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

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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 anxiety, Patheos

Eclipsed Expectations

“Listen to the love letters sent by the wind and the rain; the snow and the moon.”

-Ikkyu

Kansas City.

Just on the edge of totality for the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

I still remember people going crazy over a partial solar eclipse in the area when I was a kid. There was so much media around that event back then, and that was only partial. This was to be a full eclipse, not experienced here for over 100 years.

People travel a long way to see total eclipses and we were lucky it was close to us. My research told me that my home and my work would get one minute of totality, when the moon passes directly in front of the sun. I wanted more than a minute, so I took the day off work. I went with my girlfriend to her brother’s house, about an hour away in Lathrop, Missouri. It was deep in the path of totality and we would experience the full eclipse for two and a half minutes instead of one.

Our plan was to go in the morning and just hang out for a few hours, watching things slowly get darker until 1:07pm, when the sun would be blotted out and we would be shrouded in darkness. I was excited for months about this plan.

Then something happened.

The weather.

On the Friday before the eclipse the weather forecast called for clouds and rain, everywhere in the area. We might not even be able to see the sun. And we’d probably be wet. Panic ensued. I wasn’t going to have the experience I wanted, I thought. It seemed so unfortunate. I looked to see if we could go somewhere else in the path of totality to have clear skies, but the nearest place with a clear sky in the forecast was actually 8 hours away. So we just had to wait and hope for the best.

This is a story about our worries and expectations.

I didn’t even know what would happen, but I was suffering, thinking about how my expectations wouldn’t be met, how I’d have to wait until 2024 (and travel far away) to have this opportunity again. I was thinking about how frustrated I’d feel. If we were really wet from rain or if the sun remained behind clouds, I would be sad.

That’s how expectations work.

When our expectations aren’t met we sometimes feel like we are being defeated. We get lost in the space between what we expect and what really happens. We are trapped in our expectations a lot of the time and they make us miserable. We tend to think about how we wish the world was instead of experiencing how it is. Part of what I’ve learned from meditation practice over the years is how to be here with what’s happening, instead of thinking about being somewhere else. Because being here now is all we can really do. We can decide how fully to experience our situation.

And, like me that day, we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about things that haven’t even happened. This is anxiety, something I’m very familiar with. Suffering because we’re waiting for bad things to happen instead of just being here.

It was cloudy and rainy when we headed for Lathrop, actually some land outside of the town of Lathrop, I think. The place we went is in the country. I live in Kansas City, far removed from such places. I didn’t even learn the difference between a gravel road and a dirt road until I was an adult. So, going to the country is like a little adventure for me every time, where things are quieter and there aren’t so many people around all the time.

It was only a little rainy, the vague drizzle that tends to come and go. As totality was approaching it stopped raining completely. But there were still lots of clouds in the sky. The sun only occasionally coming out from behind them. We had to keep looking up once in a while with our eclipse glasses, to see the moon slowly making it’s way across.

I focused my awareness to just be fully present, to not worry about what would or would not happen. I don’t mean to say that it was easy, but it was necessary. It would have been easy to ruin the experience for myself instead, just thinking about how things could have been different instead of dwelling in the moment.

Around 12:50 crickets started chirping. They thought night was approaching.

It slowly got darker and darker. When totality came, we couldn’t see the sun. It was behind clouds. So, I didn’t get to see any of those cool solar flares or anything. But it really does look like a 360 degree sunset. I saw the sky toward the horizon being that orangish pinkish color that you only see when the sun is going down.

And I saw day turn into night. Two and a half minutes of darkness in the middle of the day.

It was awe inspiring.

People in other places probably got a better view of the sun. But my expectations of wonder were met. I can’t express the feeling that rose in me as I saw this amazing cosmic event.

The world seemed to stop for those two and a half minutes.

Was it what I expected and wished for? No.

But how often is life that way?

This was an amazing experience, a transcendent gift from the natural world. The sun was blotted out from the sky and day turned into night. Ancient people were often terrified by eclipses. We just face them with wonder now. There is a lot of wonder in an eclipse and the truth is it surpassed my expectations.

 

*also published on Patheos.