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The Ultimate Generosity

In meditation, we become familiar with letting go. We watch our thoughts arise and let them go. We’re spreading our wings, loosening up, so that we can let go anytime. When we rise from our meditation seat, we can continue the practice of letting go as we bring it forth into our day. Letting go of attachment is the ultimate generosity, because it connects us with our wisdom and compassion.

~ Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

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Community Spotlight: Dana Wills

 

Where do you live?

Buena Vista, Colorado and Austin, Texas

How did you come to meditation?

From an early age, my interaction with the world has been very physical through dance, sports and outdoor adventures. Yoga asana felt very natural for me as a physical as well as a spiritual endeavor, so becoming a yoga teacher was part of my personal continuum. As injuries limited my asana practice, the spiritual side of yoga grew as I learned more about meditation. I attended a weeklong silent retreat in one of my favorite places on the planet: The Esalen Institute on the California coast in Big Sur. The teachers were an amazing team of Tibetan Buddhist and yoga practitioners: Sarah Powers, Tias Little, Richard Freeman, Patricia Sullivan & Ty Powers. I was inspired by the interplay of silence, meditation, yoga asana and philosophy, dharma teachings and science. I came home to an invitation in my inbox for Kelly Lindsey’s second series at Dharma on meditation preliminaries. Kelly picked right up on the topics in which I had just been immersed, and the rest is history.

What inspires you to meditate?

Being part of this sangha inspires me to meditate. The intellectual conversations, the emotional connections, the collective seeking. The calm and focus I aspire to in meditation comes and goes, but the community remains there always to encourage me, see me, and love me.

What does your meditation practice look like?

At first, I wondered if it “counted” to meditate in class. I worried that I wouldn’t develop my own daily practice because I relied on Kelly and her classes to get me on my cushion. In short, I don’t worry about that any more! Meditating with my friends is the anchor of my practice, whether in class, outside at Laguna Gloria, or now online through Mind Oasis. When I sit alone on days with no class, I miss the accountability and the instruction, which I always find new and informative. My practice is also fed by retreats, whether communal or personal. For me these are a time to get away to reevaluate what my heart most longs for what is precious to me. It’s a time to build clarity, courage and compassion.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

I have used the app Insight Timer for many years to bring that accountability to my personal meditation sessions. I’ll preferably use my own Nepalese singing bowl to begin and end my sessions if it’s handy. My altar had to move around with me quite a bit, and has currently been reduced to a Buddha keyring flashlight and some pocket reminders in a travel case! Every day is different for me. Rituals like preparing the body, reading passages, lighting candles, dedicating the merit of the practice and ending with journaling have come and gone over the years. Just getting on the cushion is the most important thing.

How is your life different because of meditation?

Meditation has brought a stillness in my life that I crave if it’s not part of my day. It nourishes the introvert in me. Meditating in a sangha has given me like-minded friends that, like me, seek an understanding of what no one can truly know. I feel warm and held and understood by them. I don’t feel like an outsider trying to explain my deepest questions and path. Instead, I’m walking it with good company.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

Consistency in practice remains a challenge. I had this “novel” idea that when I began teaching meditation, I would offer the accountability and consistency of a schedule that I myself needed. I just couldn’t figure out how I could be held accountable for that everyday. Then, voilà! Karuna created Mind Oasis and that consistency was born for free seventeen times per week for all who wish to enjoy it! I am currently trying to attend a class everyday, and I love it!

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Just sit. With or without a cushion, with or without an altar, with or without a schedule, with or without a timer, with or without the time. Just sit.

What does your heart most long for?

I try to see and understand all whom I encounter to create a true heart connection. I long most to be seen and understood, myself. This connection is a prerequisite for compassion, kindness and generosity. I’ll continue to strive to bring consistency to my practice, so that I can come back to each moment and each person I encounter with true seeing and understanding. I then, too, will be seen and understood.

Dana Wills graduated from the Dakini Meditative 300-Hour Meditation Teacher Training in 2017. She now teaches meditation online through Mind Oasis’ free program, Meditate on the 8s

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Generosity Is the Beginning of the Path

The cultivation of generosity is the beginning of spiritual awakening. Generosity has tremendous force because it arises from an inner quality of letting go. Being able to let go, to give up, to renounce, and to give generously all spring from the same source, and when we practice generosity, dana, we open up these qualities within ourselves. Letting go gives us profound freedom and many loving ways to express that freedom. Generosity is the beginning of the path.

~ Sharon Salzberg

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The Perfection of Generosity

 

The Buddha described the practice of meditation as a vehicle that we use to go from one place to another, like a boat that helps us cross from one side of a body of water to the other. In one teaching, the Buddha outlined six qualities that we can cultivate on the path of meditation which help us on our journey. These six qualities are generosity, kindness, patience, joyful effort, meditation, and wisdom, and they are known in Buddhism as the Six Paramitas. Paramita is a Sanskrit word that means “going to the other shore” and is often translated as perfection or transcendent action.

The Perfection of Generosity

This month’s blog will take a deeper look into the perfection of generosity. In the coming months, we will consider kindness, patience, joyful effort, meditation and wisdom.

There are many ways that we can practice generosity as outlined in the Buddhist teachings. We can give material things, which is what we typically think of when we consider what it means to be generous. Another form of generosity is giving “freedom from fear.” This includes all the ways that we give love, our time, energy, and perhaps most importantly, our attention. Spiritual giving, is described by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as “helping others to be more joyful through the generosity of your own spirit.”

Often times, our generosity is limited by feeling that we don’t have enough. There are so many demands on our attention, time, energy, finances, and we can feel depleted. The practice of generosity does not ask us to give beyond our means. It asks us to give according to our capacity in each moment. As we practice generosity, our capacity for giving naturally grows.

Pema Chodron on Generosity

“The essence of generosity is letting go. Pain is a sign that we are holding on to something — usually ourselves. When we feel unhappy, when we feel inadequate, we get stingy, we hold on tight. Generosity is an activity that loosens us up. By offering what we can — a dollar, a flower, a word of encouragement — we are training in letting go. There are so many ways to practice generosity. The main point isn’t so much what we give, but that we unlock our habit of grasping. The practice of giving shows us where we’re holding back, where we’re clinging.” [excerpt from Comfortable with Uncertainty]

Using Meditation to Cultivate Generosity

In meditation, we place our attention on the breath as it moves in and out of our bodies. When the mind wanders away, we acknowledge what we are present to, let go of thinking, and gently restore attention on the breath. A simple practice, but not easy to do. The breath has a lot to teach us about letting go. Simply sitting quietly and breathing is a way to cultivate generosity.

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Three Qualities of Brilliant Sanity

There are three qualities of brilliant sanity: openness, clarity, and compassion. They are unconditional. They are our nature no matter what is going on. If we are sick or well, confused or awake, psychotic or not, we are still brilliantly sane. Whether we believe it or not, whether we feel it or not, still it is our nature. When we can bring openness, clarity, and compassion to our experience – no matter what our experience is – then we are tapping into our basic brilliant sanity. In any moment this is possible. We can always touch our brilliant sanity.

~ Karen Kissel Wegela

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What Is the Enlightened Mind?

Enlightenment – full enlightenment – is receiving reality with an open, unfixated mind, even in the most difficult circumstances. It’s nothing more than that, actually. You and I have had experience of this open, unfixated mind. Think of a time when you have felt shock or surprise; at a time of awe or wonder we might experience it. It’s usually small moments, and we might not even notice it, but everyone experiences this open, so-called enlightened mind. If we were awake completely, this would be our constant perception of reality.

~ Pema Chodron

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The Art of Fully Conscious Living

Meditation is the art of fully conscious living. What we make of our life — the sum total of thoughts, emotions, words, and actions that fill the brief interval between birth and death — is our one great creative masterpiece. The beauty and significance of a life well lived consists not in the works we leave behind, or in what history has to say about us. It comes from the quality of conscious experience that infuses our every waking moment, and from the impact we have on others.

~ Culadasa (John Yates, Ph.D)

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Community Spotlight: Marissa Knox

Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

I have been meditating since I was around 10 years old. I learned from my mom about mantras and how repeating a mantra can be a way to calm myself. I made up my own word that I would repeat to myself in moments of anxiety and found solace and peace in that simple practice. Being in nature and birdwatching was a form of meditation for me throughout my adolescence (and still to this day). I meditated more formally through my yoga asana practice in college. Finally, in 2013 when I broke my fingers and couldn’t practice physical asanas anymore, meditation was a profound refuge for me and has continued to be so ever since.

What inspires you to meditate?

The inspiration to meditate comes from a deep desire to make meaning of life and its paradoxical mysteries. I have always been curious about life and death and how to make sense of it all. Meditation is a way for me to meet the uncertainty of life and cultivate a sense of trust and awareness of who I am and what life is.

What does your meditation practice look like?

My meditation practice is responsive to the seasons of my life. It has taken many shapes over the years. Currently, the simpler my practice, the richer and fuller my experience is. Resting in being, breathing, and feeling is deeply nourishing to me. In particular, I am inspired by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s instructions to find inner refuge in stillness, silence, and spaciousness. I am also inspired by poetry, nature, and music as ways to connect to my meditation practice. And always there are elements of self-compassion in how I practice. The act of showing up for myself in meditation and meeting myself as I am is a gesture of self-compassion and radical intimacy, which I define as a willingness to not abandon myself and to embrace all parts of the wholeness of my being. This is integral to how I aspire to relate to myself in both formal meditation practice and in my everyday activities.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

Journaling is an essential part of my meditation practice. I like to journal before I practice, and often afterwards too, as a way to connect with myself, process my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and understand the ebb and flow of my practice. I also like to write intentions and remind myself of my core values at the beginning and end of my practice to keep me rooted in grace, love, connection, and presence.

How is your life different because of meditation?

Meditation points me back to the sacredness of being alive and illuminates what is most true to my heart. It is because of meditation that I am living with greater integrity, self-trust, and compassion for myself and others. By practicing meditation I can offer myself what I need and therefore be fully resourced so I can offer myself to others more generously and joyfully.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I think the biggest obstacle for me is perfectionistic striving. This happens when I am in the “trance of unworthiness” as Tara Brach calls it and I start to believe that in order to become worthy I must meditate perfectly. This toxic belief snuck into my meditation practice for years. I thought that meditating, and meditating “right” or “perfectly,” would finally make me be enough, be worthy, be lovable. Now I’ve realized that I can choose to meditate because I already am worthy. When I meditate I am communicating to myself that I am worth the time, energy, attention, and effort it takes to practice. I also try to remember that a “good” meditation is any meditation that I show up for. Whatever appears as obstacles in my practice are not signs of my failure or badness, but rather signs of my humanness, my aliveness, my wholeness.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Give yourself permission to be human! This means not judging yourself for having thoughts, feelings, daydreams, or ramblings. That is all perfectly natural and a part of being alive. Be kind and patient with yourself as you learn new techniques. There’s no need to rush to some moment where it’s all figured out. Spoiler alert: nothing needs to be figured out. You have all you need already and being just as you are is more than enough, it’s plenty.

What does your heart most long for?

My heart longs for collective liberation. I wish for all beings to know, love, trust, and rest in being fully who they are — divine wholeness.

Marissa Knox is a PhD candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin studying with Dr. Kristin Neff. Her research is focused on self-compassion and how it serves as an inner resource of resilience for healthy body image and stress management. Her dissertation will examine a self-compassion writing intervention specifically designed to help reduce college student body image concerns. Marissa is a trained Mindful Self-Compassion™ teacher, a certified Embody Love Movement facilitator, and a Level 1 iRest® Yoga Nidra teacher. She also teaches yoga asana, mindfulness practices, and meditation that is accessible to both beginners and seasoned practitioners. Her teaching is infused with her studies of Tibetan Buddhism as well as her love of being in nature and reading and writing poetry.

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Creating a Space to Meditate

One of the most important considerations in developing an everyday meditation practice is thinking about where you will meditate everyday. Creating a dedicated space to practice can be very helpful in cultivating consistency in your practice, and a consistent practice is essential for realizing the benefits of meditation.

Your practice space doesn’t have to be big, and there doesn’t have to be anything really special about it, other than it’s a place that you choose to take your seat everyday to practice meditation. It could be a really simple, clean, quiet corner of a room in your home or office. It’s a place that you know is there for you every day.

In this space you could set up a small altar that reflects your intention for practicing meditation. You might put an image of something that represents to you a quality of wakefulness, or of peace. You might have a candle or incense or flowers – anything that reflects to you something symbolic of your deeper intention for practicing meditation. You might include photographs of people that inspire you in your practice or on your path. Having a beautiful meditation cushion can add beauty to your space and be a sweet reminder that it’s time to take your seat.

While it can be really supportive of starting a meditation practice to have a space that you return to day after day, the most important thing is to actually do the practice wherever and whenever you can. So whether for you that’s a quiet place in your house or somewhere more public like a park bench, what really matters is that you’re meditating every day.

Is there one particular place that you feel that you feel drawn to again and again, day after day, to meditate? Is there anything you can do to uplift this space so that it feels even more inviting?

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Quiet Mind, Open Heart

If I am going to die, the best way to prepare is to quiet my mind, and open my heart. If I am going to live, the best way to prepare is to quiet my mind, and open my heart.

– Ram Dass

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