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Posted in events

Monday Meditation is Ending

I’ve been doing Monday Meditation at Ubuntu Village for 7 months.

That is coming to an end. This is not an easy thing for me to do. I love leading meditation practice and giving talks. And I have some regulars now, so I definitely feel like I’m letting people down.

The truth is that for a donation-based group to cover the cost of the space, I would need a dozen people or more to come every week and that is not happening. I have worked hard to generate interest in what I’m doing and it just hasn’t worked out. I’ve tried a few different things and I’m not giving up lightly. This is very hard for me and I am emotional about it.

 

There could be plenty of reasons for why it’s not working.

 

One possibility is the day. Monday might be the one day of the week when people just want to leave work and go home and not go out again. Because it’s Monday. Maybe it’s easier to make excuses on Monday.

Another possibility is that most of the people I’m reaching are already getting all their meditation needs met. There are lots of places to go for meditation in Kansas City, so it’s possible that there are already too many options and no way for a new group to get footing.

And ME. Maybe people just have not become inspired to come sit with me.

 

I would experiment with switching it to another day to see what happens if I could. I think a Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening group would have a lot of potential.

But I can’t switch the day.

The space isn’t available any other day or time, so that’s the end of that.

So what’s next?

I am still interested in teaching. I would love to have another weekly group, but I think I’m not going to pay for the opportunity to teach again. I’m looking for opportunities that I don’t have to pay for. I always want to be donation-based and that means my costs need to be really low. I’d rather not have a meditation group than have one that charges at the door. I have nothing against people that do that, but that’s not me.

 

If you know a place I can go give talks at that won’t make me pay for it, let me know. I’ll still be around doing events when and where I can. It’s just not going to be every week for the foreseeable future.

I love what I’ve been doing and I truly hope other opportunities appear.

To be honest, I don’t know how anyone succeeds at this.

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Upcoming events

February 29th 2020, 2pm:

Saturday Sages Workshop

Meditation and Talk “Meditation for Everyone”

@ Aquarius KC

3936 Broadway. Kansas City, MO

Posted in buddhism

The Five Hindrances

This is a list of five things we talk about that tend to get in the way of our well-being. These are the things that often make it more difficult to be mindful and aware in our lives.

 

Attachment; craving and chasing after pleasure all the time.

Aversion; resistance to pain, hatred and resentment about our experience

Restlessness; anxiety, the inability to settle down

Sloth; laziness, procrastination

Doubt; believing we can’t handle any of this

 

 These are the things that get in our way the most. I think restlessness and attachment are the ones I experience the most. These things are part of normal experience and everyone has to deal with all five. I think it helps to remind ourselves that these things are normal, that we aren’t dealing with them because we’re broken. It’s because we’re human. To be human is to struggle with these things. It’s not your fault and you’re not less than anyone else because you struggle with these things. I hope we can stop saying to ourselves, “I’m restless because I’m an anxious person” and instead say to ourselves, “I have an experience of restlessness because I’m a human being”

And none of this is unnatural. Of course we want to avoid pain. We have survived by avoiding pain. We have survived based on wondering what we can handle. It’s all simply part of life. But the question is can we relate to these hindrances in a better way?

I’m not going to suggest that we can come to a point where we’ll stub our toe and just calmly say, “Pain is entering my body” but I am suggesting that we can notice when these hindrances are arising and try to engage with them and overcome them when they get in our way. Recognizing them is the first step.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

Posted in podcast

Don’t Be a Jerk, Be Nice, Train the Mind (podcast)

This was recorded at Monday Meditation on 2/3/20.

I commented on some traditional advice from the Buddha and we had a lively discussion.

Click here to listen:

Don’t Be a Jerk, Be Nice, Train the Mind

I mentioned Brad Warner’s book, “Don’t Be a Jerk” which you can buy here:

Don’t Be a Jerk

AND I mentioned this song by Otis Redding, which I like very much:

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in events

Paper Airplane

Last night I took my seven year old stepson to meditation with me. I don’t take kids to meditation unless they ask to go. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would NEVER take a child to a meditation event and I do understand that. But I believe that, as mindful parents, we should share the practice with them if they’re interested. Some people believe kids can’t really get much benefit from meditation practice and I really disagree with that. A long time ago I used to teach meditation to kids. Sometimes I think about doing that again.

Anyway, he was determined to attend. I don’t know why. There are four children in our house and he’s the only one that seems interested. He has gone in the past and (to my surprise) participated in the whole meditation. An hour of sitting still is a long time for anyone, if we’re honest.

But, although he really wanted to go, he also brought some activities. He said, “Just in case I get bored.” He brought some Dogman books and a notebook for writing and drawing.

I wasn’t leading the practice. I had invited a zen monk named Thich Tam Cu to come lead for the night. He did a great job, by the way. So, I had the opportunity to just be a participant in the meditation practice, instead of leading.

Thich Tam Cu is someone I don’t know very well. He’s from the American South and many years ago he was in the United States Navy. He’s a Zen monk and hospital chaplain now. He’s student of Sunyananda Dharma who, a long time ago, was once my teacher. He’s been studying with him way longer than I did and is still studying with him today.

Whereas I decided a long time ago to take my teaching in a non-traditional direction, Thich Tam Cu did the opposite. He wore a yellow robe when he led meditation, because he wears robes when he teaches. He’s actually not as traditional as I thought he would be, but more traditional than I am. He uses humor just like I do, which I didn’t expect.

It seems like I swear and talk about memes, drinking, and how fucking hard it is to start and maintain a consistent meditation practice in all my dharma talks. Not traditional, a little different. I’d rather be your friend and inspire you than be your teacher.

Anyway, what I discovered was that his style is similar to mine. That time I spent training with his teacher may have had more influence on me than I realize. Who knows.

Maybe ‘traditional’ is just a word I’m attaching importance to that isn’t there. I’m probably not as different as I think. If I’m honest, for a second there I thought to myself, “Maybe I should get the robes out of the back of my closet…”

Anyway. I was there and we were sitting, doing a very similar practice to the one we do when I lead, presented by this monk in a very similar way to the way I present it. 30 minutes of meditation, just like we do when I lead.

My stepson sat with me a few minutes. Then he left to go across the room where he had his bag full of activities. It’s a big room, he was pretty far away.

We were sitting there doing the practice and I heard this ripping sound. Paper getting slowly pulled out of a notebook. Then, I heard some other sounds. He made a paper airplane and he was throwing it. He was, however, still being quiet, as quiet as one can be when throwing a paper airplane.

At first I thought, “Why the hell is he throwing a paper airplane? He knows what we’re doing here! He’s going to bother everyone.”

I was not mad, but I was irritated.

And I decided, since we were meditating, to bring attention to that irritation.

And I realized two things.

First of all: No one cared but me. No one even noticed.

AND
He’s seven years old. He far exceeded all expectations for a 7 year old boy, as far as not bothering anyone. Between the meditation and the discussion (which was a Q &A) we sat there for an hour. That’s a long time for a kid to be quiet and all he did was make a paper airplane. (!)

 

And that’s when I found equanimity. In truth, I was only irritated for a moment. A moment was all I needed. That’s what meditation really gives us, I think. A little extra space between thoughts, or between stimulus and response, or a chance to reflect mindfully and stop a growing irritation. This is something that happens to all of us often. Some nonsense thing happens and we make it a bigger problem in our minds that it really is. We get bothered by so many things. The poet Charles Bukowski said, “We are flattened by trivialities, eaten up by nothing.” I really like that quote.

Would I have found equanimity if I wasn’t meditating at the time? I don’t know. Everything was quiet so it was really easy for me to hear the crafting of a paper airplane. In a more active day-to-day situation I may not have even noticed, and I wouldn’t have had that expectation that I was putting on him to be quiet. And the expectation I was putting on the room to be a quiet place.

The truth is that in meditation we’re learning how our minds work. We’re learning to see those gaps between thoughts. And when we learn how to do it on the cushion, the hope is that we strengthen those pathways in our minds so we can also do it when things happen off the cushion. The training we get in meditation is supposed to help us when we’re not meditating.

Otherwise, why are we doing it?

So, that’s my story.

A real and personal lesson. The gaps are really important. The space between thoughts. If we can get handle on that, we’ll be a lot happier.

 

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You can listen to me on:  The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

 

Posted in videos

Foundations of Mindfulness (video)

In this talk I explore a fundamental Buddhist teaching called “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. Can being mindful of our bodies, feelings, thoughts, and the world around us help us to live in a better way? I think so.

 

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in buddhism

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness Teaching is based on a talk that was given by the Buddha in the early days. It’s the foundation of what people call Mindfulness/Insight Meditation. The Four Foundations are considered the underlying principles that form the basis of meditation practice.

So, that’s what we’re going to explore here. We’re going to talk about what the Buddha said about Mindfulness and also how we can apply these teachings in our lives.

The thought behind all of this is that we aren’t mindful most of the time. We do very little consciously and often travel through life as if in a daydream. My favorite example of this is when I’m driving to work in the morning and by the time I get there I don’t really remember the trip. I’ve been on autopilot…which sounds very dangerous.

But if we train in mindfulness then we can shift away from that. We can learn how to be more aware in our lives. If we do that then we can meet the world in a more authentic way.

What’s so good about being aware?

Well, if we are more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, then we can have more insight into why we do the things we do. With awareness we can see which of our actions come from a good place that benefits ourselves and others and which of our actions come from a bad place. If we know the motivations behind the things we do, then we can make better choices. When we’re acting out of generosity, kindness, and wisdom then our actions are helpful to ourselves and others. When we’re acting out of greed, hatred, and delusion then our actions are harmful to ourselves and others. Mindfulness is what helps us know the difference.

When we’re mindful we can strengthen those good motivations and weaken the bad ones.

This path is fundamentally about suffering less. Mindfulness helps us realize and internalize the idea that these beneficial actions with good motivations lead us to contentment in our day to day life. They also help us progress on the path to Enlightenment. But we’re talking about baby steps here. At the same time, mindfulness can show us that actions that are motivated by greed, hatred, and delusion usually aren’t all that helpful to us.

If we have some mindful awareness then we can have space before we do or say something to ask ourselves, “Is this going to create problems?”

Mindfulness can also help us to notice the changes that are going on in our bodies and minds. Indeed, these changes are happening all the time, especially in our thoughts. We can easily get carried away and not notice the flow of our thoughts and feelings.

We often forget to pay attention because so many things are happening to distract us..I’m not talking about our environment, although that certainly can be distracting. I’m talking about all the things happening in our minds.

When we learn how to pay attention, we can gain a kind of clarity about our lives. We can shift our minds so that we can simply pay attention to the world as it is. There’s a kind of contentment there. In Pali, the Buddha’s language, the word for Mindfulness is Sati, which means “to remember”. We’re being mindful so we can remember the world and our place in it. So we can remember our true nature. So that we can understand that the only place we can find some sense of peace and freedom from suffering is right here, in this moment. Not in some other time or place. It’s with you right now.

 

Mindfulness is rooted in the earliest Buddhist teachings, what I call “First Turning Buddhism”. The Buddha declared to his students that they should train in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
“What four?” he was asked.

And the Buddha replied, “Dwell contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, unified, with concentrated one pointed mind, in order to know the body as it really is. Dwell contemplating feeling in feelings….in order to know feelings as they really are. Dwell contemplating mind in mind….in order to know mind as it really is. Dwell contemplating dhamma in dhammas… in order to know dhammas as they really are.”

The practice of contemplating the four foundations: body, feelings, mind, and phenomena, is recommended for people at every stage of the spiritual path.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of the body, the Buddha is reminding us to see the body not a single solid thing, but as a collection of parts. We are a collection of organs and other body parts that come together to form a whole. We want to learn to see the body as the body, rather than as our self. Like all physical things the body comes into being, is around for a little while, and then is gone. Because of allt he struggles with injury, illness, aging, and death, the body is not a good source of lasting happiness. If mindfulness can help us see the body as temporary and unable to bring us contentment, then we can see the body as it really is.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of feelings, the Buddha is reminding us that, like the body, feelings can be divided. It’s usually said that there are three types of feelings; pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. Each type is one feeling. At any given moment it’s said that we can only notice one type. We think of feelings in this way to help us cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of them. We want to see our feelings as “my feeling” rather than “me”. Language is powerful here. We say, “I am sad” instead of “I am experiencing sadness.” Why do we do that? Feelings are impermanent because they come and go, sometimes very quickly. Feelings don’t bring lasting happiness because there will always be unpleasant ones. In understanding this we can see feelings as they really are.

The same applies to mindfulness of mind. We talk about the mind as though it’s a single specific thing, but really it’s a collection too. Consciousness arises from our moment to moment awareness of the information that we are perceiving. The mind includes not only consciousness, but also memories and daydreams. It also includes our thought processes, the way one thought leads to another and another. Paying attention to the way thoughts arise and pass away can help us to be less attached to them. If we can be less attached to our thoughts, then we can see the mind as it really is.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of phenomena the Buddha is saying we should be mindful of the world outside of us too. This is where we come to understand that everything follows the same principles. Everything in reality arises, is around for a while, and then passes away. Simply understanding that the world is ephemeral helps us in our practice.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in videos

Kinds of Laziness (video)

Laziness is something that affects us in our day to day life as well as in our meditation practice.

When we make excuses, that is laziness.

Here’s a video I recorded about different kinds of laziness and how they affect us:

 

Here’s a talk I gave on the same subject a while back:

Three Kinds of Laziness (dharma talk)

and here’s a blog I wrote on the subject:

The Three Kinds of Laziness

 

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in meditation

Reacting and Responding

When we have any kind of experience or sensation, we usually immediately react. We react without thinking or deciding how to respond. We have a lot of autopilot responses that just sort of happen. So sometimes things bother us because we expect them to. If you’ve ever met someone who reminds you of someone else, you know what I’m talking about. We can get immediate feelings about someone and make all sorts of assumptions just because they remind us of someone else.

If we can learn how to stop and pay attention, we may come to a totally different feeling or action in response to something. Sometimes we don’t even know where our reactions come from. If we can learn to have a moment of pause, in between stimulus and response, then there’s a lot of freedom there. We can choose how we respond to things instead of being on autopilot all the time.

That’s part of what meditation is about. We want to find that pause. We want to take that moment to consider how to respond instead of just reacting all the time. With meditation we’re training our minds to see how they work. There is a lot of power in this.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in meditation

What Meditation Is Not

Many people have ideas about meditation.

I want to address some of those ideas that I think might be misconceptions. I’m doing that because many times I think people go to meditation events with certain expectations. Some ideas we associate with meditation are true and others are not. And some ideas may apply to some systems of meditation, but not the simple practices that I lead at Fountain City Meditation.

We do not chant secret words, we do not visualize magical things appearing, we do not pray or ask spirits to appear. And also we aren’t going to shave our heads or put on weird costumes. That’s not what we do, we’ll leave that to others.

We are training our minds to be fully present and to gain insight into our selves. The goals are attention and awareness. So, with that being said, I’m going to go over some common misconceptions.

  1. Meditation is just for relaxation: the issue here is with that word “just”. Relaxation is a part of this but it isn’t everything. Concentration, relaxation, and insight. This is about changing the way we interact with the world. If it was all relaxation, we’d just be going to sleep.
  2. Meditation is zoning out: There may be forms of meditation where this is true, but that’s not what we’re doing. If anything, it’s the opposite. We’re zoning in. We’re becoming more deeply involved in our experience, not going away from our experience.
  3. Meditation is mysterious and/or weird: I like to say I’m selling water by the river. It may not always be easy to talk about, especially if we’re thinking in terms of measurement or success, but it is about being where we already are. It’s all right here.
  4. Meditation is for people who are calm or spiritual: I think it’s for everyone. We can all improve our lives with this practice. There are no gatekeepers or prerequisites. If we think we have to have some measure of stability BEFORE we start a meditation practice, we’re probably never going to start.

 

So, those are some common misconceptions. It’s all here. Are you?

What are some other misconceptions you can think of?

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast