Author Archives: Linda

  /  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

  /  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
https://reflectivemeditation.org/8/

  /  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