The Course An Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism started on October 5th and will be running until November 2nd. We are delighted to welcome so many newcomers with an interest in Buddhism.
Meanwhile, the evenings for regulars continue upstairs, and we are following a series on the Five Spiritual Faculties. Sangharakshita our teacher called his talk on these The Pattern of Buddhist Life and Work, and he stressed that they are about how we live a Buddhist life.
‘The overall purpose of these faculties is the living of a Buddhist life. Buddhism is concerned with life . One might almost say that Buddhism is life itself - life in the sense of growth, of realising the potential of one’s life.
A Buddhist is first and last someone who is alive, awake to life’.
We reflected first on sraddha (confidence or trust), sharing our sense of inspiration, what moved us, what we had set our heart upon, and how that sense of meaning nd purpose had changed our lives. Sraddha is sometimes translated as ‘faith’ but it is not a blind faith. The Buddha continually stressed the importance of testing any teaching in one’s own experience, and not being caught in any ‘view’.
Last week, we reflected on virya - energy, effort or exertion, and thought about what blocks our energy and what releases energy. It was a common experience that thinking about what we had yet to do, or worrying about an outcome, would make any task more tiring, and that being fully present to the task in hand, and aware of the process of doing would release more energy. Being in touch with sraddha, our inspiration, our sense of joy in life, would also help us to feel the energy flowing. Feeling a sense of interconnection helped - we can feel the difference between closing in around ‘me’ and ‘mine’, and opening out to a sense of shared work, shared world, shared humanity. There were also other ideas such as doing physical activity, or making a physical act of devotion , that could help us to contact more energy.
A beautiful shrine to welcome back new Order Members Vidyamani (formerly Pen) and Jyotidana (formerly Gill) last Thursday. A lovely warm inspiring evening.
On July 27th, Ros led a celebration to mark Pen's last Thursday evening with us before her Ordination retreat in September. Here's the shrine with Padmasara and Pen. It was a lovely opportunity to 'rejoice in merits' of Pen and the Llangollen sangha which for over 20 years has made the Dharma accessible and so changed the lives of many of us.
There are no meetings in August, but we got together on August 3rd to do some cleaning and tidying in the shrine room - thanks to everyone who helped.
Next meeting September 7th will be a Meditation Evening led by Padmasara.
And please note there will be an Introductory Course beginning October 5th - more about this later.
Wonderful chance to meet people from the wider Triratna community - there will be people from Ireland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Poland as well as the UK. Suitable for newcomers as well as Order members and mitras, children and adults, men and women - all welcome to come and practice together and experience a positive community. Some indoor accommodation still available, lots of camping.
Delicious food, music, talk, making new connections - our 'Great Get Together' Pop Up café yesterday.
This month we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Triratna Order and Movement, Llangollen Buddhist Centre is part of the Triratna community.
Triratna is a Sanskrit term meaning Three Jewels - the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (the community of all those who follow the teachings). Sangharakshita who founded the Order in 1967 considers Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels to be the defining act of a Buddhist. Founded 50 years ago in London, there are now Triratna centres and activities in 27 countries.
Triratna is not affiliated to any one tradition but draws inspiration from the whole stream of Buddhism. We are neither monastic nor lay, simply Buddhists at varying stages of commitment and understanding, adopting to the best of our ability in our lives the ethical standards of the Dharma.
We started our celebration last week with a Dedication Ritual, and a Puja. This Thursday we'll be thinking about the movement in India, where it is very strong, and the work of the Indian leader Dr Ambedkar.
Next week, we'll be looking at the Six Emphases, the particular features of Triratna, and after that thinking about the Refuge Tree, all the teachers of the past and present from whom we have received the Dharma and take our inspiration.
Many of us are deeply grateful to Triratna and Sangharakshita for making the teachings of the Buddha available to us and applicable in our lives. For many of us, contact with Triratna has been life-changing. We have much to celebrate!
Soft Belly Meditation-Stephen Levine (preparation for Metta practice.
Taking a few deep breaths, feel the body as you breath in
Feel the body expanding and contracting with each breath.
Focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen.
Let awareness receive the beginning, middle and end of each inbreath, of each
out breath expanding and contracting the belly.
Note the constantly changing flow of sensations each inhalation, in each
exhalation and begin to soften around the sensations.
Let the breath breathe itself in a softening belly.
Soften the belly to receive breath, to receive sensations,
to experience life in the body.
Soften the muscles that have held fear for so long.
Soften the tissue, the blood vessels and the flesh,
Letting go of the holding of a lifetime.
Letting go into soft-belly, merciful belly.
Soften the grief, the distrust, the anger,
held so hard in the belly.
Levels and levels of softening, levels and levels of letting go,
Moment to moment allow each breath its full expression in soft belly.
Let go of hardness, Let it float in something softer and gentler, kinder,
Let thoughts come, let them go,
floating like bubbles in the spaciousness of soft-belly
Holding to nothing, softening, softening,
Let the healing in-let the pain go.
Have mercy on yourself, soften the belly.
Open the passageways to the heart.
In soft-belly there is room to be born at last,
and room to die, when the moment comes.
In soft-belly is the vast spaciousness in which to heal,
in which to discover ourselves
In which to discover our vast unbounded nature.
Letting go into the softness of the belly
Fear floats in the gentler vastness we call the heart.
Open to the softness of the belly, open to the heart.
Next Thursday, February 23, we welcome Varabhadri to lead the evening. Her theme is story telling about the animals at the centre of the Wheel of Life, the cock, the pig and the snake that symbolise the craving, hatred and ignorance that drive our habitual unhelpful patterns of behaviour and thought.
Last time Varabhadri came we had an inspirational evening, so don't miss this one!
A beautiful shrine for a beautiful evening reflecting on the Buddha's physical death, his teachings on impermanence, and loved ones that we have lost.
Thank you, Padmasara, for evoking the scene of the Buddha's Parinirvana, with the Buddha lying between two trees, on the forest floor, white petals falling on him, his disciples around him. And for leading us in meditation and puja.
Thank you, Mark, for the photo.
Apologies for the missing blog - the title ' What is spiritual death?' without the content! Somehow what I wrote didn't get published. So perhaps it's for us all to reflect on for ourselves...
What a wonderful evening of meditation and teaching we had with Tejananda last night (2/2/17). It was inspiring to be amongst so many people of all ages and experience levels enjoying and learning from the experience of being led by such a clear and engaging teacher. Thank you to everyone. Pat x
This Thursday, a special treat - an evening of meditation led by Tejananda. He's a very experienced meditator and teacher of meditation. His last evening at Llangollen was called 'An Evening in Space', a title that reflects Tejananda's humour and spirit of open exploration in meditation, encouraging us to see what's in our actual experience - including 'space' - and let go of some of our preconceived views of ourselves.
We have spent the last few weeks practising the Metta Bhavana Meditation (the development of kindness), and thinking about ways to cultivate emotional strength and openness to others. Here's a few reminders about what can help:
The basics - getting enough sleep, exercise, healthy eating, having a laugh.
Learning to stay with felt sensations without going off into stories and justifications
Gratitude and Generosity - think of things to be grateful for; give generously of your time and possessions
Metta Bhavana Meditation - regular practice
Cultivating delight - make sure there's joy in your life
Develop friendships and community
Rejoicing in merits - your own and others
Spending time in nature
Having time to do nothing
Letting go - what do you need to stop or give up your life to flower?
All this builds a good foundation for something other than our narrow self-view to emerge - the stage we will be considering next.
'The natural mode of consciousness is to expand. In every moment we can either allow consciousness to unfold or we can make it "me" and "mine" and feel it shrink back to the level of egocentricity...'
Both the Solstice and the New Year are invitations to reflect on impermanence and change, and to think about our sense of purpose. Our last evening in December was a reflection on light and dark, the experience of waiting in the dark, being open and receptive to what inspires and guides us. Our first evening in January (5th) will be a meditation evening.
I hope you have had time over the holiday period and amid the festivities for some quiet reflection. I have loved the bright frosty days we have sometimes had. Here's a poem by Kenneth White that I love:
A High Blue Day on Scalpay
This is the summit of contemplation, and
no art can touch it
blue, so blue, the far-out archipelago
and the sea shimmering, shimmering
no art can touch it, the mind can only
try to become attuned to it
to become quiet, and space itself out, to
become open and still, unworlded
knowing itself in the diamond country, in
the ultimate unlettered light.
Our new programme is now on the What's On pages. This year we'll be celebrating 50years of the Triratna Order and Movement. Many of us feel deep gratitude and joy for the difference the Dharma has made in our lives since we met it through Triratna - the 50th birthday is truly a cause for celebration.
Last Thursday, we started the next stage in our series the Journey and the Guide, moving from the theme of mindfulness and integration ion to the theme of Positive Emotion. Of course, we don't leave mindfulness and integration behind, we take them with us, and they develop as we gain a more expansive view of how things are.
We heard the story of how the young prince Siddhartha left the palace and began his spiritual quest. Symbolically, this story is about leaving 'the palace of me'.
A lot of our thinking is about protecting and seeking security for ourselves and our loved ones. We react to experiences according to how we think they will impact us, Much of our thinking is taken up with thinking along the lines of 'I don't like this - how can I make it stop, what did I do wrong to make it happen in the first place - what can I do to stop it happening again' - worrying, planning, blaming self or others. Or we are thinking that soething is pleasant, and we want it to continue and not change. And there are many experiences that we barely notice because they are neither confirming or threatening to our self view.
So last Thursday evening we were reflecting on how to change these habits of thinking.
We looked at two ways of meeting painful experiences more skilfully:
using our pain to connect us with others, remembering all other beings who are feeling as we do, rememberng that it isn't 'my pain' but part of the world's pain, arising from conditions, and no-one is to blame.
connecting with fundamental richness - so instead of closing in around a painful experience, we open out to the richness of life that is going on all around us and in us, expanding our view from narrow self interest.
Pema Chodron writes very powerfully about this is her book When Things fall Apart.
The evening ended with Naomi Shihab Nye's poem, Kindness, and a metta bhavana meditation.
We started our new series on The Journey and the Guide with an introduction on October 13th and the first week on October 20th.
The journey starts with waking up to the reality of impermanence - this is how is began for the Buddha. Last week we thought about the experiences in our lives that made us 'wake up' and think about how we were living.
The first stage is also about becoming more integrated, having more of our energies available for our deepest values. And that means looking at how we live our lives now day-by-day,, and perhaps reducing 'input' - the kind of distracting activity that keeps our minds superficial and scattered.
This stage is about developing mindfulness in meditation and in our daily lives.. So as well as our regular practice of the Mindfulness of Breathing, it is suggested that we use a 'Three Minute Breathing Space' during the day - to
- notice our thoughts, to see if they are repetitive and going round in familiar ruts, and if they are taking us away from our actual experience
- bring our awareness to our body and our breathing, our present experience, calming the thoughts
-widen our awareness to what is going on around us
More on this theme this Thursday 27th October
Way back in early September, we ran the Pop Up Cafe - a fun and enjoyable experience. Great to work together and have a chance to talk, great to be able to offer food and friendship in a spirit of generosity. And it got a warm reception from many people.
Since then we have offered some introductory evenings on meditation, and welcomed some newcomers. This Thursday October 6th will be another Meditation Evening led by Anantamani, when we will be also celebrating Dr Ambedkar, courageous and inspirational leader of the ex-'Outcastes' in India, and his conversion to Buddhism 60 years ago.
On October 13th, we will be starting a series of evenings based loosely on the book 'The Journey and the Guide' by Maitreyabandhu. The first evening will be an introduction to the series and to the four stages or aspects of practice that we will be exploring, both in meditation and in daily life.
You don't have to read the book or come to all the evenings - each evening will be understandable in itself. But if you're interested, the book is well worth reading, clear, inspiring, practical, using creativity and imagination to help us on the path.
Here's a poem that could be about the journey - the journey of 'continually expanding through sympathy and understanding.
that the life
at which I aim
is a circumference
through sympathy and
rather than an exclusive centre
of pure self-feeling
the whole I'm out for
is centre plus circumference
and now the struggle at the centre is over
beckons from everywhere.
Kenneth White, from Walking the Coast
Llangollen Buddhists Bring Some Cheer to Local Community.
In a world where bad news seems to dominate it makes a change to report the plans by members and friends of the Llangollen Buddhist Centre to open a 'Generosity Pop Up Cafe'. An open invitation has been made to "anyone who's in the area and who fancies it" to pop into the cafe and enjoy a variety of vegan and vegetarian sweet and savoury delights - free of charge.
The Generosity Cafe is being run in the Llangollen Memorial Hall,
September 10th 11 am - 3pm.
The Llangollen Buddhist Centre, a member of the world wide Triratna Buddhist Organisation, has had a base in Llangollen for over 20 years. Asked why they had chosen to do this now one of their members explained “we want to create an opportunity for ourselves and others to experience and enjoy the flow of generosity in our local community. It is a real pleasure for us to do this in Llangollen, our local community, and we hope that many of us will feel encouraged to pass on the spirit of generosity to others”.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the Llangollen Buddhist Centre and the classes they run should visit their website: http://www.llangollenbuddhistcentre.com