Welcome to "Meditation Made Local"
You should know right off, you won’t find here an interesting discussion of Vasubandu’s role in Yogacara Buddhism, or the subtle accretions of the practice from the Theravadans to the Mayahanans. I’ve studied Buddhist texts only as a dedicated meditator who has a whole other career. That is to say, I know not a heck of a lot.
What I will do in this blog is talk to you as one meditator to another, or as one meditator who’s been at it a long time to one who may be new at it. Or may be thinking about meditating. Since I lead a weekly group, I’m going to let you in on what we’re doing. Each Sunday evening, we sit for an hour (with a five-minute break) and we discuss our book for an hour. Then I write an email to those on my list, recapping the previous discussion of our book and adding some thoughts of my own.
This is what you’ll get—free access to what we’re up to. We’re starting a new book, Joseph Goldstein’s One Dharma, which I read earlier with my meditation group in Delaware. By the way, a meditation group is traditionally called a sangha. There are “Three Jewels” or “Three Refuges” that sustain the meditator: the Buddha (a model of someone who has fully waked up), the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community who support each other in the practice).
What is it we’re after as meditators? Most of us got into this practice because we were anxious and stressed. Maybe our lives were falling apart. Or maybe we were just curious and found that we were happier when we meditated, so we kept it up. Chances are, it’s the former.
The instruction for meditation is to just sit still, move as little as possible. Maybe shut the eyes or stare at a wall (I’ve found this to be very helpful). We just notice how our body feels, how the wall looks, notice our breath going in and out, listen to exterior sounds and to our interior talk—that’s it.
There are many specific techniques for doing just that, but what happens is always the same. We go nuts for a while. We can’t control our thoughts. They leap wildly around or obsess on the same thing. We itch; we’re restless; we want to move. We’re seeing what we normally cover over with constant talk and activity. We may begin to feel very sad, or a bit manic. But we just sit through it. This is where awareness begins—learning how to be aware of how it is with us right now.
So what’s the payoff? We imagine if we’re dedicated enough, we’ll finally float on a cloud of eternal bliss. We’ll escape this vale of tears. What we get instead is a plunge headfirst into our life, as it is. But as our practice matures, we quit buying into our neurotic thoughts. We quit believing the silly things we used to about our lives. The thoughts are still there; we just don’t believe them. We’ve cut the cord that has kept us trapped. The freedom—and the peace— is unimaginable. There’s a great compassion, a kindness, and an urge to help others that is a natural outcome of the practice. More on that later.
This is where we’ll start. Next week our sangha (meditation group) will begin its new book and I’ll have that to talk about.
I’m happy to be able to extend our group outward this way. We’re all happy to have you join us.