Author Archives: Linda

  /  Guest Contributors

Meditation and Poetry – Wilton, NSW Australia

“I recently attended Linda’s creative meditation retreat – the juices flowed into Tanka poetry – in Wilton, NSW Australia, a beautiful peaceful location where I concentrated on messages from my inner world. People smirk when they hear that I was at a silence retreat as they know I have spent my life talking.

I actually love the silence aspect. The most astonishing insight occurred at the end of the retreat. Although we had not had conversations our regulated group discussions resulted in us feeling we knew each other. The reality was we had achieved more intimacy, than if we had spent five days indulging in the normal chit chat of life.

I started the retreat sceptical of the benefit of ‘reflective meditation’ but by the end I was converted to the idea that the method had its strengths.”

– Frances Black, Sydney, Australia, NSW

Tanka’s below:

my puppeteer
plucks his magic-
heart strings sing
my tiny grandson

our minds are
rarely is there
no missing piece

i fly around
the kingdom of my mind
endlessly fine-tuning
keen to improve
my inner self

day-dream, trance
the ladder
we climb to find
inner reality

upside down
inside out

life’s lucky dip
inside us all
foe, friend, ally
man’s repeated story

  /  Sangha Updates

2019 Retreat Survey Results

Thank you to those who took our survey last month.

We have been able to confirm a few retreats for 2019, and are considering the other locations that you have requested for 2019/2020.  If you are thinking about one of these below, please email the manager to hold a space for you to attend.

San Diego, California area – at Questhaven Retreat will be led by Linda, Bill Wellhouse and Anna Delacroix

West Hartford, Connecticut – at Copper Beach Institute will be led by Linda, Erica Dutton and Traci Hodes

Taos, New Mexico – at Columbine Inn will be led by Linda and Nelly Kaufer

Sydney, AU area – at Brahma Kumaris will be led by Linda and Mary McIntyre (hold the dates of Nov 21-24, details coming soon)

We have about 14 teachers in mentorship and association with us. More than a few of us are able to travel and lead retreats. If you want a retreat in your area, we can consider setting something up, but we would need help finding the retreat center and a retreat manager. Please contact me for more details.

Check the calendar for more events.

  /  Sangha Updates

Reflective Meditation: A Refuge for Gentle Retreats

Team-teaching is an honored and respected way to share the Dharma which allows sanghas to acknowledge their local teachers and welcome visiting teachers. During the five retreats we were a part of in August through October this year, it was hard to remember exactly who said what in the conversations and teachings. It was apparent, however, that creative and viable ways of teaching emerged. Gentleness, ease and friendship led the retreats. I like to consider this as part of our sanghas’ evolving understanding of not-self; loosening the grip of ownership in teaching the Dharma.

— Linda Modaro
Full Article in Sydney Insight Meditators Newsletter and FB page
Like us on FB for November’s posts on Generosity and Dana

Photo by Bill Wellhouse   /  Dharma Prompts, General

Finding your voice

Finding your voice:
to prepare for speaking,
to manage to say something after being too nervous or afraid to speak, 
to express yourself and your ideas in the way you want.

It is not unusual for other voices to enter our meditation sittings, have their say, and leave us wondering what that was all about?  Finding your own voice and knowing when to use it can be like sorting through a mob of kangaroos ‘in there’ (remember I am in Australia now!).  I will use an excerpt from my meditation sitting as an example:

I was sitting in the early morning and in a dreamy state. Someone had brought Charlie Rose into a group to speak for us as an expert opinion.  I did not want to hear from him, wanted to follow my own thinking but I found myself agreeing and saying “good, good”.  A familiar and typical purple light-show started to form behind my eyelids, and I could feel myself relaxing, downshifting.  A dear friend’s voice countered my position “you don’t even like what he is saying!”  I felt a mild shock throughout my body like her words punctured a habitual compliance and passivity I can fall into.  The phrase ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ starts repeating. I don’t recognize the voice and in the sitting I could not remember when it started or how often I heard it – a few times it seemed. Towards the end, the quiet inside deepened and where I usually drop off I wondered if I needed to use words at all, and felt a strong pull to withdraw.  My spine straightened, the wind outside picked up, and the phrase blew away. I was left with a sense of ‘now is not the time to be quiet’ and the bell chimed.

Charlie’s voice, a friend’s voice, an unknown voice, no voice, a narrator and witness voice, a sense voice – all part of the mix.  There are many directions I can go in my reflections on this meditation sitting but I will tell you what I am left with: some patience not to jump to any conclusions, some ideas about other situations where I have to choose how to speak, much gratitude for this practice, and a few more things that I am not able to articulate, yet.    

— Linda Modaro

  /  Guest Contributors

Still Small Voice

Coming round the Big Bend, in Western Texas
North to Colorado and the Great Divide
I followed the wind to California
Out where those Seven Sisters ride
And I’m looking to find that still small voice
That cuts like a whisper through the noise
The sound of the truth, the song of my life
Will I have the heart to hear that still small voice
You’d have thought that by now, throughout my travels
I’d have seen enough and heard it all
With a little hindsight, watch your world unravel
When the voice of freedom is just a siren’s call;
And I’m looking to find that still small voice
That cuts like a whisper through the noise
The sound of the truth, the song of my life
Will I have the heart to hear that still small voice
That cuts like a whisper through
The sound of the truth, the song of my life
Will I have the heart to hear that still small voice
Will I have the heart to hear that still small voice

– Wendy Liepman

  /  Guest Contributors

Self Improvement

We like to think
that because we have learned to know
our various mind states
we ought to be able to order up our preferred
ones, like on Amazon

We think self-awareness should reduce envy
or that if we are really good meditators,
we won’t feel the sting of envy at all,
or the need for more chocolate

In any given moment we take on faith
the feeling This is Me, rather than seeing
how many different This is Me states arise
in a day, an hour, a moment

Instead of seeking to rid ourselves of
unwished for mind states, it turns out we’re
developing self-awareness for its own sake

Knowing our own mind is the true path to freedom;
not to improve This is Me,
but to know her right now,
even as the box with the flying arrow strikes the porch,
and she rushes to try on the latest mental fashion

-Janet Keyes
Befriend Your Mind

  /  Creative Writing, Dharma Prompts

A creative process can parallel our meditative process

Over the past two years, I have been drawn to pair creativity and meditation on retreat to see how they fit together.  An experiment really, but I have a premise in mind:  In both meditation and creativity we tend to go back and forth with interest in our experience, the question of doing it right or not, along with pressure to make progress, or have a product to show for our efforts.  

Both processes are dynamic, ongoing, and nuanced.  Seclusion and focus, stimulation and focus, relaxation and focus – we can find ourselves receiving and encouraging altered states of mind with both.  Losing track of time and our senses, the arising of a ‘not self’ or flow experience, and scenarios that don’t make sense are what many of us report.

Like a teddy bear with thorns, a rose with claws, or friendliness towards ‘the other side’.

Many of us have not thought of ourselves as creative, and have preconceptions of what creative means: an artist, writer or innovator, with talent and sophistication, but definitely not me! It has been hard to equate what emerges for us on a meditation retreat (sense of relaxation, our own writing, drawing, insights…) with the established creatives whose work set a high bar in our mind.

So, another premise is born:  Both the meditative process and the creative process disrupt our certainty, while developing skillful qualities and a variety of sense impressions. How we put things together and act upon them is also a part of both processes.  

–Linda Modaro

  /  Guest Contributors

Hindrances in Meditation

Traditionally in Buddhism, hindrances were considered obstacles or things that get in the way of concentration in meditation. Here is one list of hindrances that I found.

1.  Sensual desire

2.  Ill-will

3.  Torpor and sloth

4.  Restlessness

5.  Doubt

Some of these—such as “torpor and sloth”—may sound a bit out of touch with our current meditation practice. “Doubt” here, I believe, refers to a lack of faith in the practice. These were considered conditions that got in the way of your meditation practice in the short term; they might appear in a particular meditation preventing strong concentration. They are not meant to be the same as the fetters: attachment or aversion to things, our views of self, or ignorance of how things are—deep conditions that tie us to samsara.

As I thought about this list, it came to me that I might come up with a few of my own that seemed to fit my current experience. So this new list is not meant to be exhaustive and not meant to fit everybody’s experience but I thought it might be useful to list them so that others might be able to identify them in their own meditation or perhaps create their own list.

Before I introduce my list, I wanted to mention that we tend to think of these conditions as negative—things to get rid of—but in our approach here, they are merely conditions or states for us to reflect on and examine. The problem, I think, is that these conditions, are ones that are easy to get stuck in and prevent me from moving around freely. They may also be conducive to losing interest or to devaluing what is happening in our meditation experience.

First, control. If I try to exercise too much control in my meditation, then not only does it take a lot of energy to manage what really does not want to be managed, but also limits the range of my experience. One of the goals in this approach is to broaden the possibilities of our experience so exercising too much control, trying to make your experience go in a certain way, prevents that.

Second, avoiding. I have found in my own experience that there are times when I avoid certain thoughts or states of mind—boredom, sleepiness, or thoughts about a particularly embarrassing episode in my memory. In this approach it would be more beneficial to allow these states, thoughts or feelings into my meditation so that I get to know what they are like.

Third, self-criticism. An obstacle I’ve noticed not only in myself but also in reporting groups is excessive self-criticism. Some self-criticism is healthy but if it becomes excessive and ongoing, I find I get discouraged, lose interest, and that it becomes a loop that’s pretty hard to get out of. Self-criticism is a rich area for investigation, looking at such things as the voice of the criticism and the conditions that cause it to come up.

Fourth, ill-will and self-justification. Ill-will appears on the original list and I find it a wide-ranging term that can include all kinds of angry reactions. The problem here is, again, that it’s easy to get into an obsessive loop of self-justifying thoughts when angry. This happens to me when I feel I’ve been unjustly criticized. The engine of self-justification gets started and it’s hard to stop.

In the discussion that followed the presentation of this list, several other possible hindrances were mentioned. The one that I most closely identified with was looking for an epiphany in our sitting. I can recall meditations where I kept looking for that sudden revelation that would make my life go easier and when it continued for a long period, I was unable to see or recall what else might be happening.

As I thought more about this list, it occurred to me that as certain qualities arise in our sitting, there is less likelihood of getting stuck. For example, as the quality of tolerance has increased in my meditation, I have been able to tolerate a bit more the difficult memories or thoughts that come up—stay with them longer, see what feelings they bring up. So there may be a relationship in our meditation—not necessarily in opposition to each other—between certain qualities and hindrances.

  /  General

Presumptions and Reactions

An oil-woman kept a parrot which used to amuse her with its agreeable talk and friendliness, and she had him to watch her shop when she went out and about. One day, when the parrot was alone in the shop, a cat chasing a mouse caused such commotion that it rattled the parrot’s cage and upset one of the oil-jars. When the oil-woman returned home she thought that the parrot had done this mischief, and in her anger she struck the parrot such a blow on the head that all its head feathers dropped off. The parrot was so stunned that it lost the power of speech for several days.  A few days later the parrot saw a bald-headed sage passing the shop, and recovering its speech, it cried out, “Whose oil-jar did you upset?”

Adapted from a story by Rumi

—Linda Modaro