Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Via Lion's Roar / How to Practice Shamatha Meditation

How to Practice Shamatha Meditation

Shamatha meditation—mindfulness or concentration—is the foundation of Buddhist practice. Lama Rod Owens teaches us a version from the Vajrayana tradition.

Illustration by Carole Henaff.

Shamatha means “peaceful abiding” or “tranquility.” Also called mindfulness or concentration meditation, shamatha is an important introductory practice that leads to the practice of vipashyana, or insight meditation.

The purpose of shamatha meditation is to stabilize the mind by cultivating a steady awareness of the object of meditation. The traditional practice of shamatha uses different kinds of supports or anchors for our practice. Eventually, this leads to practicing without supports and meditating on emptiness itself in an open awareness. For this particular practice, the instructions will be for shamatha meditation using the breath as the focus of our practice.

Shamatha mediation allows us to experience our mind as it is. When we practice shamatha, we are able to see that our mind is full of thoughts, some conducive to our happiness and further realization, and others not. It is not extraordinary that our minds are full of thoughts, and it is important to understand that it is natural to have so much happening in the mind.
Over time, practicing shamatha meditation calms our thoughts and emotions. We experience tranquility of mind and calmly abide with our thoughts as they are. Eventually, this leads to a decrease in unhelpful thoughts.

When we experience stable awareness, we are then ready to practice vipashyana, in which we develop insight into what “mind” is by investigating the nature of thoughts themselves. In the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to practice calm abiding and insight in union, which opens the door to realizing the true nature of mind.

Traditionally, shamatha practice is taught through instructions on the physical body and then looking at the meditation instructions themselves.

The Seven-Point Posture

The seven-point posture of Vairochana is an ancient set of posture points that are said to align the physical body with our energetic body. The posture has been practiced for thousands of years by Hindu and Buddhist yogis. The seven points are:

  1. Sit cross-legged.
  2. Hands in lap or on knees.
  3. Have a straight back.
  4. Widen the shoulders to open the heart center.
  5. Lower the chin.
  6. Open mouth slightly with the tongue resting on the roof of the mouth.
  7. Eyes open, gazing about four finger widths past the tip of nose.

A Body-Sensitive Posture

We all have different bodies and capabilities. It is important to adjust this demanding traditional posture to meet the needs of our own bodies, and not struggle to adapt our bodies to the posture. What is most important in terms of body posture is keeping the back and spine as straight as possible and remaining comfortable. So the seven points of a more body-sensitive posture could be:

  1. Sit on a cushion or a chair, stand, or lie down.
  2. Arrange your hands in any way that is comfortable.
  3. Hold your back as straight as possible.
  4. Keep your shoulders relaxed and chest open.
  5. Hold your head at whatever level is comfortable.
  6. Keep your lower jaw slightly open.
  7. Keep the eyes closed or open.

The Meditation

There are many kinds of breath meditations. Some have been written down, while others have only been transmitted orally from teacher to student. The following is a basic breath meditation from the Vajrayana tradition:

  1. Adjust the body into a comfortable position, and start the practice by becoming aware of your breath. Notice the inhalation and exhalation.
  2. As you notice the breath, continue to let go of thoughts as they arise. Each time you are distracted by clinging to a thought, return to the breath. Keep doing this over and over again.
  3. Eventually, as you exhale, become aware of your breath escaping and dissolving into space. Experience the same thing with the inhalation.
  4. Slowing down, begin to allow your awareness to mix into open space with the breath on both the inhale and exhale.
  5. To deepen the practice, begin to hold the breath after the inhalation for a few seconds before exhaling. By doing this, you are splitting the breath into three parts: inhalation, holding, and exhalation. Keep doing this.
  6. As you inhale, begin to chant om to yourself. As you hold, chant ah. As you exhale, chant hung. Chanting these sacred syllables helps to further support awareness and is believed to purify our minds.
  7. As you continue with exhalation, relax more. Continue awareness practice, letting go of thoughts and returning to the breath. Do this for as long as you can.

Via Daily Dharma: How Much Can We Forgive?

Consider the possibility, and I am only saying consider the possibility, that maybe nothing is unforgivable. Maybe there is a way to find forgiveness even for what we have believed for so long to be unforgivable. Explore this mindfully.

—Allan Lokos, “Lighten Your Load

Via Ram Dass ? Words of Wisdom - July 10, 2019 šŸ’Œ

Working to accept death does not exclude efforts to heal the body. In other words, you can go and swim with the dolphins, have chemotherapy or radiation, or whatever, if simultaneously you are also working on death. So that you can keep the balance even. ‘Ah, death. Ah, life.’ That’s the optimum place.
Not, ‘I wish for death’ or, ‘I’m going towards death.’ Also not, ‘I must have life’ or, ‘I can’t possibly have death.’ Because it’s the aversion and attraction that are the root of the suffering which turns into a problem at the moment of death.

- Ram Dass -

Via Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detailed Asylum Seekers

Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detailed Asylum Seekers

9 de jul de 2019 — 

Dream Action Oklahoma (affiliated with United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigration youth-led network) is organizing a coalition of groups in Oklahoma for a large peaceful protest at Fort Sill on Saturday, July 20, 2019.

This past March, Tsuru for Solidarity, a direct action, nonviolent project of allied organizations within the Japanese American community, gathered in Crystal City, Oklahoma in collaboration with pilgrims from allied national organizations and networks. Crystal City, a former WWII internment camp in Texas, housed over 2,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. The gathering was to protest conditions at the nearby South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. 30,000 tsuru(origami cranes) were strung on the fences surrounding the detention center to demonstrate solidarity with those detained, including unaccompanied children separated from their families.

Last month, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced that up to 1,400 unaccompanied migrant children would be transferred from Texas to Fort Sill, Oklahoma—another former WWII internment camp that held 700 persons of Japanese ancestry, including 90 Buddhist priests. Tsuru for Solidarity has been invited to participate and a Buddhist memorial service will be part of the day’s events.

Fort Sill, a military site, is a historic concentration camp that was used to imprison indigenous people forcibly removed from their lands. It is a place where native children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in re-education schools. It is a site where over 700 American men from the Japanese American community, including 90 Buddhist monks, were imprisoned during WWII. 

Concentration camps are used to indefinitely detain minority groups in violation of human and civil rights and without due process. Fort Sill is being prepared to once again become a concentration camp. Concentration camps are now being used across the U.S. on a scale not seen since the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans.

It's time for us to reclaim our moral center and our human commitment to one another. 

We are interconnected. What happens to one of us affects all of us. 

Speak out, show up, and get involved.

Please join us in this movement. 

We invite you to get involved by: 

2) FOLDING & SENDING paper cranes
Click here for detailed instructions & a video on how to fold paper cranes.

4) SHARING the message
Click here for more information.