Padmasambhava said, “Let these three expressions: I do not have, I do not understand, I do not know, be repeated over and over again. That is the heart of my advice.”
Sometimes we need to unlearn familiar practices so that we can rediscover them afresh and perhaps, in the state of openness this brings about, become receptive to the arising of insight. On this workshop-style evening, Bodhipaksa invites you to forget everything you know about the familiar practice of mindfulness of breathing, so that you can discover, or rediscover, its potential as a source of deep, calm, embodied joy, and as a gateway to Awakening.
Bodhipaksa’s sangha night with us on 26th February
28 West 27th Street #704, NYNY
June 1, to June 6, 2017 Mindful Meditation Retreat
ANAPANASATI SUTTA (MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING)
Our peace of mind is frequently sabotaged by our predilection for addictive, short-term pleasures (buying, escapist entertainment, obsessive thinking). Yet often we feel an underlying dis/ease. No matter how much we get, we realize it’s all going to end at some point, and we’ll be exposed to loss and separation.
The retreat will be primarily in silence with specific instructions and teaching by Padmadharini, a member of the Triratna International Buddhist Community, and an accredited mindfulness teacher.
While the lures of money, objects, and power lose their appeal, liberation through spiritual practice provides a complete form of happiness. Through meditation, we discover a calmness and ease that doesn’t require chasing fleeting pleasures. This is what the awakened mind is, and it is always within our reach.
During this five-day retreat, we will explore the Buddha’s celebrated teachings on the mindfulness of breathing, also known as the Anapanasati Sutta. These specific instructions for meditation are designed to help use awareness of breathing to bring us fully into the present moment in a direct and open way. The Sutta lists sixteen steps to relax and compose the mind. The Buddha states that mindfulness of the breath, “developed and repeatedly practiced, is of great fruit, great benefit.” Ultimately, it can lead to “clear vision and deliverance.”
The retreat will be mostly in silence, with opportunities each day to explore the progressive stages of mindfulness of body, feelings, mind and mental events. Specific instructions include: posture, steady awareness with the breathing body, working with hindrances such as restlessness and sleepiness, and the cultivation of mental absorptions (jhanas).
The retreat will be held at Blue Sky Mind community, a small practice community structured to support and promote deepening practice. Retreat practice includes sitting and walking meditation, one-on-one meditation reviews, and opportunities to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Thu, Jun 1, 2017 6:00pm
Tue, Jun 6, 2017 1:00pm
Cost: $300-360 (residential), $200-$260 (camping), $75 (daily rates)
All pricing options include food.
Blue Sky Community
315 Geigel Hill Road
Upper Black Eddy, PA 18972
Eventbrite – Mindfulness meditation retreat
Email Padma (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information
Four of us from the New York sangha spent this past weekend upstate, in rural (and currently rather snowy) Columbia County. By four of us, I mean four of us human beings. There were also three dogs among us: little Mona, medium-sized Dante, and bigger Inu. The ride up was surprisingly tranquil, despite all seven mammals being carefully wedged into a not-so-spacious hybrid car. The dogs seemed to get on famously, having decided to overlook whatever nuttiness it was on the part of their human companions that had brought everyone together in such a small space for a two-hour-plus drive.
We decided on the drive up that we’d meditate together in the mornings. We were all going to do so anyway, so it made sense to make an impromptu shrine area somewhere in the house and sit together.
An aside. The small dog, Mona, is mine. She’s a pug, and she’s over fourteen years old. If you know pugs, you know that they make a not-insubstantial amount of snorting noises. The older Mona has gotten, the more impressive her wet, smacking, slurping, snorting repertoire has become. I’ve meditated with her at my side many times. I certainly don’t set it up that way, but very often I sit to meditate, and at some point she gets bored and comes looking for me. Clip-clip-clip down the hallway I hear her nails, and then comes the symphony of mouth and nose noises, with an occasional spray on my arm. Without fail, she decides that my sit is over before the timer has, so she starts to mewl, or paw my arm. Not paying attention to Mona is simply not an option.
So you can imagine that I was a bit apprehensive about exposing my friends to all of this while they meditated. She didn’t disappoint, but she was hardly alone. From all three dogs there were a lot of licking sounds, licking of paws, of undercarriages, of the floor, of our arms… There was a lot of restless movement, at first at least. There was slapping of tails against us as the dogs weaved in and out of the circle we formed. There was nuzzling. There was slurping of water in the catch-basins at the bottom of the planters. There was sniffing of, well, pretty much everything around us. And there was the occasional period of heavy barking and mad-dashing around the house every time the radiator made an odd noise or one of them saw a squirrel or deer through the window.
But here’s the strange thing. Particularly on Sunday, our second morning, we agreed that we’d had a really good sit. We were doing the Mindfulness of Breathing, and typically it’s quite a challenge to keep my mind focused on the breath for very long. But not so on Sunday. I had what seemed like long stretches of strong focus and concentration, with very little distraction or wandering. And I wasn’t alone in experiencing that, despite the bouts of doggy bedlam going on around us.
I wonder if it was the degree to which one distraction completely overwhelmed every other potential distraction. The dog noises were so front-and-center that all of the other needling distractions that I usually face didn’t stand a chance of gaining prominence. And at the same time, I was completely relaxed about the dog noises. If it had just been Mona I probably would have been mortified. But it was Mona, Dante, and Inu, all dogs being dogs and doing what dogs do. We also all took a rather light-hearted approach to the whole situation. There was just no way to take the tableau seriously. There we were, sitting in a circle around an improvised shrine, chanting the Refuges and Precepts in Pali as the dogs wandered in and out, wagging their tails, nuzzling us, wondering what on earth it was we were doing.
I don’t think I’ll be adding the Mindfulness of Dog to my regular meditation routine. But as they often are, these dogs were good teachers. They seemed to say: Relax, and enjoy the situation. There’s nothing you can do to change our nature, so just be with it and see what happens.
Why we sit and notice our breathing
Written by Padmadharini
“It is just sitting and breathing, but it’s also so much more than that.”
Something someone said in a meditation day practicing anapanasati (mindfulness of breath). We were exploring breath and breathing. Just that. Noticing the finer textures of the breath. Each breath different. Each breath unique.
I was struck by how hard this can be at the beginning when the breath seems so boring or the same. We may struggle to maintain connection for more than a few seconds before mind hijacks us with something far more entertaining.
But sit for long enough until you become intimate and so familiar with this breath, and then the next, and soon the breath discloses a secret. That it is in fact not a thing, but more a symphony of sensations playing throughout the body.
Over years of being with my own breath, it seems to have taught me something about slowing down; about enjoying being with something just for its own sake rather than to get somewhere. It’s taught me to stop sometimes and enjoy just this moment happening now, because I’ve learned that each moment contains mystery and surprises.
The other morning in Prospect Park out for a walk, I noticed the sun shining across the lake. So I just sat still, doing nothing for half an hour. So much happened in that half hour. A lightning storm of starlings scurrying across the blue expanse; clouds painted over the ripples on the water; trees giving off different tones as the wind blew through. Just enjoying that wonderful symphony of now.
The practice of just breathing and being present as the breath breathes the body is how I learned to see the richness of each moment. I certainly didn’t breathe to entertain or distract. And it didn’t always bring me peace. It taught me instead a deeper appreciation for the fluid and changing nature of every experience.
And sometimes, when I sit for long enough, I stop what I am becoming, and disappear from the equation. And the world then discloses its treasure. A place I’d call the heart that is always reaching, and finding connection. A place of such rest and peace, you don’t need to become anything any more.
So yes, just sitting and breathing really turns out to be so much more. It is a doorway into presence and peace. A place in which we can shed the weight of trying to be somebody or get somewhere, and simply enjoy this, as it is, as it can only ever be.
One of the first books I read after coming to Triratna-NYC was Change Your Mind: A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation, by Paramananda. It was a wonderful resource as I started to practice meditation, with a simple and friendly tone, and clear instructions and advice on everything from cushions and posture to tips on how to bring the benefits of a Buddhist practice into your daily life. I’ve since recommended Change Your Mind to family and friends as an excellent introduction, or as an approachable tool to get back in the habit of regular practice.
Change Your Mind starts with the basics, answering the question What is meditation? and then moves to the essentials in an inviting and personal way. The author gives a thorough explanation of the importance of posture and the different postures a meditator may use. This was particularly helpful to me, since invariably my back knotted up, or my foot fell asleep, or my leg began to ache about five minutes into any meditation I started.
The first meditation covered is a simple body meditation, which helps new meditators become acquainted with their own physical presence as they sit. It’s a very accessible approach that helps beginners learn to focus on the now. Then the author covers the two traditional meditations we do at Triratna, the Mindfulness of Breathing and the Metta Bhavana, or the cultivation of Loving-Kindness, with clear explanations as well as led practices. The author also discusses the role of intention and balanced effort in meditation, and the link between mental, emotional, and physical states and meditation, and how all of that is connected to how we (can) lead our lives.
While Change Your Mind does not focus on Buddhist philosophy, even basic points such as the Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path, there is an introduction to the brahmavihāras, or the Four Immeasurables, the compassionate virtues that arise from practice of the Metta Bhavana. This is written in the same friendly, down-to-earth style as the rest of the book, inviting practitioners to experience for themselves the link between meditation and living in a healthier, more compassionate way.
Finally, anyone who’s meditated is doubtlessly familiar with the Five Hindrances, which are also covered, along with time-tested methods for dealing with them and always coming home to the object of concentration. These tools are key to sustaining a practice, especially when you’ve reached a plateau, which most people experience.
All in all, Change Your Mind is a wonderful book to read if you’re a beginner, or if you’ve been meditating for a while but want to go back to the basics for a fresh, friendly, creative, and inspirational point of view. It is neither dry and mechanical nor full of Pali and Sanskrit terms for unfamiliar Buddhist philosophical concepts. It goes right for the middle path, and makes it easy for the reader to follow along.