misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Buddhism

A Place of Refuge in Ojai

By on July 25, 2013

Practicing meditation together as a sangha, or community, is a transformative experience that can help you deepen your practice and nourish happiness and joy in your daily life. The sangha can be a place of refuge for all who attend.

My intention as a dharma teacher is to provide a place of refuge and to teach mindfulness, meditation, and the Buddhadharma in Ojai. A fellow teacher, Gael Belden, and I have been offering a monthly Morning of Mindfulness and a weekly sitting at the Being Peace Zendo for several years now. We have a supportive and stable community. Our home-based practice center has served us very well but now is the time to allow it to grow in a new direction.

Prior to offering regular practice in Ojai, I founded and led the Olive Branch Sangha in Fresno from 2002-2005. In early 2012, I was selected to teach by the Plum Village community and given the Lamp of Wisdom by Thich Nhat Hanh. With this gift comes a responsibility to offer meditation and mindfulness to others. Ojai has many skilled teachers and wonderful places to explore the dharma such as The Ojai Foundation, Meditation Mount, Krotona Institute, The Well, to name a few. We are truly blessed in our little Nest. And I’d like to sweeten it more by creating a public space for our mindfulness meditation practice.

The purpose of this post is to set an intention and seek support. I’m looking for a person, a group of people, or an organization that has the capacity to support building the mindfulness community in Ojai. Specifically, I am looking for a location that can be used exclusively by myself and other local teachers (Gael) and facilitators OR a location that can be used weekly or twice-weekly for meditation and teaching.

If you have a location that would be suitable for a regular meditation practice that can be open to the public then I am very interested in speaking with you further. Ideally the location would have a space for silent sitting, a space for teaching and workshops, and outdoor space nearby for walking meditation. It could also be an unconventional location such as a storefront, an office, or a small house.

Keeping an open mind to the possibilities.

Working with our Relationships

By on July 14, 2013

Earlier this week I shared in our sangha newsletter a series of questions presented by Thich Nhat Hanh in Hong Kong this past May. He simply read off about 20 questions at the beginning of the Public Talk and invited the listeners to allow them to penetrate into their heart. They weren’t easy questions necessary. Please allow me to share a few of them with you now.

  • Are you in love?
  • Are you still in love?
  • Do you want to reconnect with the person you used to love?
  • Do you have the time for each other or are you both to busy?
  • Do you know how to handle the suffering within yourself?
  • Do you understand your own suffering and the roots of that suffering?
  • Are you able to understand the suffering in the other person?
  • Do you have the time to listen to him or her and help him or her to suffer less?
  • Do you know the Buddhist way of restoring communication and bringing about reconciliation?
  • Are you capable of creating a feeling of joy and happiness for yourself?
  • Are you capable of helping the other person to create a feeling of joy and happiness?

This doesn’t only need to pertain to our intimate relationships, but can also apply to other important relationships in our lives such as parents, children, friends, etc.

Suffering was the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha. There is suffering. Suffering isn’t something to be afraid of, to avoid, or to suppress. The question is do we know how to take care of our suffering. More importantly, do we know the goodness of suffering? The goodness of suffering is knowing that we can use our practice to transform the suffering into peace, joy, and happiness. It’s like the compost for the garden. We need to know how to take the garbage and use the compost to grow a beautiful flower or a vegetable garden. (more…)

Healing with Joy

By on May 11, 2013

heather-perry-underwater-swim (33)This year I’ve been moving slowly through the Satipatthana Sutta. It’s bringing me much joy and enthusiasm for the practice. This Sutta is one of the foundational teachings from the Buddha. Like most teachings, the Sutta wasn’t written down for hundreds of years after the Buddha lived, but it was passed down orally from generation to generation. Beyond the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, I believe this to be one of the primary teachings because it provides specific instructions for meditation. In fact, the sutta uses the term ekayana, which means “one path” in Pali. This has also been translated as “a most wonderful way to help living beings.”

Thich Nhat Hanh translates this Sutta as the Four “Establishments” of Mindfulness. Others have used Four “Foundations” of Mindfulness. Either way, it teaches us how to meditate. At the very base of the practice. Meditation is to look deeply and see the essence of things. We can begin right now. No need to wait. No need to become a monastic. Yes, the teachings were given to monastics but we can all apply this teaching and discover freedom. Mindfulness means to have awareness. Through our practice of meditation, we can establish mindfulness in ourselves. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something, and so the Sutta provides guidance in four areas. Specifically, the body, the feelings, the mind, and the objects of mind.  (more…)

Accessing Dharma Talks by Thich Nhat Hanh

By on December 10, 2012

We are currently in the midst of the Winter Retreat and Thich Nhat Hanh is giving dharma talks on Sunday and Thursday mornings (CET) each week. As in the past, most talks during winter are in Vietnamese with translations. The schedule will probably change slightly once we near Christmas and New Year.

If you are in a time zone that supports being awake, then you can watch these talks live on the New Livestream  – the talks may be archived here as well, but there hasn’t been consistent archiving on the Livestream site.

If you would like to watch at a time of your choosing, and can wait a day or two, most talks are archived on Vimeo  – if you create an account on Vimeo, you can often download the talks and save to your computer or share with your sangha. Right now there are almost 300 videos on this site and, like the Livestream site, it is managed by the monastics at Plum Village.

If you’re interested in a comprehensive archive of dharma talks starting with Winter 2009-2010 then look no further than tnhaudio.org – this searchable site includes annotations for each talk and therefore sometimes it takes a few days or week to get a talk posted. If you use iTunes, you can find this source in the Podcast library and each talk will automatically download to your computer. Alternatively, you can get an email notification for each talk by adding your email address on the home page (right side). This site is managed by me and the language posted is always in English regardless of the language of the talk.

Finally, a great source that is pretty reliable is the Vietnamese site Lang Mai – here you can usually get French, English, and Vietnamese versions of each talk. Unfortunately, they sometimes remove the talks after they’ve passed, so if you want French or Vietnamese then you should download and save the file (English is archived on the previously mentioned source).

Written transcripts are sometimes difficult to come by due to the work load involved with transcribing and editing. I can’t recommend an English source, but our brothers and sisters in France have been posting French transcripts online.

That’s my summary of Thich Nhat Hanh dharma talk sources across the internets. I hope you can find what you’re interested in seeing or hearing. Listening to all the talks has been a great source of nourishment for me and I will try to share a highlight here and there.

Mindfulness, Technology, Education, and Parenting

By on September 18, 2011

You might assume I was in my element at a conference dealing with mindfulness and technology – you assumed correctly! It was a blast to sit and use my iPad and iPhone during this mindfulness conference in Mountain View just a stones throw from Google. The Wisdom 2.0 Youth conference is an offshoot of the previously held Wisdom 2.0 conference. The subtitle for the conference was How Do We Raise Children in a Hyper-Connected World? For Parents, Educators, Teachers, and Concerned Citizens. The lineup of speakers included folks from Google, Twitter, and leaders from the mindfulness in education field, all skillfully put together by Soren Gordhamer.

I’ve been to many conferences – mostly technology and/or library related. I have also been to many retreats and led mindfulness activities – mostly Buddhist in nature. This conference was unique for me because it dealt with mindfulness from a purely secular perspective and aligns itself very easily with the applied ethics theme/effort that Thich Nhat Hanh has been exploring the past couple of years. Though I arrived a little uncertain, because of my experience as a practitioner and educator, I was not disappointed with the presentations and panels. I now have a better understanding of what has occurred in bringing mindfulness into schools and what challenges these leaders experienced.

What follows are my notes and thoughts from a handful of the presentations.

(more…)

Happiness and Suffering are Inseparable

By on June 6, 2011

Suffering and happiness are inseparable. We all have both and they both come and go throughout our lives – at least up to this point in my life. Our practice of Mindfulness is an effort to transform our suffering into happiness. It is an effort to move in the direction of joy. It is an effort to move in the direction of being truly present and to be present for our families, our friends, and our community. In doing so, we can alleviate a great deal of suffering for those around us, and to cause less suffering in the future. We can make the world a beautiful place in the present moment.

In the very first talk given by the Buddha, he outlines this foundational concept. The First Noble Truth says there is suffering, ill-being. The Second is about the cause of our suffering, and the Third Noble Truth talks of the cessation of suffering. This is the presence of happiness. We can learn how to produce happiness. We have many practices for this transformation, but I especially am drawn to the two foundational practices of meditation of “stopping” and “looking deeply.”

We can do this. Just a few short hours of practice and we can begin to train our mind. It’s quite simple to discover happiness in the present moment and to transform our relationships.

We have been offered mindful breathing exercises. The first is following our breath – mere recognition. This can be done anytime, anywhere. We can use sounds and images from the world around to remind us to return to our breathing. For example, I have a computer application that invites me to stop every 70-minutes. But it could be the telephone, a red light, a child’s laughter. We stop and come back to our breathing. This is stopping. It can be practiced anytime, anywhere. I love this practice. I begin my training with sitting meditation, but it doesn’t have to stop on the cushion. Learn to discover methods to following our breath. When we feel anger, frustration, or despair, returning to our breath can immediately bring us relief. Try it – it’s true!

The next steps outlined for mindful breathing is awareness of our body and releasing tension. Learning to calm our body. Where is our body? We can do this when we are standing, walking, sitting, and lying down – and know that we are doing each. My emotions often come through strongly in my body. How does my body feel? How does my body behaves? In touching this we can bring relieve. In recognizing the body, we see the connection between body and mind. This is especially true when we practice sitting meditation – we should see the unity of body and mind. For some, walking meditation works much better than just sitting.

If we can practice these first few exercises, then we can also nourish joy, happiness and learn to explore our feelings. Maybe we try something like this:

Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.
Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.

It is a simple practice, silly even, but it can bring a lot of transformation. There are people who have no peace and joy because they cannot stop their thinking. We can also practice joy by bringing awareness to those parts of our body we may not always remember – our eyes, our heart, our liver. Breathing in, I know know I have two good eyes. Breathing out, I feel joy.

Happiness goes a little further. The story often given is that of a person in the desert who sees an oasis. She is joyful upon discovering the oasis and she is happy when she takes a drink from the water.

Here I have outlined just the first six exercises of mindful breathing. These exercises of mindful breathing can bring about personal transformation, but it can provide the foundation to bring transformation to our relationships – relationships with our parents, our children, our consumption.

Soil and Rocks. Breathing and Smiling.

By on April 5, 2011

We’ve all been there. The endless lists, multitude of projects, work/family/volunteer seemingly colliding together. Some days we feel like the rocks and soil are simply burying us alive with the anxiety and fear. It is in times like that when breathing and smiling can really save the day, at least in the moment. Even after gaining three hours over the weekend (flying west), I still came to work this week with the awareness of responsibility and tasks.

Being out front, wanting to lead, is something I’ve always done. I can manage many tasks at one time across a wide range of areas – committees, politics, spiritual, home. It seems to be a gift because it comes naturally for me . But the gift of abundance does also must have a balance. Most of the time my life feels in balance, but there comes a time when it feels like the house of cards will fall.

My goal is to present for those around me. This means that “my tasks” sometimes get put aside for the benefit of those who work for me and those who I mentor and support. Because this goal of presence is mine, I do it with joy and awareness. The others in my life, both at home and at work, hold no responsibility for my feeling of imbalance. As a Library Director, I let the day take me with it and there must be space in the calendar to allow for flexibility. As a husband and father, I let the evening take me with it even if the “work” tasks were left incomplete. Though I don’t do this 100%, it is an intentional goal and practice. As Catherine Hakala-Ausperk wrote in Be A Great Boss, “being prepared for permanent whitewater will give you the attitude you need for that day.”

The benefits of being available are immeasurable. There are costs, of course, but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs. It is the human connection that will have a lasting impact, not completing the report or reading the background material or finalizing that budget. Those things are important too, and they will get done, but I’ve set my priority elsewhere. When imbalance arrives, which it did yesterday, then I can use the tools of my practice to keep me centered. It could mean that I close my office door and focus on checking off a few items on the task list (which I didn’t do yesterday). It could mean staying up a little later or getting up a little earlier. Finding joy in the anxiety and fear is possible. Being present, sharing with someone, writing a blog post, they all contribute to balance.

(Recently I committed to writing 250-words a day, but I missed a couple days. That’s part of the letting go too, so here’s my post now.)

Writing an Introduction for 3k People

By on March 30, 2011

How do you write a 5-minute introduction for an award winning author and scholar for ACRL 2011? To say I’m a little nervous is an understatement, though I’ve done my homework.

I’ve known for several months about this introduction, and tomorrow is the big day to introduce Raj Patel. I read his most recent book, watched some video interviews, read a few book reviews, communicated with him via email, had a conference call with him to discuss themes, and made a few notes here and there. Despite this effort over a period of months it comes down to the night before and I’m actually giving the introduction some form.

I must work better under pressure. In my experience, when it’s real and the times up, then the creativity is released.

I loved the book. I love the themes. I’m a radical with socialist leanings. I’m deeply committed to equality, the environment, reducing consumption, and generosity. As a Buddhist, it’s easier to understand and embrace his solutions. Radical democracy, with full engagement of the population, is what we need and what is being proposed by the author.

Here’s the challenge. He’s speaking (and I’m introducing) in front of 3,000 academic librarians. Certainly a more liberal bunch than the average American but not uniformly so. I’m aware of this potentially more “general” audience and yet perhaps this isn’t necessary? Maybe I let it be what it is without any sugarcoating? After all, a few years ago we had John Waters give the keynote. It’s a librarian audience but the author has something to offer us that can be applied to scholarship and the dissemination of information.

I’m very excited. The introduction is written. I’ve rehearsed and will rehearse again few more times. Now I’d like to find a good iPad teleprompter app to scroll the intro.

Relationships, Community, and Sexual Energy

By on January 3, 2011

I was honored to serve on the Question & Answer panel for this year’s Holiday Retreat at Deer Park Monastery with Br. Phap Hai, Sr. Mat Nghiem, Br. Phap De, Sr. Dac Nghiem, and Dharmacharya Eileen Kiera. As a Dharmacharya in training, every opportunity given to share with an audience pushes me to deepen my own practice. This is my first time serving on a panel such as this and is a rare because the panel was composed of the four fold sangha (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen) rather than just monastics.  I have linked just the questions and responses I gave (19-minutes), as well as to the entire session (114-minutes). I spoke primary of relationships, community, and sexual energy.

Kenley Only

Complete Session – begins with a period of silent sitting

Mixing Routine

By on October 14, 2010

I’m pretty fixed in my routine – variations occur very infrequently. I like it that way because it keeps me more stable; more sane. Today was different. Normally the morning routine goes something like the following:

4:00am Alarm
4:20am Out of Bed
4:30am In the Zendo doing Yoga
4:50am In the Zendo meditating
5:30am Shower
5:50am Breakfast (650 calorie smoothie)
6:10am Ojai Coffee Roasting Company
6:30am Van Pool to work
7:30am Work

What happened today? Recurring snooze. Sleepiness.  I didn’t get to bed any later than normal, but my body simply wanted to do something different and I decided to go with the flow. After sleeping a little later, I got up and took a shower, sat outside under the stars for a while, took a walk, snapped a picture, picked up the van, headed to the coffee shop, and now blogging!

By allowing this variation, I get to practice mindfulness to observe the feelings in the feelings, the body in the body, and the mind in the mind. Reflecting. Exploring.

Are you routine? Do you ever mix things up a bit? What does it feel like? Is it important to explore these variations?

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