you can practice mindfulness.”
Greetings. We encourage everyone who has visited the Meditation Circle to keep up their sitting practice during this challenging time. If you have a smartphone, you may consider getting the Insight Timer app, which has a neat feature where you can see who elsewhere around the globe and locally is sitting at the time you are. It also features a wide range of guided meditations, including ones by Bhante Jayasara and Bhante Gunaratana (‘Bhante G’), who have led day retreats in the past with the Charleston and Huntington, WV Meditation Circle groups.
ZOOM GUIDED MEDITATIONS WITH BHANTE G
Bhante G also invites members of the Meditation Circle to join him on guided meditations via ZOOM online calls at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily (until further notice).
NOTE: The first time you click to go to one of these ZOOM meditations, go there about 5-10 minutes in advance, since your web browser may require you to download and run the ZOOM app. (I think you can also join by phone.) If you have a slow web connection, join the meeting via audio instead of video as that takes up less bandwidth. Be sure your phone or computer audio and/or video camera is turned on
We might also suggest continuing to sit at home from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, to keep the rhythm of your weekly Meditation Circle practice going. Eventually, we will be back sitting in a circle (or rather a rounded square, given the nice way Mike has been setting up the room.)
QIGONG AT HOME
As we all are required to spend more time at home, it is essential we maintain the body-mind connection. Some of you us have had a little exposure to the “moving meditation” of Qigong and The Eight Pieces of Brocade exercise Thad has shown in the past. Mimi Kuo Deemer is an excellent Qigong instructor you can find on Youtube. Her version of the Eight Pieces of Brocade is a little different than the form Thad has shown, but what version you see depends on where in China the teacher is from. She lives in the UK, but she’s from Arizona and her family lives in San Francisco.
Be well. May all beings be well happy and peaceful!
With metta, Thad, Douglas and Mike, co-facilitators of TheMeditationCircle.com
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:
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.
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. ……………………………………………………….
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following: Name, age, address, gender, beginner to meditation? Any medical conditions that might limit you movements/participation, prescribed medications?
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.