September 2016  -  Meditation Newsletter from Vipassanā Fellowship

"May quietness descend upon my limbs, my speech, my breath, my eyes, my ears; may all my senses wax clear and strong." - Kena Upanishad

Meditation Newsletter
Wallpaper design, Whitworth

Final online meditation course of the year begins this week. Join us.

This year's final 12 week session of the well-established online meditation course from Vipassanā Fellowship begins on September 10th and registration for standard places is available.

The course is an opportunity to learn to meditate or to refresh and deepen an existing practice. We focus on developing a fruitful and sustainable meditation practice inspired by over 2,500 years of tradition but appropriate for today's lives in many cultural contexts. Many people have found it to be an inspiring and supportive way to begin a new year of practice.

This is our 19th year of offering online courses and this session serves as a practical introduction to samatha (tranquillity or serenity) and vipassanā (insight) techniques. Intended primarily for beginners - of any faith or none - the course is also suitable for experienced meditators who wish to explore different aspects of the tradition. The emphasis is on building a balanced meditation practice that is compatible with home life.

The course offers daily material for each of the 12 weeks, interaction between participants and support from the tutor. Participants also have access to audio guided meditations and chants to support the text. The course will be led by UK based meditation teacher Andrew Quernmore, a meditator with more than 35 years' experience.

The course begins on September 10th and ends on December 2nd. Application details and further information is available here:


Each month our Parisa members focus on a particular topic from the tradition. Over the year we cover practical meditation, cultural background and philosophical topics to help nourish our ongoing daily meditation practice. Parisa is a dispersed community of dedicated meditators around the world who have come together through engaging in one of Vipassana Fellowship's 12 week meditation courses.

Meditation Reveals and Heals

By Thich Nhat Hanh

When we sit in mindfulness both our body and mind can be at peace and total relaxation, and this state of peace and relaxation differs fundamentally from the lazy, semi-conscious state of mind that one gets while resting and dozing, which is like sitting in a dark cave, far from being mindful. In mindfulness we are not only restful and happy, but also alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality. The person who practises mindfulness should be as awake as the driver of a car: if he is not awake he will be possessed by dispersion and forgetfulness, just as the driver who is not awake could easily cause a grave accident. You should be as awake as a person who walks on high stilts—any misstep could fling him to his death. You should be like a mediaeval knight walking weaponless in a forest of swords, or like a lion, going forward in slow, gentle and firm steps. Only with this kind of vigilance can you realise total Awakening.

For beginners, the method of pure recognition is recommended. I have said that this recognition should be done without judgement: both feelings of compassion and irritation should be welcomed, recognised and treated on a absolutely equal basis, because both are us.

When we are possessed by a sadness, an anxiety, a hatred, or a passion, or whatever, we may find the method of pure observation and recognition difficult to practise, in which case it is helpful to turn to the method of Meditation on a Fixed Object, using our very state of mind as the subject of meditation, as this meditation reveals and heals. The sadness or anxiety, hatred, or passion, under the gaze of our concentration and meditation, reveals its own nature. That revelation leads naturally to healing and emancipation. The sadness, or whatever, having been the cause of pain, can be used as a means of liberation from torment and suffering. We call this using a thorn to remove a thorn. We should treat our anxiety, our pain, our hatred and passion gently, respectfully, not resisting it, but living with it, making peace with it, penetrating into its nature by the meditation on interdependence. A thoughtful practitioner knows how to select subjects of meditation that fit the situation. Subjects of meditation like interdependence, compassion, self, emptiness, non-attachment, all these belong to the categories of meditation which have the power to reveal and to heal.

Meditation on these subjects, however, can only be successful if we have a certain power of concentration. We get this power of concentration by the practise of mindfulness in everyday life, by the observation and recognition of all that is going on. The object of meditation should be a reality that has real roots in yourselves; it can’t be just a subject for philosophical speculation. It should be like a kind of food that must be cooked for a long time over a hot fire. We put it in a pot, cover it, and light the fire. The pot is ourselves and the heat used to cook is the power of concentration. The fuel comes from the continuous practise of mindfulness. Without enough heat the food will never be cooked, but once cooked, the food reveals its true nature and helps lead us to liberation.

Source: BPS, Sri Lanka, Wheel 234, 'The Miracle of Being Awake' (excerpt).

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Paul Dahlke, The End

Harvest Thoughts

by John Andrew Storey

The ingathering of crops—which in many countries gives rise to harvest celebrations—is an occasion not only for rejoicing but for sober reflection. At this time we are powerfully reminded that the law of nature is that whatsoever seed a man sows, the harvest that he will reap must be of like character to the seed. As in the vegetable kingdom, so also in the life of man:

That which ye sow, ye reap. See yonder fields!
The sesamum was sesamum, the corn was corn.
The silence and the darkness knew!
So is man’s fate born.

So writes Sir Edwin Arnold in “The Light of Asia,” while in his poem “Childe Harold” Byron says:

The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree
I planted—they have torn me—and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.

Such thoughts as these are both arresting and sobering, and the harvest unerringly brings them to mind. It is a source of regret when one has to look back on past years when little, or even nothing, of true good is to be shown as the net result of living—no fruit gathered, no harvest stored. Worse still is to reap a bitter harvest from our own foolish sowing. How true the old saying: “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” How true the words of the old jingle:

Sow a thought, reap an act;
Sow an act, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Though the glory of autumn is what has been well described as “the glory of decay” this need not be a season of sadness. The decay appears to be but a peaceful time in which nature rests, storing up strength for a fresh output of energy when springtime comes round once more. Autumn is never fully an end; for nature does not know the meaning of utter cessation from movement and growth. In a way, this golden season is part of the preparation for a new beginning. Those of us who live in the cooler regions of the world cannot help looking ahead beyond the approaching winter to the greening season of springtime and the colourful warmth of summer. In the dark days of winter we can recall in gladness the wonder of the good days that are now past, and then look ahead in hope to the future. Such musings can lead us on from what Shelley speaks of as “the deep, autumnal tone, sweet though in sadness,” and regard it as “the trumpet of a prophecy” asking with him:

O wind.
If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

Even autumn’s decay and winter’s sleep speak to us of the operation of the law.

… Nothing dies to die for good
In clay or dust, in stone or wood,
But only rests awhile to keep
Life’s ancient covenant with sleep.

The Wheel turns, bringing each season in its time. Day gives place to night, and night to day. Birth gives place to growth, growth to decay, and decay to death, and in due course from that which seems to be dead there springs forth new life again. So too does the Wheel turn for us, mirroring nature in our lives. We sow our seeds of wisdom or folly, and we reap our fruits of joy or despair. But beyond our present period of sowing and reaping, beyond that “winter’s sleep” which will come to each one of us, there is the promise of a new beginning, for, “as when the day’s work is ended, night brings the benison of sleep, so death is the ending of a larger day, and in the night that follows, every man finds rest, until he returns to fresh endeavour and to labours new.”

Source: BPS, Sri Lanka, BL66, 'The Twin Pillars' (excerpt).

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