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 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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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 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 buddhism, videos

Forms of Sitting Practice | Video

Here’s a talk I recorded on meditation practice.

I focused on what we’re doing with our bodies when we sit down to meditate.

Let me know what you think.

 

 

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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

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?

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Posted in han shan

Calming the Waters

Waves roughen the sea and windmill turn because of the wind. Take away the wind and the sea becomes calm and the windmills come to rest. For every effect there is a cause. The waves of desire for things in the material world churn our minds, keep up in a constant state of agitation, scrambling in all directions. What do you think could happen if we eliminate desire?

Master Silly Mountain

 

Our various struggles can really get us down sometimes. Life is hard and we need to do whatever we can to keep it together. We are like the sea. We have different forms of emotional baggage and neuroses that cause us all sorts of harm. We want things to be different, we want things we don’t have, or we want things to not change when the truth is everything does. All of these things, our delusions and attachments, are the wind and we are the sea. This is a wonderful analogy for our practice and I like it a lot. We are trying to just settle down the sea. There are big waves sometimes and little waves other times. And sometimes the sea is very calm. People have described the aim of meditation practice in various ways over the years. I like the image of a calm sea.

We are agitated by our desires. And we want to be calm instead.

That’s what our practice can help us with. We want to learn how to calm the waters, but also how to not get dragged away when there are waves. Because there will always be waves.