Things have been going well at the Tuesday night class. We had a couple of guest speakers who had not been here before (Alex and Karunanatha), and we covered many interesting topics such as Akshobya (the mythical Blue Buddha), Receptivity, the Positive Precepts (doorways to happiness) and Metta (loving kindness).
Average attendance was over 20 which was not bad considering Summer holidays, and a few heat waves!
Coming up we have
10/9 Mangala and Keith
17/9 Vajragupta – talking about his new book “Free Time!: from clock-watching to free-flowing, a Buddhist guide” which you can get on Amazon among other places.
24/9 Week 1 of a 6 week course on Meditation and Buddhism. This is the “Manchester Course”, which we have not done before at Hertford.
I would definitely recommend you come when Vajragupta is here. He has written some amazing books including “Buddhism Tools for Living your Life” which is one of my personal favourites. We studied this together for over a year, and you will see an excerpt from it below.
Just drop in when you can. Complete beginners are always very welcome.
That’s all for now.
|p.s. If you want to learn meditation or deepen your practice, why not go on retreat? There are lots available at https://www.lbc.org.uk/homepage-links/retreats/introductory-retreats.html including some yoga and meditation ones. |
If you don’t fancy that, then why not go to a meditation Sunday. They have them regularly at the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green. https://www.lbc.org.uk/events/meditation/meditation-days.html .
There is also an Open Day on Sep 15th, and Vajragupta is leading a day on Sep 22nd.
p.p.s. Here is a short excerpt from: “Buddhism – Tools for Living your Life” by Vajragupta.
_____________________________ mindfulness meditation Meditation involves, above all, becoming more aware of our hearts and minds. One meditation practice designed to help us cultivate mindfulness is called the mindfulness of breathing.6 In this practice we sit quietly and ‘watch’ the breath. We follow the bodily sensations caused by the flow of the breath. exercise – following the breath For now, we are going to try the breathing meditation in a very simple way. Full instructions for meditation practices are not given in this book. There are books that do this, but it is better to attend a meditation class and receive direction from an experienced teacher. Sitting quietly and comfortably (on a meditation cushion if you know how to sit comfortably, or otherwise on a chair), relax your body for a few minutes, while remaining awake and aware. You might find it best to close your eyes gently, or you may keep them softly open. Then start noticing how your body breathes.
Don’t try to breathe in any special way, just breathe naturally. Feel the sensations of the breath in different parts of the body. Where do you feel the breath? What is the in-breath like? And what about the out-breath? Try to stay focused on the breath. If you notice your mind wandering, just bring it back to attending to the breath. If your mind starts to wander, try to notice this immediately. Do this for up to ten minutes. Afterwards, consider what happened. Was it easy to stay alert and focused, or was it difficult? Were you surprised at the kind of things that went through your mind? This is how we can begin in meditation, and from that simple starting point, our practice develops further.
I’ll tell you a little of how it worked for me. When I first took up meditation, I did it in rather a mechanical way, watching the breath on one spot of my body, counting the breaths robotically, and trying all the time not to let anything else enter my mind. Although it was too mechanical, at least it got me started. If the teacher had said straight off, ‘be aware of your mind,’ I wouldn’t have known what he meant, or where to start. The first thing I needed to do was just learn to be able to sit and be focused. But after a while, I realized there was more to the practice than rigidly following the breath. Tuning in to the breath enabled my mind to slow a little. There was now enough space for a broader view; I could see more clearly what was going on in my mind and heart. I realized that those thoughts and feelings I was trying to shut out were actually part of me. They were aspects of the mind I was trying to transform. I could not transform them until I let them in, acknowledged them, and came to know them more deeply.
We have to learn to work in a multi-layered kind of way. With some types of distracting thoughts or worries, it might be enough to put them aside and return to the breath. If there is not much energy behind them, this might be sufficient to transform them. But, in other cases, that could take longer.
We might find various ways of working with the breath that help, for example breathing low in the body if we are anxious, or breathing more slowly if we are angry. We sit with the worry or irritation at the same time as we sit with the breath. With this ‘mindfulness with breathing’ we explore the connection between the quality of the breath and our mental and emotional state.7 At other times, we might need to just sit with what is happening in our heart and mind, without attending to the breath at all. Perhaps there is something that nags at us and we need to uncover it, try to reveal its nature. Perhaps we need to reflect on why we have got irritated yet again, or why it is that a certain situation makes us anxious.
So, for awhile at least, we leave the breath and just attend to the issue at hand. But we have made a conscious decision to do this. We haven’t stopped cultivating mindfulness, only adopted a different approach for the time being. Mindfulness meditation is not just a rigid technique; it is away of being with our actual experience, attuned to our hearts and minds, and being able to respond helpfully to what we find there. Our approach needs to be subtle, nuanced according to the strength and nature of what is happening right now. The crucial factor is that we are trying to become more aware, and notice what is happening in our minds, without letting it run away with us.
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