From October 4-13, I will be participating in a nine-day workshop called “Concentration, Jhana, and Breath,” taught by Shaila Catherine, at Heartwood Refuge and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, NC. This silent retreat is structured with alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation, dhamma teachings, and teacher consultations. It will utilize the breath as the primary meditation object and will encourage the development of meditative skills that lead to deep concentration (samadhi) and insight (vipassana). For my work meditation portion of the retreat, I will be teaching a yoga class, and, yes, I’ll be able to talk in order to give instruction to the students. I am looking forward to (and will definitely be challenged by) these nine days ahead, during which I will have ample opportunity to observe the antics of my “monkey mind” and to experience the stillness and expanded awareness that arise during sustained mediation.
Cindy is teaching a four-session workshop at Sunrise Yoga in Winston-Salem from Friday, Nov. 1 – Sunday, November 3. Striking a Pose Toward Inner Freedom: Yoga and the Four Immeasurables blends hatha yoga asana with teachings on friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. In combination, these practices can lead to a path through life of personal growth, awakening, clarity, and freedom.
You can register for all four sessions for $190 (by 10/18), or for $210 thereafter. Individual sessions can be purchased separately. See the Sunrise Yoga Workshop page for more.
I’ve focused my attention the last few months on the practice of equanimity, one of the four Buddhist immeasurables, along with loving-kindness, compassion, and joy. Equanimity in this context means to have a clear-minded tranquil state of mind, striving to avoid being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness, or agitation. It is the ground of wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. Although some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being, beyond like and dislike, without bias and opinion. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.”
The cultivation of loving kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity can open the heart, counter the distortions in our relationships to ourselves, and deepen our relationships to others. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
I’ve explored my relationship with each of these qualities as my thoughts and emotions have bounced around during the move this summer to my new home in Weaverville. I’ve had many opportunities to watch my mind bounce between like and dislike as I chose what to pack and move. The practice of even-mindedness has helped me to stay on track without second guessing the decision—except for maybe a few times as I unloaded box after box. I have collected a lot of yoga books over the years!
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”
Currently, I’m packing yet again. This time I’m traveling to Southern Dharma Retreat Center to teach a 4-day workshop that starts on Wednesday evening, Aug. 14. Don’t worry! The fabulous Lindsay Majer will cover the 6pm class at 191 Murdock Ave so you’ll be in good hands. I’m grateful to Lindsay for being the guest teacher many times this year as I’ve traveled the globe. I’m staying put for a while when I return, and plan to teach workshops closer to home.
I’ve taught a Buddhist study and yoga practice workshop at Southern Dharma for over a decade. Each time I prepare, I deepen my understanding of the practices I will be sharing, while discovering again the myriad ways that Buddhism and yoga support one another. For instance, here are two translations of yoga sutra I-33:
“Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene, and benevolent.”
I wish you a calm and serene mind. The practice of equanimity pays off.
Practice is key. Stay steady. Your mind is trainable, no matter what it thinks.
As I was sitting in meditation and not thinking, a multitude of thoughts arose about packing—packing for vacation, packing for moving, and packing for life. In a split second, I had loaded my suitcase with a yoga mat, a block, a thin strap, an inflatable zafu, and nine novels. Of course, I hadn’t actually left the zafu I was sitting on! Back to the breath and to being present.
If I listened and responded to every thought that wafts across my mind, I would be crazy. Literally. My busy mind has a List of Things to Do that never ends. Some part of me believes that if I get everything done, I’ll be happy. And there are plenty of books and online programs available to show me how to be productive and get it ALL done. The truth is that my To-Do List will never be “done” because some part of me keeps adding on to the list. Dust the baseboards. Pull vines off the trees. Walk the dog. Check the list.
Then there’s the Self-Care To Do List: Practice yoga, eat healthy foods, exercise, meditate, read more books about yoga and meditation. I can get very stressed contemplating all the things I need to do to decrease my stress!
What if happiness is an inside job (not a head job at all!) unrelated to the completed to-do list, especially to the one designed to quiet my overactive mind? How does happiness feel? Or contentment? Can you find the visceral experience of happiness in your body right now? Sit still for a moment and conjure up a memory of when you felt happy or content. Let yourself fully feel that throughout your body. Remember how that feels.
Back to me! As I awoke from the trance of thinking on the meditation cushion, I realized that my skin was tight and my jaw clenched in anticipation of “getting everything done.” I softened my jaw and relaxed my eyes, listening and looking inward. I opened to the feeling of contentment that I discovered. Ahh. Can I take that ease into the rest of life? Yes, if I’m attentive to what I’m doing right then and there without being one thought ahead of my actions. Without being caught up in any thoughts.
So whether we are practicing yoga, sitting in meditation or prayer, watching a bird in flight as the sun sets, or packing for a much-awaited vacation, let’s practice tuning into present moment awareness and finding acceptance of what is. Let’s tune into the spaciousness that comes from being fully engaged with life as life unfolds, not as it is in our head. My own experience is that the practice of present moment awareness is at the heart of self-care and it doesn’t require any list at all.