Community meditation imageOn Sunday, November 6th, I led a day long Meditation retreat in the Medical Dental Building Conference room, comfortably full with a dozen participants. I shared a reading to guide intention for the day. I believe the passage offers wise insight accessible regardless of religious persuasion, particularly on this confounding day in US history.
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A monk recalled, I remember once I was leaving just as  Vimalakirti* was just entering the city, I bowed to him and said, “Layman, where are you coming from?”
He replied, “I am coming from the place of practice.”
“The place of practice, where is that? the monk inquired, knowing there was no temple or monastery anywhere near”

Vimalakirti replied, “An upright mind is a place of practice.
A deeply searching mind is a place of practice…
Generosity is the place of practice.
Discipline and ethical conduct are the place of practice.
Patience is the place of practice.
Energy and Enthusiasm are the place of practice.
Meditation is the place of practice.
Wisdom is the place of practice.
Kindness is the place of practice.
Compassion is the place of practice.
Equanimity is the place of practice…
Responding with clarity and spontaneity is the place of practice.
Truth is the place of practice…
The very circumstances of our lives is the place of practice.
Earthly desires are the place of practice.
All living beings are the place of practice.
All phenomena in this human life is the place of practice…
With cultivation, you will understand that everything one does, every lifting of a foot, every placing of a foot, will in effect be a ‘coming from the place of practice.”

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I concluded the retreat with Metta {Loving Kindness} practice in which one repeats simple phrases first for oneself and then rippling outward in expanding circles to include all beings. While now popularized in secular meditation and mindfulness programs, many people do not know the origin of these phrases.

Purportedly, in the time of the Buddha, (Siddharta Gautama, 500 BCE) he was approached by a group of monks. They had been instructed to go and meditate in the jungle. They returned afraid explaining that the jungle was filled with monkeys and other frightening things. The Buddha reassured them saying, “I will offer you protection. Indeed, here is what you can take with you to protect you. When you are afraid, you can quietly speak these phrases offering them first to yourselves and then expanding outward to all beings.

May you be well and joyful.
May you be free of greed, anger, and confusion.
May you be (and feel) safe.
May you be peaceful and at ease.”
Having gone to sleep late last night after Pennsylvania was called in the election, I awoke early still to meditate  and packed my cushion, as I often do, outside protected by a small overhang. There in the morning’s quiet with a small wetland across the street, I felt at the edge of a dark, unfamiliar jungle.
And right here, with a conceding Hillary, and presidential-elect Donald Trump, right here is the place of practice. Right here, every lifting of a foot, every placing of a foot, every gesture of generosity and patience and kindness, indeed the very circumstances of our lives not as we might wish them to be, rather as we find them.
This very breath is the gateway to being fully alive right where we are. I feel all the more clear how imperative are gatherings and cultivation as was shared at the retreat on Sunday, as is the Monday Meditation which has sustained since 2010. I have scheduled retreats for 2016 on Sunday January 29th and Sunday April 9th. Please continue your own expressions of practice bringing generosity and kindness, compassion and understanding into our world at this fragile, dynamic moment.
Tender blessings,
Amy

*Vimalarkirti lived at the time of the Buddha (500 BCE). In the midst of being a householder, Vimalakirti was widely reputed for his spiritual cultivation and wisdom. Adapted from Vimalakirti Sutra, Chapter 4, the Bodhisattvas, translation adapted from Burton Watson and Charles Luk