Mid-June 2017  -  Meditation Newsletter from Vipassanā Fellowship

"Mindfulness has, as one of its factors, the ability to be one-pointed. We do not become foggy or distracted, but can keep the mind in its place. We have to realise that the mind's obstructions are a human calamity and not a personal one. This understanding helps us to patiently endure and gradually change."   - Ayya Khema

Meditation Newsletter
Floating Leaves

New Online Course begins July 1st

Vipassanā Fellowship's meditation course has been offered online for 20 years and we are happy to announce that, for the first time, we will be offering an additional summer course. The course runs for 10 weeks and begins on July 1st. Do join us.

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.

The 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 10 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 July 1st and ends on September 8th. Application details and further information is available here:

http://www.vipassana.com/course/

 

Parisā

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 10 or 12 week meditation courses. If you recently finished one of our courses this is an excellent way to nurture your ongoing practice.

http://www.vipassana.com/parisa/

 

Noise-Silence

By Bhikkhu Khantipālo

 

(1)

Once there was a rather mad, meditating architect who was bent on building a completely silent meditation centre. His idea, inherited from others, was that there must be no noise to disturb meditation, so he designed a meditation hall which would be soundproof. As it was airproof, too, this meant air-conditioning machinery would be necessary … and this makes a noise. Apart from this, it was pointed out to him that though the centre was to be rurally located, there were such noise risks as tractors, milk-trucks and, if you can escape from all of these, there are birds. No, there were to be no bird-noises in the meditation hall! Fortunately, the place never even got started. It would have been a disaster! So much costly building to isolate meditators from the world they have to live in and come to terms with. Here in the Wat it’s different. It is true that we have no agricultural noises to contend with because we are isolated completely by miles of national park and crown land—all of it wild bush. But all that bush is full of living beings both day and night, all making their special noises. For example, Ten-Mile Hollow has a large and flourishing tribe of kookaburras which sound off many times at dawn and dusk and are liable to break into long cacophonies of ”laughter” at any time between. The meditation hall is certainly not kookaburra-proof; in fact as its walls are vertical half-logs, there are necessarily plenty of spaces between them, apart from windows and doorway. This provides cooling breezes in summer but means that a few blankets are needed for winter. Even meditators can’t have it just as they want it all the time! So, bird songs and screeches and all sorts of other noises drift into the hall. A good meditator just takes it in stride, notices it and lets it go. Or if concentration is even better, those noises are not even noticed. When it comes to the time for loving-kindness meditation then the presence of all those living beings “footless and two-footed, four-footed and many-footed” gives something else, apart from humans, to direct it towards. Because of this, living-beings nearby have no fear of the meditation hall and its inhabitants. Only the other night, a portly wombat scratching around near the hall continued to do his thing though I was only ten feet from him. This is how it should be in world at large.

(2)

Noise should not be thought of as a break in silence. Neither is silence an absence of noise. For even in the most silent of silences, there is still sound. Go into a dry cave and sit down: you can hear silence. Maybe it is the sound of molecules of air on the eardrums or perhaps it is just the sound of one’s own hearing system. Just by going places, it can never be escaped from. But on the interior journey this subtle sound can be used as something to be aware of when outside noises fade away, and even ”head-noises” have been stilled. As concentration improves, though, it is necessary to recognize this sound as impermanent, subject to variation, arising and passing away. It should not be clung to as “holy vibrations.” Even that sound must be let go of. Then what is there?

 

Source: BPS, Kandy, Sri Lanka. Excerpted from Bodhi Leaves No. 91. (1982). For free distribution only.

Meditation positively impacts our health

Mind-body interventions such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don't simply relax us; they can 'reverse' the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression, according to a new study from the universities of Coventry and Radboud. More details over at Science Daily:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170615213301.htm

 

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Image: Floating Leaves by Robert Wnuk (via Unsplash p.d.- edited)

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