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.

================================================

if you love my work and want to support it, you can click here to make a donation:

donate

Advertisements
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.

====================================================

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.

=====================

if you love my work and want to support it, you can click here to make a donation:

donate

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.

======================================================

want to come meditate with me? You can here:

Upcoming Events

===================================================

===================================================

if you love my work and want to support it, you can click here to make a donation:

donate

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

weird

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.

Facebook Page

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?

weird.jpg

Posted in meditation

Meditation Mob

I hosted a public meditation on July 28th and I was surprised by the turnout and engagement.
I’ve resolved to make this a regular event.

This is about providing opportunities for practice. Anyone can come, there’s no fee (I don’t even take donations), and people can come and go as they please.

In the earliest days of the Zen tradition, this is what a lot of the old teachers did. They just wandered around and gave public teachings. And that’s what I want to do.

I’ve spent time wondering, “How can I help people? How can I serve the community?” This is it.

Public meditation events.

We’re going to show up in public spaces and sit down to meditate. I’ll give a little bit of guidance and a short talk and we’ll sit with open hearts and awakened minds.

Why?

This is about bringing some awareness and positivity in the world. It’s also about showing people the practice. People may think meditation is weird, or that you have to go to some temple or join some group or something to do it. I want to create a situation where people can just show up and sit for a little while.

Why not give it a try?

Meditation practice can be taken out into the world. And it should.

Meditation Outside the Box.

You should come.


 

Click here for Upcoming Events:

Upcoming Events

 

Posted in meditation, questions

How Do I Avoid Being Aggressive in My Practice?

A reader says:

“I recognize a habitual pattern, not to be aggressive about eliminating it. But then the self aggression in “I should be more patient, kinder, better organized, etc…” can turn into “You/they should be more….” So I guess the question is where to interrupt that cycle?”

So, there’s this thing I always say when I lead meditations. I’ll say it even when I know the person I’m speaking to has been meditating for a long time. I’ll say it even when I know for certain I’ve said it to this person in particular before. I always say it because I think it’s very important. And also, I think it’s something we overlook sometimes when we’re practicing.

That is: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Now, this can apply in our meditation practice and also in whatever other practices we’re doing. I’m going to focus on our meditation practice first. There are several things that are important to a successful meditation practice—one of them is consistency and another one is having a reasonably quiet place.

But another thing often gets overlooked. We need to have a passive attitude. If we think, “Man, I’m having a shitty meditation! I can’t still my mind at all!” that kind of takes us out of it, doesn’t it? We have so much trouble with this, of course. We expect to be good at meditation (whatever that means) and we expect those results. Expectation is a big problem for us. We’re always expecting things.

I love that fake Shakespeare (Fakespeare?) quote, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Man, that’s good stuff.

Once we start to think of ourselves as failures in our practice, then we start to suffer. The great thing about meditation is that there is no failure. Trying counts as doing. The only way to fail is to not try. And if you’re sitting on the cushion and just thinking about your cats or the plot of Spider-man: Homecoming or having a beer, that’s okay. Just cultivate awareness of these thoughts. And don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone is distracted all the time.

How’s this relate to other practices?

Well, it’s the same. We can beat ourselves up in our compassion practices too. “I could have been nicer. I could have been more helpful, etc.” We have a real tendency to tear ourselves down and think we’re not good enough, but the same thing applies. Have a passive attitude. Don’t attach so much importance to success. Just try your best. You’re not in competition with anyone (even yourself) and you are good enough. You are doing just fine, I promise. An aggressive attitude toward yourself doesn’t help, just try to be the best you can.

And the questioner also asked, “What about when this turns into an external aggression too?”

Being hard on others is also often harmful, of course. What can we do about it?

It’s the same, really. What we want to do is see others as equally important to us. We’re all just trying our best, that’s all we can do. It’s important to recognize that we’re all in this together. It would be hard for me to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself,” while at the same time being hard on others.

A lot of our compassion/bodhisattva practices are based on helping us see others as equally important and I think that’s kind of what we’re talking about here. Once we learn how to stop being hard on ourselves, hopefully we can stop being hard on others too.

Life is a struggle for everyone and we’re all in it together.

 

I’m going to start taking questions. If you have something you want me to write about, write it in the comments.

——————————————————————————————–

If you like what you see here or it brings you some benefit, please consider leaving a donation. Even a dollar or two would be really awesome.

Donate

Posted in meditation

Breathing

 

Breathing is something that we do all the time. We can return our minds to the breath any time because it is something that is with us all the time. When we bring our minds to the breath, we feel connected to the world.

Training in following the breath is so important that the Buddha recommended it to everyone. Focusing on our breath is how we establish mindfulness. It’s how we can practice being here now. We establish a strong foundation of mindfulness just by being here with the breath, breathing in and breathing out with full attention. We are just using our sensations of breathing as a focus for our mindfulness.

When we pay attention to our breathing, the mind calms down  and we begin to experience each breath fully. Mindfulness of the breath helps us see that it’s a part of who we are, the main way we interact with the world around us. We take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide all the time. When we pay attention to it, we notice that and also we notice how our body moves with each breath.

Instructions for following the breath.

  1. Go to a quiet place.
  2. Set a timer. It’s important to set a beginning and ending to our practice.
  3. Bring your awareness to this moment.
  4. Sit in a comfortable posture and straighten your spine.
  5. Put your hands in your lap
  6. close your eyes or focus your gaze on something that won’t distract you.
  7. Focus on the breath coming in and going out.
  8. Try counting. On the next in breath silently think “one” and on the next out breath “two”. Every time a thought comes into your mind to distract you, bring your thinking back to one.

 

Some tips:

  1. If your mind wanders, don’t get upset, just start over at one on the next in breath. It happens to all of us.
  2. If you begin to feel sleepy, try cultivating a stronger focus on the breath. If that doesn’t work, try practicing while standing.
  3. If you feel pain, adjust your posture. Pay attention to painful sensations and how they change.
  4. If you have questions about your practice, don’t be afraid to ask someone. People with more experience than you will almost always be willing to offer words of encouragement.
  5. Be patient and don’t be so hard on yourself.