misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Buddhism

An Introduction – Touching the Earth

By on September 7, 2009

I have been using the book Touching the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh for several years  as part of my morning meditation practice. It is a wonderful book that provides a framework to have a “conversation” with the Buddha and look deeply at our relationship with the Earth, others, ourselves, and the Ultimate Dimension. The monastic practice with this book is to listen to a chapter read while touching the earth. This can prove difficult if you practice alone, so that is the purpose of this blog series. I am recording the chapters to listening to them at a later time and want others to benefit from this effort.

Over the coming weeks/months, I will record chapters from the book and then post them here to share. You may download from this site or use iTunes to receive the podcast [iTunes Podcast].

If you want to use this material in your meditation practice, my recommendation is to start the recording and then touch the earth with you head, elbows, and knees in prostration. After the primary reading is complete, you will hear the full sound of the bell. Upon hearing a small tap on the bell, then stand up and prostrate again on the next sound of the full bell. This will happen one more time to end the meditation.

As the introduction of the book states,

When we touch the Earth, we take refuge in it. We receive its solid and inclusive energy. The Earth embraces us and helps us transform our ignorance, suffering, and despair. Wherever we are, we can be in touch with the Earth. Wherever we are, we can bow down to receive its energy of stability and fearlessness. As we touch the Earth, we can follow our breathing. We release all our instability, fear, anxiety, disease, and anger. We know the Earth can absorb our negativity without reacting to us or judging us. In this way, we are able to transform what is painful and difficult to accept within us. We are able to strengthen our capacity to look, speak, and act with understanding and compassion towards ourselves, our loved ones, and all members of society. Touching the Earth communicates our gratitude, joy, and acceptance to our Mother Earth. With this practice, we cultivate a relationship with the Earth and, in doing so, we restore our balance, our wholeness, and our peace.

Posted via email from Touching the Earth

Discoveries in Fasting

By on August 3, 2009

It has been eight years since the last time I fasted – it was in late 2001 – and for that fast I practiced in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters by fasting from sunrise to sunset for a couple of weeks.

Recently I was sharing about a personal relationship issue with a monastic friend and teacher and he suggested I start with a period of fasting. I was not completely clear on how this could help or be related, but I trust my friend and know that fasting is a common practice in the monastery. The intention here is not a detox fast, but one of a more spiritual nature. I started practicing with the fast for a 1-2 weeks by fasting for dinner. It wasn’t too difficult to eat two meals a day, the most difficult time being late afternoon. This did raise my confidence and understanding in fasting.

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Exercise and Retreats

By on July 8, 2009

I typically am not a huge fan of exercise. However, while staying at the Deer Park Monastery I usually get more than my fair share due to the size of the property and the hills. In addition, we frequently have a time of recreational exercise including volleyball (my favorite) and basketball. Check this out from the recent visit. A very peaceful, fun, and non-competitive basketball game with my monastic friends.

24 Days on Retreat Begins Friday

By on June 10, 2009

It is a sweet opportunity and gift from my lovely wife and partner. Thank you. Every time I plan and attend a retreat, a few questions arise from friends. Where are you going? What is it like? Is it silent?

I leave Friday morning for Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, a Buddhist monastery in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. The monastery sits on about 300 acres of open land next to another preserve. Very beautiful. I typically spend 4-6 weeks per year at the monastery as an ordained member of the Order of Interbeing (we’re asked to do 60 Days of Mindfulness per year). This particular visit is different because the first 19 days will be without my family. We usually go as a family but Leslie suggested some time for myself and they will come at the end for the Family Camp Annual Retreat.

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Today I Have 20 Years Sober, Thank You

By on June 8, 2009

It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink of alcohol. I was 21-years old at the time and it was my third or fourth attempt at stopping. Today I am living on grace, and though I don’t speak publicly of this very often, I want everyone to know how proud I am of being sober for two decades and to thank those who have helped me along the way.  This is a day to remember the goodness in suffering.

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Renewal and Taking Care of Yourself

By on January 6, 2009

The new year brings us the opportunity to reflect on the past and ponder the future. Our family spent two weeks at Deer Park Monastery with a six-day Holiday Retreat in the middle. The second day of the retreat I was honored when Thay Phap Hai asked me to participate in the planned dharma talk.  We did this talk with our friend Karen Hilsberg.

The Plum Village sangha has a practice called Beginning Anew that we used for the foundation of our talk, since the theme of the retreat was renewal. Rather than focusing on another person, as we typically do with this practice, the focus of attention was ourselves. Karen provided us with four meditations that we explored in the one-hour talk. Please enjoy the talk.

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Four Meditations for Self-Renewal

  1. Flower Watering/Sharing Appreciation. Looking deeply, I see many positive and wholesome qualities in myself such as…
  2. Benign Regrets. Looking deeply, I regret that I have caused myself pain through my thoughts, speech and actions in the following ways…
  3. Hurts and Difficulties. Looking deeply, I can understand my own hurts and difficulties with deep compassion and friendliness toward myself, without blame or criticism as follows…
  4. Challenges and Intentions for the Future. For the future, I anticipate the following challenges and intend to practice mindfully and skillfully in the following ways…

The key here is to be kind and honest with yourself. If you can’t listen here, you can download the talk.

Two Hours to Count 38 People

By on November 17, 2008

Deer Park Monastery
Deer Park Monastery

I’m going to continue my non-library trend of late and talk about the Stick Ceremony. This past weekend I had the opportunity to return to Deer Park Monastery, one of my favorite places on earth, to celebrate the start of the Rains Retreat. This 90-day retreat occurs annually and is a time for us to look deeply and focus our practice and energy. The retreat begins with a ceremony that identifies those who are participating in the entire 90-day retreat and to set the boundries of the monastery.  We enter the mediation hall, the monastics are sitting in their sangati robes surrounded by the lay community of practitioners. After a bit, we stand for an incense offering and some touching the earth paying respects to the Bodhisattvas, and for me, to honor those characteristics and aspirations in myself. We sit again and chant together.

At this point four of the monastics stand and process to the front – each holding a tray. Update: Two of the monastics, one monk and one nun, each have a tray full of sticks to distribute. The other two monastics will collect the sticks after they have been distributed to each participant. Thank you Caleb for seeking this clarification. A bit more touching the earth and bowing before the tray is brought to the front and a stick is offered to the Buddha present for the retreat. This is done by the first monastics, followed by the second monastic who then picks up the small stick and places it on his tray. The next person to receive a stick is a place held for our Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. Again, the second monastic picks up the stick left by the first monk. This continues through the entire row of monks and nuns. Each picking up a stick and then returning it. Thus the process of taking a stick occurs.

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