MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS – A MORNING WORKSHOP

Saturday 26th May 10 – 1 Ryhall Village Hall

Many people get frustrated with meditation or simply have no idea where to start. Meditation is meant to be enjoyable, relaxing and a powerful tool for our health. I have put together a morning of movement and stillness, noise and silence, laughter and peace so that I can pass on this hugely rewarding practice. No previous experience of yoga is necessary – just a mat and blanket.

So what exactly is meditation? Emptying your mind like emptying your kitchen bin??? Well it can have that effect – but in a more gentle manner – we are trying to sooth the mind and reduce the ‘background’ noise. Meditation gives our mind something to focus on, so it has an anchor to hold onto. Anchors may include saying a mantra, looking at an object, watching the breath or simple movements. An anchor also helps us be fully present and live in the moment – trying to stop thoughts of the past and future.

Holding onto these anchors helps quiet our minds and then we can get a glimpse of how the mind is working.  We can then get to see our worries, our obsessions and the busyness of the mind just like clouds floating in the sky. Potentially, we can choose to let these things go as we put some perspective onto the thoughts and see them as just that – thoughts.  In a sense we develop our own method of managing our thoughts. Instead of our thoughts controlling us we get some control over them!

Some people see meditation like sitting at the shore of the ocean of your mind and just watching the waves come and go. We’re not pushing our thoughts away, or judging them but simply watching these thoughts as we’d watch the waves while sitting on the beach. And whilst on the beach watching each wave there’s also a sense of connection to something bigger, something that helps you put some perspective onto the thoughts.

But what if I can’t sit still? Or simply don’t have 5 minutes a day to practice? Don’t worry, meditation is not supposed to be something that is added to your to-do list. Fidgetty people are actually the ones who can benefit the most from meditation, as it helps you to r-e-l-a-x. You can meditate walking or gently moving the body in different ways as well as the traditional statue-like state. That said, being still in the body does help to be still in the mind, but this will come with practice and patience.  There are many well respected studies that show how beneficial meditation is for stress reduction, productivity improvement and easing insomnia. You can read more about this here

On this MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS workshop you will take a light hearted tour around the important aspects of meditation and explore several different methods. It is experiential (you will do things) as well as being a little theoretical, giving you some background information which will hopefully inspire and fire you up to make time for meditation in your life.

Please book your place in class or email me via the Contact Us page.

Live each moment as a moment of pure joy!

The Radiance Sutras are a wonderful set of verses which help us to stop and appreciate the present moment. They are translated from an ancient text and give us  112 ‘yuktis’, or yoga meditation practices, for opening to the divine mystery within everyday experiences… here is yukti 51…

Wherever, whenever you feel carried away,

Rejoicing in every breath,

There, there is your meditation hall.

Cherish these times of absorption-

Rocking the baby in the silence of the night,

Pouring water into a crystal glass,

Tending the logs in a crackling fire,

Sharing a meal with a circle of friends,

Embrace these pleasures and know,

“This is my true body.”

 

Nowhere is more holy than this.

Right here is the sacred pilgrimage.

Live in alertness for such a moment, my beloved,

As if it were your one meeting with the Creator.

(Taken from The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche)

Walk With Me…

If you would like to learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh and his methods of meditation and mindfulness, there will be a screening of a film about his village on Thursday 1st February at the Arts Centre, Stamford.  If you are interested in something it’s always worthwhile to find out about it from a variety of sources – our brains seem to like to connect a bit of reading, a bit of chatting and a bit of doing together and this makes ideas ‘stick’ firmer into our minds.
Review from Rotten Tomatoes –
With unprecedented access, WALK WITH ME goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community who have given up all their possessions and signed up to a life of chastity for one common purpose – to transform their suffering, and practice the art of mindfulness with the world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Filmed over three years, in their monastery in rural France and on the road in the USA, this visceral film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life. As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

 

SYNOPSIS

“Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ (Black Gold, LFF2006) fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil.”

Laure Bonville, London Film Festival

The Blooming of a Lotus

In the yoga classes this term we are working with the Thich Nhat Hanh book “The Blooming of a Lotus”. This book guides us through simple techniques of meditation to help focus on the ‘now’.  If you want to get your own copy, we are starting at the very beginning and working through the first and second exercises from chapter 1.

Here is a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh from the beginning of chaper 1 –

“In the Anapanasai Sutta, the Buddha teaches mindfulness of breathing as a guided meditation. There are sixteen exercises divided into four parts. The first part is using the breath to be mindful of the body. The second is using the breath to be mindful of the feelings. The third is breathing to be mindful of the mind. The fourth is breathing to be mindful of the objects of the mind. In this book all four of these areas or fields of mindfulness are covered. The exercises on mindfulness of the body are the most basic practice and can be used at any time as an introduction to exercises for looking deeply and transforming. They help us become accustomed to breathing consciously and to use the breathing to unite the body and mind.”

The River by Thich Nhat Hanh

the river

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful river finding her way among the hills, forests, and meadows. She began by being a joyful stream of water, a spring always dancing and singing as she ran down from the top of the mountain. She was very young at the time, and as she came to the lowland she slowed down. She was thinking about going to the ocean. As she grew up, she learned to look beautiful, winding gracefully among the hills and meadows.

One day she noticed the clouds within herself. Clouds of all sorts of colors and forms. She did nothing during these days but chase after clouds. She wanted to possess a cloud, to have one for herself. But clouds float and travel in the sky, and they are always changing their form. Sometimes they look like an overcoat, sometimes like a horse. Because of the nature of impermanence within the clouds, the river suffered very much. Her pleasure, her joy had become just chasing after clouds, one after another, but despair, anger,and hatred became her life.

Then one day a strong wind came and blew away all the clouds in the sky. The sky became completely empty. Our river thought that life was not worth living, for there were no longer any clouds to chase after. She wanted to die. “If there are no clouds, why should I be alive?” But how can a river take her own life?

That night the river had the opportunity to go back to herself for the first time. She had been running for so long after something outside of herself that she had never seen herself. That night was the first opportunity for her to hear her own crying, the sounds of water crashing against the banks of the river. Because she was able to listen to her own voice, she discovered something quite important.

She realized that what she had been looking for was already in herself. She found out that clouds are nothing but water. Clouds are born from water and will return to water. And she found out she herself was also water.

The next morning when the sun was in the sky, she discovered something beautiful. She saw the blue sky for the first time. She had never noticed it before. She had only been interested in clouds, and she had missed seeing the sky, which is the home of all the clouds. Clouds are impermanent, but the sky is stable. She realized that the immense sky had been within her heart since the very beginning. This great insight brought her peace and happiness. As she saw the vast wonderful blue sky, she knew that her peace and stability would never be lost again.

That afternoon the clouds returned, but this time she did not want to possess any of them. She could see the beauty of each cloud, and she was able to welcome all of them. When a cloud came by, she would greet him or her with loving-kindness. When the cloud wanted to go away, she would wave to him or her happily and with loving kindness. She realized that all clouds are her. She didn’t have to choose between the clouds and herself. Peace and harmony existed between her and the clouds.

That evening something wonderful happened. When she opened her heart completely to the evening sky she received the image of the full moon – beautiful, round, like a jewel within herself. She had never imagined that she could receive such a beautiful image. There is a very beautiful poem in Chinese: “The fresh and beautiful moon is travelling in the utmost empty sky. When the mind-rivers of living beings are free, that image of the beautiful moon will reflect in each of us.”

This was the mind of the river at that moment. She received the image of that beautiful moon within her heart, and water, clouds, and moon took each other’s hands and practiced walking meditation slowly, slowly to the ocean.

There is nothing to chase after. We can go back to ourselves, enjoy our breathing, our smiling, ourselves, and our beautiful environment.”

With grateful thanks, blessings and love to Thich Nhat Hanh for his wonderfully inspiring work.

t n hanh

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered throughout the world for his powerful teachings and bestselling writings on mindfulness and peace.

His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh has published over 100 titles on meditation, mindfulness and Engaged Buddhism, as well as poems, children’s stories, and commentaries on ancient Buddhist texts. He has sold over three million books in America alone, some of the best-known include Being Peace, Peace Is Every Step, The Miracle of Mindfulness,The Art of Power, True Love and Anger.

You can find out more about Thich at the Plum Village website here