“Stop all doing and be still. Let the fire of stillness burn everything and reveal That which is Openness.” – Adyashanti
January 2017 marks the beginning of our fourth year of the Just Sit! Tuesday evening weekly guided meditation sessions! Thank you to everyone who has come to sit over the years. It has been deeply meaningful to me to offer space for meditators, of any (or no particular) spiritual tradition, to come together and sit in stillness.
Beginning with the February 7th sit, the sessions are moving over to 10 Carden. This exciting move will mean a more public venue and, if all goes well, we will move with 10 Carden to their new location later this year, currently under renovation at 42 Carden Street. The new location will be fully accessible!
Another change for our group is the addition of Jennifer Storey as a meditation leader. Jennifer will now be the regular lead on Tuesday evenings, as the distance to my new hometown has finally proven too much for a commitment to the weekly sits. I remain involved with the group, helping with administrative details, and I look forward to sitting whenever I do make the trip to Guelph.
If you live in the Niagara region, or know someone down here who would be interested, I am delighted to be leading regular meditations in Grimbsy (Wednesdays) and Port Colborne (Mondays) at the beautiful studios of Yoga Truly. New weekly drop-in sessions will begin in the first week of February.
For any questions about the Guelph, Grimbsy or Port Colborne sessions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With best wishes for a peaceful 2017,
She came on my radar sometime in the past two years and although I haven’t read any of her books (yet), I have casually engaged with the free materials available on her website. And I have been listening to her podcasts and watching videos.
Fundamentally, to paraphrase what I hear Katie saying over and over in different ways is: ‘Did you ever notice that it’s not the world that causes your suffering? It’s your thoughts about the world. And that distinction means the end of suffering.’
And to quote her directly: “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.”
Katie’s approach when she sits and talks with people is to directly engage with where they are at, with their specific thoughts, feelings and beliefs. I imagine it’s much like it is said that the Buddha taught: in direct response to specific suffering. As she guides individuals through the simple steps of The Work, its beauty and wisdom are revealed in the application of that inquiry. And she invites anyone to try it. To look clearly at what is going on in your direct experience, and to consider alternative interpretations.
So, since there isn’t an overall doctrine (in fact The Work functions to question ALL beliefs), I have struggled a little with what would be most useful to re-blog here. But while listening to a podcasted interview today, my mind was blown when Katie explained how she uses her method of inquiry to explore the most essential question: ‘Who am I?’ So I thought, why not go right to the deep end, I’ll write and re-blog about what excites me!
What she explores (very briefly at 30:50 minutes) that got me excited is: ‘Am I my name?’ If you’re already familiar with teachings on the selflessness of persons and phenomena — what is called ’emptiness’ in Buddhist traditions — you might really enjoy this fresh and direct approach.
If you want to play along at home, and engage in a little inquiry into your true nature, here are the four questions of The Work for you to apply to that one fundamental belief: I am [insert your name].
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?
3. How do I react — what happens — when I believe that thought?
4. Who would I be without the thought?
The best way of engaging here is to be still and ask your heart. Sometimes you might take time to sit in meditation with the questions, and you might also gently inquire throughout your day whenever you notice the thought comes up.
There are other steps to engage fully with the process, such as filling in the Judge-Your-Neighbour-Worksheet and Finding the Turnarounds. If your interest is piqued, I recommend exploring the podcasts and videos where Katie works directly with people. That way you get a taste for how The Work works and how to work it (couldn’t help myself there). And you might see your own suffering and gain wisdom from hearing other people question their beliefs.
Everything you need to Do The Work is available for free.
Over at her website, much-loved teacher and author, Tara Brach, has hundreds of dharma talks available to stream or download free! As she sweetly says at the beginning of each episode, they are “offered freely, and your support matters.” I subscribe to her podcast directly through iTunes and enjoy listening while driving, walking the dogs or working out.
In her most recent offering, Three Attitudes that Nourish a Liberating Practice, Tara shares her experience and insights from a recent retreat. She begins with the line of inquiry that lead to her developing the talk: ‘what way of paying attention really wakes us up out of the dream of being a separate self?’ And then, throughout the hour, she answers this question by sharing stories and guiding brief meditations. Spoiler alert: the three special attitudes to bring to your spiritual practice that will yield results (regardless of your particular practice or faith tradition) are 1) relaxation, 2) interest and 3) friendliness.
While I’m at it, if you haven’t read it, Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, is truly wonderful.
A healing guided meditation by Jack Kornfield to open your heart. Find a quiet place, 24 mins and enjoy:
“As you breathe in the heart area gently… let yourself remember and feel the sorrows you carry from betraying or harming others… from betraying or harming yourself… and from being betrayed and harmed by others.”
Allow the meditation to take your heart from the feeling of sorrow to the peace of forgiveness, and finally to the mind of lovingkindness, for your self, your friends, your enemies and all living beings.
Oh, boy! I just love the build up. Brilliant, natural progression:
In order to generate a spontaneous feeling of love and caring, first imagine an easy-to-love being (we used a helpless baby bird). Then gradually, in ever-widening circles, spread that feeling of tenderness to other imagined beings, until eventually you have imagined including all sentient beings. Finally, in a surprise twist ending, give that lovingkindness even to that person who can be the most challenging of all to love and accept: your self.
Go, find yourself a quiet corner, take 36 mins and wash your heart.
“Mindfulness is not going to solve all your problems. It’s not going to render your life a non-stop parade of unicorns and rainbows. Nonetheless, this is a superpower. And one that is accessible by you immediately.”
I sure do share Dan’s view on the future of mindfulness and meditation:
“It’s going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like brushing your teeth, eating well and taking the meds your doctor prescribed for you.”
If you missed it, enjoy Dan’s and animator Katy Davis’s: Meditation 101: A Beginner’s Guide
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:
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