Inspiration through myth

In this engaging podcast, best selling author and teacher Jack Kornfield reads stories from Buddhist texts and explores their meaning by asking simple questions of his audience. The result is a lyrical and thoughtful hour-long teaching, scattered with gems of inspiration and insight for anyone walking the path of awakening to their true nature.

Path on the park“Drawing from Buddhist texts, Jack tells the story of the last year of Buddha’s life, and the teachings he imparted to his followers and future seekers on the path. Guidance for practice, and instructions for building and sustaining wise relationships were the focus of these final offerings. The power of mythology is emphasized in appreciating its capacity to speak to the human imagination.”

You can subscribe directly to Jack Kornfield’s Heart Wisdom podcasts on iTunes. There are new podcasts uploaded 2-3 times a month.

(via MindPod Network)

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December meditation sessions in Guelph

Two more Just Sit! sessions are scheduled for 2014: tomorrow evening, December 9th, and next week, December 16th. Join us from 7-8pm at 123 Woolwich St, 2nd Floor, for simple guided meditations. Learn to be still and relax. Sessions will resume in the new year, dates TBA (to be announced — check back here in the next few weeks).

There is also a final 2014 sit in December with Ken Hood, over at Living Yoga & Health, 105 Wyndham St N, 2nd Floor. Join him this coming Sunday, December 14th at 10:30am. Ken is planning to continue regular sessions in the new year too.

 

Sitting December 2014 v1

 

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Sitting at home

Do this! Quick and dirty instructions for starting a daily meditation practice at home — notes from last week’s whiteboard:

sitathome

Just Sit! at home:
1. Decide to practice daily
2. Create a space
3. Minimize distractions and interruptions
4. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes
5. Sit
6. Do not get up until the timer goes off

As to the details of #5, what to do when you’re sitting: breathe. Follow the breath with gentle, firm attention. Breathe in, breathe out. (Um, that link’s just a song I like, not further instructions.)

We’re sitting again Tuesday, 7-8pm.

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Row, row, row your boat

rowyourboatYears ago, more than ten now, when I started getting into buddhist teachings, I recall listening to an hour-long discourse given by a monk on his interpretation of the spiritual meaning to be found in the children’s song:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream

It was a brilliant talk — simple, memorable. I was amazed. He layered meaning into words I’d known most of my life. Words I took at face value. It’s a boat and you’re rowing it down the stream. If I thought of the words, it conjured images of blue summer skies and light clouds. If I thought of the song, it reminded me of amusing ourselves on long car rides or around a campfire. There was some magic in it, a lyrical beauty; the wonder to my young ears, of songs sung in rounds.

For nearly a decade after the monk’s talk, I went regularly to what amounts to thousands of hours of dharma talks – evening sessions, weekend retreats, weeks-long festivals. But that one hour I remember vividly, perhaps because it was early days in my spiritual seeking. I hadn’t yet given up the hard cynicism, the burden, of my adolescence. It was some perfect combination of familiar words mixed with the wisdom of thousands of years of inner exploration.

Of course, his talk was more strictly tied to a formal buddhist practice, but here is my current (yes, that’s a pun) interpretation:

Row, row, row is putting one foot in front of the other, powering yourself. There’s not just one ‘row’ because there’s not just one time that you apply effort. You show up for life again and again and again. It pushes you around and sometimes you struggle and it’s hard work and the oars are heavy. But you carry on rowing because no one else can do it for you. Your boat is your life, your vessel. Row, row, row could also be said to be your body, speech and mind, the components of your boat. An ipso facto sort of thing: row, row, row is your boat.

Gently is how you treat yourself and others, and also how you treat thoughts and beliefs. Gently, with compassion: with a soft and loving heart. And also gently, with wisdom: hold lightly to what appears, because it’s nature is interdependent, changeable and open to interpretation. The stream is the path your boat takes. And travelling downriver is letting go of control. Use the power of the movement of the water itself. You apply effort by rowing – sometimes to correct your course, sometimes to add speed – but always with the flow. Gently down the stream is humility. Keep your mind and body easy, natural and supple.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily are the ‘four immeasurables’: equanimity, love, compassion, joy. In buddhist thought, our natural state — the ground of our awareness — is bliss, pure joy. When you stop discriminating good and bad (equanimity), and cultivate love and compassion, the mind is said to be naturally joyful. I think of it as a child-like grace. A small child has not yet made the myriad decisions, the thoughts that pile up and then calcify into a painful judgmental worldview. Be like that child, now, now, now, now.

Life is but a dream.

Let’s talk about that some other time. I have a day to get out and enjoy.

Happy Saturday morning!

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