May all beings be happy

April 2018 – Hi folks, I’ve temporarily made this post stick at the top of the blog posts so that students in the current Lovingkindness meditation series can easily find it. If you are currently taking the course in Grimsby and Port Colborne, and are active on Facebook, you can also find resources in our student group, “The Hut” — simply click through, there should be a ‘join’ or ‘ask to join’ button, and I’ll add you to the group.

Ambika Cooper’s beautiful melody has the power to embed the lovingkindness (metta) verses in your heart. It’s in just the right key for me to sing along and I am loving that it’s become an earworm, with the prayerful verses surfacing in the spaces of my day.

Plus, Sharon Salzberg joins in this kirtan-style recording, bringing it to a beautiful close with her spoken word version of the verses.

Digital download, regularly $1.99, is currently available free: vanarasmusic.com

Sample the melody:

Metta-Chant-FINAL

METTA CHANT

May I be happy and peaceful
May I be healthy and strong
May I be safe and protected
May I live with ease

May you be happy and peaceful
May you be healthy and strong
May you be safe and protected
May you live with ease

May we be happy and peaceful
May we be healthy and strong
May we be safe and protected
May we live with ease

May all be happy and peaceful
May all be healthy and strong
May all be safe and protected
May all live with ease

(via Facebook)

Sitting through March

We’ve added more dates, continuous now through the end of March 2015, for the “Just Sit!” sessions on Tuesday evenings. (Please check back monthly for future dates.) These guided meditations are open to any and every one. All levels of experience and all faith or no faith backgrounds are welcome. Just Sit! is an opportunity to sit with others in contemplation and meditation, whether you are just learning how to meditate or have been at it for years.

For those of you who haven’t come to sit — or haven’t come in a while — we are currently dividing the hour into three meditations, or, one mediation with three sections. However you slice it:

Part 1 — 15 mins on the breath, developing concentration and allowing our mind to settle by counting our exhalations (to 3 sets of 21 exhalations) and then simply sitting without counting for a little longer, deeply experiencing the breath.

Part 2 — 20 mins on allowing, noticing and meeting our direct experience with an embracing mind of love, coming back again and again and again to the direct experience of each moment, allowing, allowing, allowing…

Part 3 — 20 mins on ‘feeling into’ our basic nature: the awake, alert awareness in which direct experience is arising — that which is always already present. We turn our focus from the experiences, the thoughts, feelings, sensations and pay attention instead in each moment to the space in which the experiences are arising.

 

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Hello body! I’m home!

Thich Nhat Hanh is answering questions from his 1 million+ fans on Facebook. (You can like and receive updates from his FB page here.)

The first question he answered was, “How do I love myself?” Beautifully, he begins with, “Come back into your body and breathe.” Playfully he says, “Hello body! I’m home!”

The further instructions are basically, sit and be with your body, breathe mindfully, watch mindfully. Being with yourself mindfully IS loving yourself.

He goes on to say that when you understand your own suffering — when you can sit patiently, mindfully with yourself — then you will begin to understand the suffering of others. You will understand the suffering of your father, your mother, your ancestors. Implicit in this? You will stop blaming others for your suffering and see that they too suffer. No one is exempt.

Compassion arises naturally from this simple insight. Enjoy!

 

Cute improves concentration

File this under S for SWEET!

In addition to making the heart all warm and fuzzy, have you heard that exposure to cute things has been studied and shown to improve concentration? This means if you’re looking to hone your attention, study for an exam, even engage in some practice that requires manual dexterity, you ought to warm up with exposure to sweetness!

Open to nature, open to gratitude

File this one under B for BLISS!

Nature’s Beauty Inspires Gratitude is a must-see 20 min TEDx talk featuring the stunning filmwork of Louie Schwartzberg. It starts as simply jaw-dropping time lapse nature photography and builds into a compelling vision for why and how to be grateful when we open our eyes each morning.

On the bio page of his website — aptly named “Moving Art” — beside the picture of his peaceful smile and super-clear eyes, it reads:

As the only cinematographer in the world who has been shooting time-lapse 24/7 continuously for well over three decades, Schwartzberg is a visual artist breaking barriers, connecting with audiences, and telling stories that celebrate life and reveal the mysteries and wisdom of nature, people and places.

If you pay attention right around the 5 min 50 sec mark, you might audibly gasp, as I did. But you must watch this one all the way through. Then be grateful you did.

And for fans of non-narrative documentaries, in 1982 he provided additional cinematography for the film Koyaanisqatsi.

Endangered pleasure

IMG_5481I love to hold hands. There is a basic deep connection in the holding of hands. It is intimate. A direct path from one heart to another.

I want to hold the hand of a lover under the covers laying in bed, while walking at night in the park, while driving country roads in the car.

I want to hold the hand of a friend as she tells me her secret thoughts or maybe we just sit silently.

I want to hold my grandmother’s hand again, feel her soft worked-in skin, her strong bony fingers.

I want to go to the hospital and hold hands with strangers who need a hand to hold. Need it more than medicine and more than words.

I want to hold hands with my brother, both in our forties now, and trammel all taboos that hold one heart at a distance from another.

 

About this piece: I wrote this recently as a 10-minute exercise in a workshop held by Melinda Burns. Melinda is a local Guelph writer who has been leading writing workshops for three decades. She is an incredible talent and one of the gentlest people I know. If you’re interested in writing with her, there’s a Fiction Workshop starting up next Thursday, March 13th, 2014 and running every two weeks until May 22nd.

Visiting Chan (Zen) Monk to give teaching in Guelph

YouMinVenerable You Min, a monk of the Linji School of Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhism will be visiting Guelph soon and has accepted our invitation to lead a meditation and give a teaching on mindfulness. The event will be Sunday, June 2 from 7-9pm at Sukha Yoga Centre, 42 Wyndham St (the same door as IF Footwear facing into St George’s Square). There are further details on the event’s poster, which can be viewed and/or downloaded below. Please feel free to cross-post and share and tell everyone you think may be interested.

Ven. You Min’s original connection to Guelph is through having lived here as an exchange student more than 10 years ago. In addition to his studies at the University of Guelph, he attended classes and a formal study program with a local Buddhist Sangha, which is where I first met him.

While organizing this opportunity for the meditation and teaching on June 2nd, I asked him to tell me a little about his path since his time in Guelph, as I thought some people might be interested to know more:

HAF: What is the name of your Buddhist tradition?

VYM: I am ordained under the Chinese Chan lineage (or called Zen in Japan or the West). There are 5 schools under this lineage, and the one I belong to is called the Linji School. Usually when we introduce our lineage to the general public, just mentioning ‘Chinese Chan Buddhism’ is sufficient.

Here is a good reading source on the lineage from  Wikipedia.

HAF: What does your ordained name mean? What exactly do you practice in your tradition?

VYM: I was ordained in 2007 as a novice monk under the name of You Min (有暋) in Chinese, which means ‘diligence’. Two years later (2009) I received the full ordination and became a bhikshu.

I spent the first 3 years in my monastery in Malaysia receiving training from my master, Venerable Zhen Fu. I started my formal studies in Buddhism in 2010, where I enrolled in the M.A. Program of Buddhist Studies at Dharma Drum Buddhist College in Taiwan. Currently I am doing a 9-month student exchange program at Institute of Buddhist Studies at Berkeley, CA.

The scope of Buddhist studies is quite comprehensive, which includes the history and sutra learning of the early Buddhism, as well as Chinese Buddhism. I am especially interested in Yogacara teachings (which is also sometimes called the Buddhist psychology), which is one of the three important philosophical schools developed in Mahayana tradition during 4th Century CE (the other two are the Madhyamika and the Tathagatabhadra).

Here is a link to more details:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogacara

Regarding the practice, we do meditation and sutra chanting twice daily (we call that morning and evening service). We usually do that with other sangha members while in the monastery. While meditation is the main practice, I also do the Buddha’s name recitation practice.

The reason I choose to further my study in Buddhism is so that I can be properly trained in my tradition in order to have dialogue with other religious representatives, buddhist scholars, as well as the highly literate public. I believe that practice and knowledge should be balanced for our generation of practitioners.

 

Everyone is welcome. There is no cost to attend, although we will be making a collection for the teacher and you are encouraged to give what you can/will. Making offerings is a Buddhist custom known as Dāna, the practice of cultivating generosity, which leads to the perfection of giving and letting go. In particular, it is considered powerful karma to practice giving alms to monks or spiritual teachers.

If you have one, please bring your own meditation cushion or stool. If not, don’t worry, just bring your curiosity.

For more information, to RSVP and to ask questions, there is a Facebook event page or feel free to email me at heather(at)merenamedesign(dot)com or phone 519.400.7862.

 

Mindfulness Meditation June 2 2013

 

You can download a copy of the above poster in pdf form, by clicking the green link below. Please feel free to print and post and/or distribute electronically.

Mindfulness Meditation Poster June 2 2013

Quiet and low down joy

MomGrief came to live in my body the year my mom died. It has never left. Sometimes it is quiet and low down, like a tide that has gone out. Other times it flows in and fills me up.

Grief is big. Like an ocean. It is wet. Heavy and soaking wet. It soaks my fiery heart. Damp air rises from it and fills my mind. Over time, over weeks and months and years, grief erodes hardness, bitterness resentment. Its waves soften jagged rocks into smooth pebbles then silken sand.

When the grief is quiet and low down, I sometimes barely notice and carry the day with an airy, open heart. But loss, even the simplest feeling that something has gone missing, can bring in the tide.

I’ve learned to welcome it. And when the water is high enough, tears flow from my eyes. Sweet and salty relief. Like Rumi and his guesthouse, when I feel grief arriving, I open the door, smiling, and say, “Hello loss, do come in, you are very welcome here.”

I’ve noticed that without words, if I drop the story, grief is not an unpleasant feeling, just a feeling. And as I sit with it, compassion arises and the sensation is a quiet and low down joy.