Winter Dharma Teachings
The Heart of the Valley Mindfulness Practice Center will hold a four part series of Dharma teachings led by former monastics Michael Ciborski and Fern Dorrensteyn. This year’s teachings will be organized around the theme “Serving the World from a Place of Inner Awakening”. An overview of the series is provided below, with details of each week provided in the events tab. Each session will begin with relaxation and include a guided meditation, a recitation of the Heart Sutra chant, followed by a dharma talk on that sessions topic. The sessions will be held at the Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, located at 262 Main Street, .3 mile from Exit 13 of Interstate 91, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM on January 24, February 7, February 21, and March 7. No registration is necessary. Call 603-277-9318, with questions.
Here is an overview of the series of Dharma teachings:
SERVING THE WORLD FROM A PLACE OF INNER AWAKENING
A Study of the Buddhist Teachings on Perfect Understanding and the Way of the Bodhisattva (Awakened Being).
We will explore how to care for our inner well-being so we can enjoy our lives deeply, and have fresh energy and clarity as we meet the challenges of the world.
Drawing from sacred texts on the way of the bodhisattva, we will cultivate the wisdom of interbeing and build our experience of connection to the world, dissolving fear and grasping, growing freedom and energy to truly serve.
Where and When We Meet:
Heart of the Valley has a Morning Sit and an Evening Sit.
MORNING SIT: Every Tuesday from 9:00 AM through 11:30 AM at St. Francis Catholic Church in Norwich, VT, .3 miles from the Norwich Inn on Main Street, which is .7 mile from Exit 13 on Interstate 91.
Typical Tuesday Morning Practice Schedule:
9:00 to 10:00 Sitting and walking meditation.
10:00 to 10:20 Tea break. Meeting and greeting new people and guests.
10:20 to 10: 30 Eating meditation.
10:30 to 11:30 Study, dharma sharing, and the quarterly study of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
EVENING SIT: The second, fourth and fifth Wednesdays from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, located at 262 Main Street, .3 mile from Exit 13 of Interstate 91. Please check the dates below here for evening sit schedule changes or contact us to be added to the email list for notifications of change. This only apples to the evening sit. Tuesday morning sits occur every week without change.
Dates of sessions for the next few months follow:
Click here to get additional information on the evening sits.
Below are mindfulness practices used at our Center
BELL OF MINDFULNESS
Throughout our time together — during sitting meditation, walking meditation, dharma sharing, tea time, and so on — a bell will be invited to sound periodically. Upon hearing the bell, we practice stopping; we stop talking, moving and thinking and come back to our in and out breaths for at least 3 breaths. Silently reciting a gatha such as this can help us bring together our mind and body:
“Listen, listen” (breathing in)
“This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.” (breathing out)
Stopping is a wonderful practice. When we have stopped to listen to the bell we can be more attentive. Breathing is a bridge that helps link body and mind. The more we practice awareness of our breathing throughout our daily activities, the more we shall benefit. The Bell of Mindfulness helps us to return to our breath and to deepen our awareness of the present moment. It is one of many ways the retreat setting helps us to become more aware.
We practice noble silence for the first part of our meditation session, starting once we enter the “meditation hall.” It allows the practice of conscious breathing to become deep and effective. Like still water that can reflect things as they are, the calming silence helps us to see reality more clearly and to communicate with understanding and love. The practice of Noble Silence is important because it sustains the energy of mindfulness, allowing transformation to take place at the base of our consciousness while we sleep.
With a good cushion, blanket, meditation bench or chair we can sit stably and comfortably for some time. The cushion or bench should be chosen so that our weight is balanced and supported on 3 points: our bottom and both knees. In a chair, the points are our bottom and our feet, which are firmly planted on the floor or a cushion. We can be relaxed while keeping our back straight.
There are many kinds of meditation practice. Our main practice will be mindfulness of breathing. When we take an in breath, we know it is an in breath. When we take an out breath, we know it is an out breath. When our breath is short or long, we know it is short or long.
We can be aware of the states of our breathing body and mind in the present moment without judging or trying to change them. To sit is to be a friend to ourselves. It is interesting enough that no effort or hard work is needed to be still and attentive. We can smile to ourselves with joy and love as we would to our dearest one. Silently saying “In-Out” while following our breathing can help us to be more concentrated.
Sitting meditation periods are approximately 25 and 15 minutes, with a brief walking meditation separating them. Although we want to keep stillness in the meditation hall, we also need to be responsive to the discomfort we may feel. Therefore, we change our position mindfully, and do not lose meditation time or disturb others.
Walking mindfully together as a group is a very powerful experience. We benefit from the collective energy of mindfulness and the peace of the group.
With each step we arrive in the here and now. We may wish to coordinate our steps and breathing as we walk. For example, we may take one, two or three steps with each in breath and three or four steps with each out breath. We keep our breath natural and do not force it. Our lungs will tell us how many steps we want to take as we walk. The following gatha can help us along the path:
I have arrived (in breath) I am home (out breath)
In the here (in breath) In the now (out breath)
I am solid (in breath) I am free (out breath)
In the ultimate (in breath) I dwell (out breath)
SLOW WALKING MEDITATION (INSIDE)
After our first period of sitting meditation, we practice slow walking meditation to exercise our legs and to practice mindfulness while moving. Walking meditation is walking just to enjoy walking: walking without arriving anywhere. We walk together clockwise, matching our breath with our steps. We are aware of the feeling of each foot as it touches the floor. We are also aware of our position in the circle and adjust our steps to keep the flow smooth so that we flow as a river in our community. Each step is an art of peace and harmony.
GROUP OUTDOOR WALKING MEDITATION
When we walk outdoors, we walk a bit more quickly than the slow indoor walking. As we walk, we are aware of the contact between our feet and the earth. From time to time we may wish to stop and greet the trees on the path or look at the sky. We only can touch these wonders when we meet our appointment with life in the present moment.
DIALOGUE, OR DHARMA SHARING and STUDY
The first and third week of each month, we read a short selection from one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. Generally, there is a theme we are following or a whole book we are reading. Then,after tea, we discuss the reading and our practice. On the second and fourth week of each month, we devote the second half of our session to sharing how our practice has been for the last week or two.
Dialogue, or dharma sharing, is an opportunity for us to learn from each other’s experiences of the practice. It is be beneficial if we share concrete experiences related to our practice. While listening to others share, we maintain awareness of our breathing and feelings, without judging or reacting to what is said. To agree or disagree is not necessary since we want to practice listening in a deep way, in order to understand ourselves and the other better.
We recite and discuss the Five Mindfulness Trainings during months with a fifth week.
THE FIVE MINDFULNESS TRAININGS
1. Reverence For Life Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
2. True Happiness Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.
3. True Love Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
4. Loving Speech and Deep Listening Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.
5. Nourishment and Healing Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.
The Heart of the Valley MPC does not require anyone to pay a fee. However, as we have rent, insurance and other expenses, we appreciate any offering you are able to make. It is quite lovely to show appreciation and support with an offering of resources so that our sangha community can continue to welcome everyone in our lovely, new home. The dana basket is on the long table in front of the kitchen.
There are other ways to contribute to the community, as well. We need help in the morning setting the room so that it is ready and comfortable when our friends begin arriving at 8:40 in the morning. A sign-up for “morning dana” is also on the table in front of the kitchen.
Often we share a snack at Tuesday’s sits when we re-convene after teatime. We mindfully pass napkins and small bowls of dried fruit, nuts, and perhaps berries, in season. This, too, is an opportunity for practice, as we move slowly and mindfully, smiling and making eye contact with our neighbors in the circle. After everyone has taken his or her snack, we experience our food with all our senses and mindfully eat and drink our tea in silence for a few minutes. Mindful eating is nourishing to the body as well as to the spirit.