This recording was made during the first night of the weekend retreat at the Franciscan Center, a delightful retreat facility on the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Florida, from December 5th to the 7th. This recording is extraordinarily long, almost 95 minutes. The first part is Peter’s introduction to the practice of anapanasati, mindfulness of breathing. Included in the talk is a description of the “three refuges”: “I take refuge in the Buddha…I take refuge in the Dhamma…I take refuge in the Sangha.” Peter described the Buddha as the reality of awakening, not with an emphasis on nirvana, but on the release each person can experience from the burdens of craving and clinging. The Dhamma was described as the principles and practices described in the Buddhist tradition that foster awakening, from the perspective of what is called “Secular Buddhism”, that is, the Westernized approach that is relatively free from traditional rites and rituals, and draws on scientific research that validates the important insights of mindfulness meditation practices. The Sangha was presented as the community of “truth seekers” who gather for the practices leading to awakening.
The last 45 minutes of the recording involves a guided mindfulness of breathing meditation session that provides useful periodic comments to foster “noticing distractions, disregarding them and returning to the practice of aiming and sustaining attention to the in- and out-breath”.
This posting is accompanied by a recording from December 6, during which Peter described the different levels of intimate breath awareness that can be acquired with diligent attention to the in- and out-breath.
During this dialogue, Tommy reviewed the last two presentations Peter provided on craving and clinging. Tommy’s frequent use of facilitating questions opened up a lively dialogue among the folks attending. Wendy asked for comments from others about how they approach cultivating mindfulness at the start of the day, and received an abundance of reports from various Sangha members that were quite helpful.
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During this meeting, Rose talked of what taking refuge in “The Three Jewels”, Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, has meant to her in managing the stresses of life. This led to a lively discussion of the value of spiritual community and many people added their names to a phone list to begin what Tara Brach has called “Kalyana Mitta” (spiritual friends) groups to support integrating Buddhist principles into life experience.
This discussion explores the development of service in Buddhism from the time of Anathapindika, who organized the first Buddhist monastery, through the Bodhisattva Ideal, to present opportunities for service. Three points were discussed: the importance of regular meditation practice and the cultivation of samadhi; the supporting of and support from the Sangha; and matching our personal skills and experience with appropriate opportunities to provide service for others. We also emphasized that service can include being a cheerful, unintrusive presence as well as volunteering to sit with a dying person.
This talk continues an integration of the Four Noble Truths and the cultural stresses that we face in the 21st century. Quotes from the Suttas were related to modern issues of consumerism and interpersonal alienation, with references to some of the comments of David Loy, a critic of modern culture from a Buddhist perspective. Participants were invited to comment about what community means in Central Florida relative to the current economic crisis and the pressures of the Christmas season.