Posted in meditation

Patience

Patience is something we can talk about a lot. It’s something we should be trying to cultivate because it’s very helpful, not just in our meditation practice, but in our day to day life too. We can always try to have more patience.

There are also different kinds of patience. My partner Alicia once described me as a really patient person and I don’t really see myself that way. That tells me a lot about this word and what it really means.

In some situations I have a lot of patience and in others I have very little. I have a whole lot of patience for dealing with people, especially kids. But when it comes to things like waiting in line, being stuck in traffic, waiting for an elevator, etc. I struggle to remain patient.

So we’re using this word to represent things that are sort of different. I have more patience for people than I do for circumstances. I think many people are the opposite but I don’t know for sure.

I want to suggest we can think of patience in a broad way. We’re talking about how we get through the storms of life. How we can go through our struggles and not fall apart. This is a broader way to think about patience. I want to suggest we can start thinking of patience in this broad way, rather than making it so narrow that it only includes waiting around for things that should have happened by now.

Impatience takes all of our attention, so cultivating patience is important. Meditation helps a lot with that. How? Because I’m making time to do something boring that I don’t really want to do. When we sit still and do nothing for a while, we are training in patience. We may think we’re just training in attention, but we’re training in patience too. So let’s sit.

 

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Posted in meditation

Posture – How We Sit

I’m going to talk about how we sit. What we are doing with our body in meditation is just as important as what we’re doing with our mind.

If we can sit in the full lotus position, that is said to be the best. It’s sitting cross-legged with your left foot on your right thigh and your right foot on your left thigh. I have difficulty doing this position for any length of time, so I often do the half lotus, which is left foot on top of right thigh and right foot tucked underneath left knee. If we can sit in this way we will be stable and our feet won’t fall asleep. I should note that if you meditate in a chair instead of on a cushion, the best way to do this is with your legs firmly planted on the floor.

More important than what we do with our legs is what we do with our back. We need to keep our spine straight. When I used to teach kids I told them to pretend a string was tied to their head holding it up so they stayed sitting straight the whole time. I’ve always found that when I start to slouch I also start to daydream. A straight back helps prevent the mind wandering. We think of body and mind as separate sometimes, but they’re not. Also, slouching for a long time will probably cause some soreness.

Next we need a plan for what our hands are doing. If we don’t have a plan, we might fidget. I recommend what I call “the bowl”. Place your left hand on top of your right hand, with each finger lined up on the opposite with your thumbs gently touching, so an oval is created between the thumbs and the fingers. Some people call this “the cosmic mudra” and I think that’s too fancy. Your hands should be in your lap, with your thumbs near your belly button. If this position really doesn’t work for you, the other option I recommend is called “the relaxation mudra”. That is simply placing your hands on your knees.

A lot of discussion could be had about what we do with our eyes. I recommend an eyes open practice. Tilt your head downward at about a 45 degree angle and gently focus on a spot on the floor. We don’t want to stare intensely but just look and make sure we’re looking at something that’s not too interesting or distracting. I’ve always found that if my eyes are closed, I’m daydreaming, but I know many people do recommend a closed eyes practice.

Posture is of great importance because body and mind are intimately connected. We think there’s a separation and there’s not. Straightening our body leads to straightening the mind.


 

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Posted in buddhism, fountain city meditation, meditation

Meditation Encouragement

I’m here to provide encouragement because we could all use some.

The truth is that meditation is hard and you have to work at it. People that are trying to sell you things may try to convince you that it’s easy. It’s not. What’s easy is finding ways to avoid doing it. I think of it as like flossing. It’s something we know is good for us that we don’t really want to do.

Having a plan helps in a big way. So, if we say, “This is the time we meditate and we do it in this place,” that can be really helpful. If we can create a routine, that is best. Doing it in a group helps too. Although working with your mind is a solitary practice, we can start to feel like we have a team to encourage us and make sure we stay on track.

That matters. I started a weekly meditation group to encourage others, but the truth is I know that inviting other people to meditate with me is going to do a lot to motivate me to make sure I practice. It’s the best way to make sure I meditate regularly. I can’t make excuses in that situation.

Another thing. To me the path is about being real, about putting down your shit and learning how to be more genuine. That’s the place I come from in my teaching. You will find meditation teachers who don’t talk about real life and who talk in weird sing-songy voices That’s off putting to me. It seems weird. I’m totally willing to be authentic and open and I think that’s the thing that makes what I have to offer unique. Many other meditation teachers will create distance where there doesn’t need to be any.

 

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Posted in fountain city meditation, meditation

Challenging, But in a Good Way…

I told my partner Alicia my plan.

She said, “Meditation and a Dharma talk every week? Does that sound…?”
And I said, “Challenging, but in a good way.”

I decided to start a weekly meditation group.

I saw that there was something that I wish existed and I decided to try to create it.

I wanted to create a situation where people could feel really welcomed, where there wouldn’t be cliques of insiders and outsiders and where people could feel like they have a say in the direction of things. Not sure if I’ll achieve that, but that’s the idea.

So I’m going to lead meditation every week. I’m going to give the full instruction so beginners and experienced people will be able to come. And I’m going to give a dharma talk every week.

And if anyone else wants to come in and give a talk too, they’ll be welcome to. There are no ceilings here. Come sit with us. All are welcome.

Monday Night Zen

Heart of the Dove

4327 Troost. Kansas City, MO

7pm.

Every week.

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Posted in meditation

Development and Acceptance

It’s a really good feeling sometimes when we think our meditation is working. If we’ve been struggling for a while and then we are suddenly able to stay with the breath or stay with our experience for several minutes, that can be a satisfying experience.

We spend so much time in the daydream, not being fully present that when we step into this moment it can be a shock to our system sometimes. And that can create it’s own problems. Once we have a moment of clarity, we might tend to cling to it. It can be very discouraging when some of our meditation sessions feel successful and others do not. It’s so hard to maintain a passive attitude sometimes.

What I want to encourage you to do is accept whatever your experience is in your meditation practice. This can be very challenging. We want to have feelings of satisfaction or frustration and just notice them, just be aware of them and be with them. If we attach a lot of significance to either experience, then our practice could suffer. We want to be with these feelings and not cling to the satisfaction but also not push away the frustration. The fact is that sometimes our sit will feel really successful and other times it will feel like a failure.

Your attention will improve over time. This is about training the mind. No one expects you to be great at this right away. No one is great at this right away. Our minds naturally wander and get lost. What we want to try to do is have a passive attitude so we aren’t really hard on ourselves when we get off track. We want to try to learn how to gently bring the mind back.

New meditators sometimes feel like their minds are just too crazy to meditate and that sort of misses the point. We’re not meditating because it’s easy to still the mind and be present. We’re meditating because it’s hard.

Hopefully with practice it gets a little easier to simply notice when our minds are wandering and to just bring them back to the present moment without getting caught up in it.

 

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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Posted in meditation

What Are We Doing Here? |FCM

My girlfriend told me a story about her grandmother.

She would have a Bible study group in her kitchen. People would come from around town and they’d just sit together and talk about their faith. This wasn’t the same as church, where people go to practice their religion in a specific and well defined way. This was more free. They were just relating to each other and talking about what they were trying to do.

I think that’s great.

It was having that in mind that inspired me.

I want Fountain City Meditation to be like that. Not a temple, not a place with strict rituals and forms. Some people don’t like strict rituals and forms. And some people are really afraid they’ll mess up and do it wrong.  There’s no wrong way here.

We just come together and practice meditation and encourage each other. And we do it in my living room.

There are lots of places you can go to for meditation in Kansas City. But I don’t think there’s anything quite like this.

If you don’t like the idea of going to temples or meditation centers, you should come.

If you do like those things but you’re just looking for a little more encouragement and people to talk to about your practice, you should come too.

You don’t have to be Buddhist, you don’t have to be spiritual. You’re allowed to think all that stuff is silly. This is just about training your mind to be more fully present.

When you’re more fully present, you can transform your life.

Encouragement. A chance to sit together. A welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

My wish, above all else, is to make sure no one feels like they don’t belong, like they aren’t good enough, like they aren’t part of the in crowd, like they aren’t doing it right.

If you’ve ever felt that way, you should come.

Fountain City Meditation

Meditation Gathering at the Scharpey House

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Posted in meditation, zen

Fountain City Meditation: Encourage Others

The world is a crazy place right now and I am scared.

Lots of people’s lives are turned upside down right now by current events and things are really hard to understand and hard to deal with.

This is a story I like to share.

A student went to Nakagawa Soen Roshi during a meditation retreat and said, “Master, I am feeling very discouraged. What should I do?”

And Roshi replied, “Encourage others.”

That story has meant a lot to me since I heard it. I think we’re best at encouraging others when we feel discouraged and it feels like there’s no hope.

I am discouraged. How can I encourage you?

Encouragement is central to this new project and I will not lose sight of that intent. I want to encourage you.

I teach online. I think if you’re reading this you know that. I reach people all over the world and it’s rewarding. I’m trying to figure out if I can serve my local community too.

Right now I’m envisioning “Fountain City Meditation” as a floating community, a group where we come together at different places and different times.

I want to provide opportunities for meditation practice and I want to encourage that practice. There are several meditation communities in town. I want to reach the people that aren’t feeling served by those communities. I know those people exist.

I used to belong to a Buddhist community as a very active member, I was around for years. I saw so many people come and go.  Some people would come once or twice and then go. But others would stay for months and years and then just be gone. I don’t know what the disappearing people needed. I just know they weren’t getting it. I want to reach people that feel like they don’t belong anywhere. I want to reach people that no one is reaching and I want to encourage them.

(if you want to know why I left, just ask. I want to share with others and I want others to feel comfortable sharing with me. There are real human issues in life and no one is perfect)

I also want to reach people that maybe don’t feel totally lost, but are interested in something a little different.

So, this is my invitation to you, if you’re in or around Kansas City. 

If you want a community where none of us pretend that we’re perfect or that we have it all together.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong in a Meditation Center or  Buddhist Temple.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re the only person in the meditation room who doesn’t know what’s going on.

If you really want a sense of community with your meditation group.

If you feel like you can’t meditate, or you’re not calm enough, or everyone will look at you like a fraud.

If you feel alone in a room full of people because no one in the community has reached out to you.

Come join. I want to encourage you.

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Fountain City Meditation

I don’t know how many events we’re going to have, or how often. A lot of that will depend on how much demand there is.

But I’m inspired to serve. I’m here to help.
What do you need?

 

How can I encourage you?

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