Posted in compassion

Handle With Care

“Gentleness indicates greater strength than harshness.”

-Han Shan Deqing

 I wonder if we can solve a lot of our problems by being nicer to each other.

 When I hear things like “People are too sensitive these days”

OR

“That guy got what he deserved” when someone experiences the consequences of bad decisions

 

I just wonder where the compassion is.

 Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone. All of us are facing many challenges throughout our lives. This can be a tough thing to remember. Suffering is the norm in human life. It’s fundamental. It’s not our fault we suffer. Some of our problems are self-inflicted, certainly. But many of them aren’t.

We judge each other harshly. We look down on people who have made different decisions than we made.

We could all soften our tone with each other. We can all be gentle and in this way make our world a slightly better place.

 When someone is terminally ill, you often see a manifestation of kindness. We are generally pretty nice when we know someone is about to die. We respond to them with gentleness and compassion.

 Can we try to apply that the rest of the time?

The world needs more kindness, more compassion, more love.

Can we handle people with care?

I’m interested in trying. Are you?

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Posted in meditation

Timing and Meditation

Sometimes when people first come to meditation they’re in a hurry. People want to start seeing results from their practice right away. Of course, that’s not how any of this works but sometimes it is something people tend to expect.

This is like that old adage “A watched pot never boils.” If we spend a lot of time thinking about how results aren’t coming fast enough, we will never be satisfied.

Any amount of meditation is better than none. The goal should be to try to build up to regular meditation. I suggest 20 minutes per session, but that’s not something I adhere to strictly. We just need to ask ourselves questions about how much of our sit is devoted to getting settled. That can vary widely. Some people can sit and go straight into meditation, but for others it takes a few minutes.

I don’t really suggest sitting for hours and hours. I think a short meditation with some regularity is better than a rare 2 hour meditation. Ideally we should start with a short meditation and gradually increase the length to whatever we feel we have time for. I think 30-40 minutes is a really good length. We don’t want to be counterproductive, however. If scheduling longer meditations leads to making excuses and not meditating at all, that’s a problem. It would be better to have a very short meditation instead.

There’s not really a perfect time to meditate. When I first started I liked to do it early in the morning. Now I do it in the evening, shortly before bed. I think it varies for everyone, so you’ll need to find the time that works best for you.

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Posted in meditation

Is Meditation Boring?

Meditation tends to be a struggle for a lot of people. People come to the path with a lot of expectations.

The practice I teach is called Silent Illumination. It’s a bare bones and simple practice. Well, that’s not true. There’s a lot to it. But the instructions are very simple. We are sitting very still, being very quiet, and doing nothing.

We’re not trying to focus on anything. We aren’t trying to stop thinking (good luck) or trying to redirect our thoughts toward some weird picture or something. We are just sitting very still and being very quiet.

“The practice of true reality is simply to sit serenely in silent introspection.” -Hongzhi

It sounds like we’re doing nothing. I’ve had people say, “is that it?” more than once when I present the practice. It sounds like nothing, but what we’re doing is settling into the present moment. When the body is still the mind becomes still of it’s own accord. We’re not forcing anything because we don’t have to.

We may tell ourselves while we’re practicing that nothing is happening…but that’s not really true. There’s never a point where nothing is happening. Things are happening all the time. Wonderful, painful, scary things. There’s never a moment when nothing is going on and life is never really boring. If we really come into our experience we can see that.

 But the truth is that only boring people get bored. What we’re doing with this practice is really learning to pay attention. When we train in attention, we can start to see how not-boring everything is. The world is transformed by our attention.

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Upcoming Events:

5/18/19: 11am-Noon

Fountain City Meditation: Meditation on the Nelson Lawn

Nelson Atkins Museum – South Lawn

4525 Oak Street

Kansas City, MO

This is a public event. We’re meditating on the lawn of the Nelson Museum, just south of “The Thinker” statue. I’m going to give a short talk and a bit of guidance, then we will sit together. Tell all your friends.

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Posted in fountain city meditation, meditation

Meditation is Not a Victory March

People often come to meditation with some preconceived ideas.

I can’t count how many people have said to me some version of:

“I just can’t get my mind to settle down enough to meditate. When I try it doesn’t work.”

I think a lot of people try meditation just a couple times (or never try) because they have certain expectations. They want to feel relaxed, or blissed out, or…at the very least…not bored. In the modern era we sort of have this idea that we should be entertained all the time. And we definitely want immediate results.

People also tend to think they are unique in their struggle. “I wish I could meditate, but I just can’t get my mind to settle down.” When people say things like that I think they’re making the assumption that it’s hard for them, but for other people it’s easier.

I want to suggest that we can see the path in a different way. The path is not a victory march. We are not in a situation where baring down and focusing really hard will help us. Focusing really hard on goals here will lead to disappointment. The path is not a victory march. One of the most important things we can bring to our meditation practice is a passive attitude. Don’t be hard on yourself if it’s a struggle sometimes. Don’t be hard on yourself if it’s a struggle every time. Just accept that it’s hard and do it anyway.

There will be days we feel like our meditation is “successful” (whatever that means) but there will also be days where we feel like our meditation is a total failure, when we think we’re doing nothing but being distracted and waiting for the signal that meditation is over. Both kinds of meditation are good. Trying to meditate and feeling like a failure….that counts as meditation. The only way to fail at meditation is to not do it.

 

So, let’s meditate together.

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Upcoming Events

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Posted in fountain city meditation, podcast

On Community

I didn’t intend to start a community and I’m not sure if I have.

I created Fountain City Meditation as a project because I was inspired to serve others by providing meditation instruction and encouragement. People need a lot of encouragement in meditation practice, I think. And if I can reach people that aren’t being reached right now, that’s even better. I think many meditation communities might not be as focused on encouragement as they could be. People need a support system for their practice and to me THAT is the central role of a meditation/spiritual community.

I was teaching in a Buddhist community here in Kansas City for a while and then one day I wasn’t anymore. That’s not something to get into here except to say that my inspiration to help and encourage others didn’t just go away, so I spent time thinking about what I can do.

I have considered asking some of the other wonderful communities here in town if they’d be willing to bring me on as a teacher, to work together. But so far I haven’t asked. I have a fear of rejection, I think. Teaching in an established community would be pretty great though. Insecurity is a weird thing.

I recorded an episode of my podcast Scharpening the Mind with my friend Daniel Symes on the subject of community because I think it’s an interesting subject. You can listen to that podcast here:

Spiritual Community, with guest Daniel Symes

Is Fountain City Meditation a community?

I tried to create a situation where people come meditate with a minimum of baggage. We’re outside, so some of the intimidation of entering a new place isn’t there. Some people just come once, and some people come over and over. Some people come alone and some people bring friends. Many of the people that come just do the sitting practice and leave, without talking to anyone. I think that’s really great because I’m happy to welcome the most introverted among us. I think a lot of really shy people stay away from spiritual communities because they’re nervous about meeting new people. I know that when I first became interested in meditation practice, I had some issues around being reluctant to go meet people.

You don’t have to meet anyone to come to Fountain City Meditation.

Also, there’s no religion or ritual attached to what we’re doing.

I call it meditation without baggage. My hope is that people who are devoutly religious (of whatever kind) and people who don’t like religion could be equally comfortable coming to one of these events. I’m hoping that by doing outdoor events I can attract people who, for various reasons, don’t really want to go to temples or yoga studios or other traditional settings. Going inside an unfamiliar place can intimidate people too.

There’s no membership, I’m not trying to sell anything and I don’t even ask for donations. The great thing about meeting in a public outdoor space is that it doesn’t cost me anything (there are downsides too, of course) so I don’t need to take donations. All I’m spending is my time.

That might not seem like a big deal, but I know some people stay away from communities because they feel guilty when donations are being accepted. I want to reach people that feel weird when they hear the word “donation”.

I wanted to create a situation where all the things that scare people off or make people reluctant aren’t present.

I’m not sure if I’m achieving that, but I do think there are people that are interested in meditation that aren’t being reached by traditional efforts.

 

If we’re a community, we’re a community full of non-joiners.

Non-joiners could use some encouragement too.

Is Fountain City Meditation a community? I think that’s not up to me.

It’s up to you. What do you think?

weird

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want to come meditate with me? You can here:

Upcoming Events

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A while back I wrote an article for Patheos on the subject of Buddhist communities. You can see it here:

Close Knit Sanghas? | Patheos.com

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I created an all new website for Fountain City Meditation.

If it’s going to grow and be a community, it deserves it’s own website. This is still very much a work in progress, but have a look:

https://fountaincitymeditation.com/

and click here for my newsletter:

Newsletter

Posted in videos

Faith, Determination, Doubt | Video

Great Faith, Great Determination, Great Doubt. These are called the Three Essentials of Practice. So Sahn said that a practice that is missing any of these is like a table missing a leg.

 

The text I reference in the video is “Mirror of Zen”. You can get my commentary on this wonderful text by clicking here:

Mirror of Zen

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UPCOMING EVENTS

4/20/19: 11am-Noon

Fountain City Meditation: Meditate For Our Lives at Unity Southeast

Unity Southeast KC

3421 East Meyer Boulevard

Kansas City, MO

This is a public event. We’re meditating outside of a church. I’m going to give a short talk and a bit of guidance, then we will sit together. Tell all your friends.

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My Newsletter: https://mailchi.mp/87b4d12d6983/daniels-newsletter

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCT_tV_JzK871blW9xETSBvQ/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanielScharpenburgWriter/

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/DanielSch

 

 

 

 

Posted in fountain city meditation, podcast

Insecurity: Brain Weasels and other stuff

I recorded a two part episode of my podcast Scharpening the Mind on the subject of Insecurity. For both of these episodes I was joined by my wonderful co-host and domestic partner Alicia Marley. Sitting down and recording with her was really great. 

You can listen to it here:

Insecurity Part One

Insecurity Part Two

I wanted to write on the subject a little as well.

We usually don’t see ourselves clearly.

We often spend time either over or under-estimating ourselves. Sometimes we tend to either think we’re great and we can’t possibly be causing our own problems, that we can’t be wrong in any conflict, that nothing is our fault. Other times it’s the opposite. We tend to think of ourselves as failures. We think other people are cooler or more attractive or more valuable than we are. It’s rare for us to have a clear picture of ourselves.

Insecurity comes from that under-estimation. That’s what I’m writing about now. Insecurity is a powerful force in many of our lives. I think it’s one of those things that is a fundamental part of the human condition. Even people that seem to have it all together are insecure at times. I’m not even sure if people that seem to have it all together are ANY less insecure than the rest of us, really.

I’m insecure about all sorts of things. I don’t like the way my belly sticks out. I think I should be making more money.

I sometimes wonder if I should be leading my own meditation events. I sometimes have these questions that come into my mind. “Why do you think people want this?” “Aren’t there plenty of places people can go for meditation in Kansas City?”

And the truth is I’m just inspired to share this practice, sharing it doesn’t cost me anything but my time, and if I can just encourage one person…that’s enough.

The other question that comes to mind sometimes is “Why start your own? Why not just teach in someone else’s community?”
And I guess I have some sort of insecurity around that too. I’m doing this because I don’t think anyone wants me to teach in their community. I would if they asked.

Anyway, I said all that so I could introduce you to the concept of Brain Weasels. I talked about this in the podcasts, but thought I’d show you the definition.

From Urban Dictionary Brain Weasels are:

Intrusive thoughts of self-doubt and despair, often associated with depression or anxiety, that crawl into your brain and make it hard to focus on other things.

These are those voices that show up in our heads to tell us we’ll never succeed, or that we’re worthless, or not good enough. They have plenty of awful things to say and sometimes it seems like they’re talking a lot.

I think we all have this experience. I don’t think we can make the brain weasels go away, but I do think we can make them stop being so loud. When our attention is fractured, when we’re not mindful of our experience, when we are spending a lot of time and energy carrying our baggage and neuroses…it’s really easy for those brain weasels to be loud and obnoxious.

That’s where our meditation training comes in. When we’re learning how to focus and how to see things clearly we’re also learning how to make those voices stop being so loud.

The truth is that we’re creating those voices. They don’t come from nowhere. They come from us. And because of that, we can learn to stop creating them so much. That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s not.

When we listen to these voices we are getting in our own way. They make it more difficult for us to have a sense of well-being. Part of our meditation training is about learning how to stop getting in our own way all the time. This is just one aspect of that, but I think it’s one that everyone understands and can relate to.

How do we meditate?

Come see me and I’ll show you.

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Click here:

Scharpening The Mind

Posted in buddhism, podcast

Baggage and Clarity

I gave a talk recently at Fountain City Meditation about the baggage we carry in our lives and about learning to see things more clearly.

You can listen to that talk here. I think it’s really good:

With Thoughts Clear, Sitting Silently | Scharpening the Mind

And I wanted to write something on the same subject.

“You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness.” -Honghzi

We’re trying to get better. That’s what this path is about. Trying to get better. Trying to be more mindful, to see things more clearly, to pay attention, to move through the world in a way that’s less harmful. That’s what all of this is about.

In the quote above Honghzi is talking about working with our bad habits, about improving ourselves and overcoming some of the things that are stopping us from realizing our potential. This is very important.

What are the things that are holding us back?

That old cliché is true. We are our own worst enemies. We are holding ourselves back more than anything else most of the time. We have habits and tendencies that aren’t helpful. We have baggage that we’re carrying around and we sometimes think that we are our baggage. But we’re not.

You’re not an angry person. You’re a person experiencing anger. You’re not a helpless person, you’re a person that is struggling to feel hopeful. You’re not broken, or at least no more broken than anyone else.

We’re working on improving ourselves and that seems really intimidating. Often we think we can’t do it. We’re trying to become more mindful and aware, but how can we when we feel so scattered and lost all the time?

So, with our practice, what we want to do is see if we can put down our baggage for a few minutes and just see what happens. When we train in this way, when we practice seeing the world without all our baggage and neuroses, then something special can happen for us. We can start seeing the world more clearly all the time.

Seeing things clearly is how we make good choices.

“With thoughts clear, sitting silently, wander into the circle of wonder. This is how you must penetrate and study.” -Hongzhi

That’s what we’re doing. The world is full of wonder. Another aspect of what we’re doing here is learning to pay attention. The world is an amazing place, but we’re missing it all the time because we’re so distracted. With our practice we can learn how to tune out those distractions and experience the world in a more authentic way.

 

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*quotes are taken from “Cultivating the Empty Field, The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi” by Taigen Dan Leighton, which you can get here:

Cultivating the Empty Field | amazon

 

links:

The Story of Honghzi | Patheos

Scharpening the Mind Podcast

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If you really love what you see here and you want to see more, you can sign up for my Patreon and help me pay for this website:

https://www.patreon.com/DanielSch

 

 

 

 

Posted in fountain city meditation

Common Questions

“Are you going to have outdoor events again?”

Yes. When (if?) winter ends in Kansas City. I’m excited to get back out there. There’s something special about meditating in an outdoor space and I think it’s also very inviting to new people, which is good. I’m looking at weekends in April for an outdoor event. March seems like too soon.

 

“Will you come give a talk at my favorite temple/center/community?”

I’d be happy to. Ask whoever makes decisions about guest speakers to reach out to me. I am willing to go anywhere that I am invited and I enjoy speaking to different audiences.

 

“What if I can’t meditate?”

I truly believe that you can. Let me help.

 

“There are many meditation communities in Kansas City. Why aren’t you teaching at any of those?”

My goal is to take meditation out of the temples and yoga studios and bring it to people in other places. That being said, if any of the meditation communities in Kansas City invited me to be a teacher there, I’d be happy to do that. If you think I’d be a good fit anywhere, tell them.

 

“Do I have to be religious/spiritual to meditate?”

No. This is about learning how to work with our minds. We are learning how to concentrate, to be more present, and to have more awareness. You can do this practice whether you’re very religious or even if you consider yourself anti-religion. My goal is to help people meditate regardless of their spiritual (or other) views.

 

“Why are you doing Fountain City Meditation by yourself?”

I’d be willing to collaborate with others. My intent is to reach people that aren’t being reached right now by the various meditation communities that are around. Many people are interested in meditation but also intimidated by the way it’s often presented. If you know a meditation teacher that shares that goal and lives in the area, again, ask them to reach out to me. As an aside, I don’t really feel like I’m doing it by myself most of the time. The people that come are active participants and we’re all doing it together. I’m just the guy making the schedule and talking a little bit.

 

“I’ve never meditated before, can I come to one of your events?”
Yes! People that have zero experience are some of my favorites to talk to. I can spend as much time as a I need to helping you understand the practice and answering any questions you may have. Please come.

 

“Why is your indoor location your house?”

I struggled with what to do when it got cold last year and I knew we couldn’t meditate outside anymore. I came up with doing it in my home for a few reasons, but mainly this: if I rent a space I’m going to end up asking for donations. I don’t think asking for donations is bad, but I wanted to create a situation where no one feels insecure because they can’t pay anything. If a really cool space was offered to me, I might reconsider this, but I’m not looking for one. I like that this only costs me my time because I don’t have to ask anyone to help me with the expenses.


questions or comments?


 

 

 

 

 

Posted in videos

Comparisons, Labels, and Encouragement (Video)

Here’s a talk I gave on comparisons and encouragement with quotes from the text “Faith in Mind”

Let me know what you think.

 

click here to visit my YouTube Channel:

YouTube

You can get another version of this talk that’s audio only here:

Podcast

Further Reading:

Faith in Mind

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