Author Archives: Linda

  /  Creative Writing

Being in the “Now”

Our practice has deep roots in early Buddhism but lives in the modern era. One of the ways I am integrating our past and present is by changing the image on Sati’s homepage. Images on websites come and go rapidly, but this change is made with careful consideration and with the knowledge that it will change again.

Like the image of the Quan Yin or Padmapani statue, the new image personifies Reflective Meditation: a human being in meditative posture. When you look closer at the statue, it is hard to say he or she for the gender. I would like to keep that mystery going forward, but since both embody the feminine, I will refer to them as she.

She who is new to Reflective Meditation sits with all her colors. Her ethnicity is not clear, even her skin tone could be interpreted as colored with some white. Her eyes are closed, and she holds still amidst swirling movement around her. Her bare chest and red lips speak of knowing the world that she lives in. Like some youth of the day, the multi-colored wrap comes with a beanie on her head. I sense an openness to and blending with the external atmosphere – how the spiritual and secular blend in our contemporary culture. 

She seems to encapsulate flowing creativity, whereas the statue holds her position firmly with an ancient history. Quan Yin and Padmapani are from an exotic culture different than our own, when great sages walked the earth. Her form was sculpted in a highly-skilled artistic process that started with wax and then cast her bronze. Head bowed, there is a dignified humility in her posture. She is not exactly a monk or nun, but still wears flowing gold robes with intricate patterns. Flowers in her hair and bangles on her wrists are simple adornments of eastern culture. She represents lineage and tradition, a meditation practice that has principles and depth.

Like any history, she will leave her imprint upon us. I hope the new image brings forth what we have learned from our history, and what we hold dear now. She is on the homepage to welcome you to our practice and sangha.

  /  General

Time Out

Retreat. Go inward before you go forward. It is good advice that we can’t always take.

We may need some supportive conditions to help this develop. A time to practice backing away from something that we are close to. A big Time Out, let’s say. Kind of like when you behaved badly as a kid and were made to go sit alone in a corner, and you found this not a punishment, but a gift. No one bothered you, you could think about what you wanted, and you didn’t have to make nice when you didn’t feel like it.

Retreating is a loss of time with your dearest friends or family, loss of a well-deserved vacation, or the freedom of unscheduled time. What comes instead? 

A chance to be away from your habitual world, and not have to conform to cultural norms so quickly or strictly. A relatively safe way to get to know yourself, alone in a group of people practicing quietude. You will rub up against other points of view on a retreat, and the characters that tell these perspectives. A chance to filter and sort them at your own pace.

Remember the wishful phrase “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas”? Well, the opposite is true with retreats. What happens on retreat becomes your meditation practice and informs your life when you return home.

–Linda Modaro

  /  Creative Writing, General

Foundation for Mindfulness

Last month I wrote a piece about integrating past practices into your current meditation practice. In my transition from moving meditation to sitting meditation a few things were missing, so I began a search. The search, more apparent to me now, was semi-conscious and included things that I knew I wanted, as well as things that I didn’t even know I was missing.

For example, I knew I wanted a practice that welcomed my intense emotions rather than confirmed my inability to vanquish them from my life. I did not know that I also wanted to have time and space for contemplating my life and spiritual teachings (Dharma). I knew I wanted someone to validate my efforts, and encourage me to continue practice, but I did not know that I needed support around never feeling ‘good enough’. Even though I started meditation practices in my early 20’s I rarely felt like I was doing them enough or exactly as instructed, mostly because I was getting slow going results, barely discernible at times.

While wanting to be relatively still, I did not want to ignore my body but I did not subscribe to my body being more honest than my thoughts and feelings. I wanted to understand all the senses – my body, mind and ‘heart’. So until I found it, I did not know I was looking for a practice where I could become genuinely sympathetic to my stories, complaints, anxieties, desires, and fears by allowing them to mature in the contained space of meditation.

Knowing what you want can lead you to finding a good fit in meditation practice, but it is likely not knowing what you want will be going on at the same time. Isn’t that interesting? Understanding that this mixture of streams happens can help us hold an open, flexible mind. This is an important foundation for Mindfulness.

Reflective Meditation is a ‘come and see for yourself’ type of practice. There are many reasons why we suggest for you to start your meditation practice from a caring, kind, and curious space. Why in meditation we ask you to consider allowing your bodymind to be as it is; to transition into the sitting with less self-control or interruption.

We invite you to come and see. It is a new year, 2019, in so many ways: from politics to technology to a renaissance of Dharma translations. Maybe it is a good time to try a new method of practice, or get to know the practice you are already doing, through Reflective Meditation.

–Linda Modaro

  /  General

Integrating Past Practices into Reflective Meditation

It was a transitional time for my meditation practice in the late 90’s, but I didn’t know it then. I could no longer continue my daily moving-meditation practice due to health issues, so I was primed for Recollective Awareness meditation when I met Jason Siff in 1998.

Up until then, each morning I would do tai ji practices; some of the patterns I especially liked or I would improvise and blend movements, taking breaks to let myself fall or rest, circling mindlessly and then finding a new pattern and staying with it for a while. Something unexpected would happen listening to my bodymind while following a loosely structured movement practice. Repetitive moves allowed my mind to come in focus or to completely still itself, and I heard mostly in sensations, feeling tones, and emotions but not in discursive thought, which rarely came with the movement. That was one of the reasons I loved moving-meditation. It was also satisfying to have had what felt like direct access to my emotions and sensations, and letting them play out. After moving, I would sit and meditate, or lie down and meditate. It would be like a stopping a spinning top, even if the movement was gentle, and lovely open and empty spaces would appear. My mind could go still while experiencing vibrations, swirling reverberations from the movement. I would move my hands over my heart or have them in a mudra or in my lap with a permission to choose what felt right. It felt easy to sit there, and if I started thinking about something I did not have rule against it; in fact, this is where discursive thought came back into my awareness and I would journal thoughts and feelings as a way to remember what happened and a way to connect with myself. My practice was personal and it was precious, but I was still seeking.

Looking back on it now, two pieces were missing: allowing and fostering discursive thought in moving-meditation practice, and having a conversation with another person about my experience. Each of us will take up reflective meditation in our own way. We will hear each other’s process and reflections along the way, all of which can be inspiring, frustrating, nuanced, contradictory, rich, and satisfying. I will write in more detail about these missing pieces next month, so for now I leave you with some inquiry for your own practice:

  • What are/were you seeking, if anything, when you encountered recollective awareness or reflective meditation?
  • What is/was the transition like if you were doing other practices?
  • Did you abandon those practices, come back to them, integrate them into your current practice?
  • Where are you now in this mix?

–Linda Modaro

  /  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-
unconditionally
heart strings sing
my tiny grandson

our minds are
constantly-changing
jigsaws-
rarely is there
no missing piece

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

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

meditation
somersaulting
mindfully
upside down
inside out

life’s lucky dip
misch-mashed
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 Sati Sangha 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