Weekly Words: April 15th 2015

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Fellow yogis and friends,

Last night I talked a little about deepening presence and seeing how things really are for each of us. As we continue to practice, relaxing into bodily sensations and engaging directly with present emotions and thoughts, our minds and nervous systems begin to develop and grow in unexpected ways.

Often times we come to meditation with certain expectations, goals and ideas of where this practice will take us. Maybe we have an image of a peaceful monk or we once read about a practitioner claiming to have transcended fear and pain.

Personally, I have found mediation helpful in calming my over stimulated mind, helping me fall asleep at night. However, sometimes I will be lying awake in bed meditating and thinking, “this really isn’t working. I don’t feel tired at all!” Next thing I know it is morning and I am waking from a deep sleep.

Consider your expectations for this practice and, as you continue to work with meditation, take a moment from time to time to check in with yourself and consider your experience more fully.

Maybe you still feel anxiety, but does that anxiety affect your life the way it used to? Maybe your fights with your partner continue, but have they become less intense? Recognize the quality of your experience: Maybe you don’t feel confident and happy the way you imagined, but is there a sense of settling in, peace, awakening?

Recognize your struggles, but also acknowledge areas of growth and greater freedom.

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So exciting to see new faces last night! I feel blessed to be part of a community dedicated to exploring consciousness through this powerful practice. This is truly revolutionary! Thank you all.

Much love,

Casey

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Weekly Words: April 8th 2015

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Hello Everyone!

It was great sitting with some of you last night, sharing the experience of conscious silence and self-inquiry. It is my sincere hope that everyone feels welcome and safe at these evening meditations. My intention is to provide you all with helpful tools to develop your practice.

30 minutes of silence can be a great opportunity to relax and attend to ourselves. And, when it feels appropriate, I encourage you all to challenge yourself in this practice. Through discipline and direct engagement of those areas we sometimes hold back from, we can deepen awareness and gain access to true joy and freedom.

I think all of us have been at times aware of unspoken tension in a relationship with a friend, loved one or colleague. Sometimes we keep things to ourselves in an effort to avoid conflict or vulnerability. However, when one party takes the initiative, voicing the troublesome issue, invariably there occurs a shift in the relationship. This may bring relief or it may bring the conflict to a head. Either way the difficulty is revealed more completely, providing an opportunity for resolution and healing.

This is also the case with our personal practice. When we fail to engage experience fully, our understanding of ourselves and the world remains small. We imagine freedom is gained through improved external circumstances, when really it is accessible here and now and found only within.

Take a moment and ask yourself, what do I want most for myself? And what is keeping me from feeling that right now? What is between me and deep, natural satisfaction? What am I still holding onto?

I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to share this practice with you all. If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to share them at the meeting, via email or comment on facebook. Check out the Facebook page to view the video on Vivation breathing. Hope to see you all next week, if time and intention meet.

Much love and gratitude,

Casey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Words: April 1st 2015

Weeklywordsapril1Hello Everyone!

This week we had a great mix of our original group and some new faces as well. So exciting to observe these developments!

I was able to share with some of you all last night the monk Achaan Chah’s description of our relationship to the mind. When our mind wanders, we call if back. However, sometimes the mind is stubborn and increased dedication and focus must be brought to the practice. We give it the ‘stick’.

After sharing this story, we all seemed to agree our practice could use a little of the stick. For me, this conversation brought to mind Jonathan Foust’s talk on Concentration and Mindfulness (available at Facebook Bushwick Mediation). Concentration can be a powerful tool for cultivating presence and reveling what is for each of us in this moment. However, understanding our experience and truly letter go may require a different approach.

This weekend I was home for a few days visiting my family. As with many of us, I have difficult relationships with those closest to me. I sometimes take issue with the way they treat themselves and others. Holding my tongue in these situations requires a great deal of willpower and concentration.

While this dedicated approach helps to avoid conflict, is does not bring relief to the anger I feel inside. To understand my feelings and let go, it is necessary to engage in mindful awareness. Here, instead of applying Achaan Chah’s stick we invoke patients, curiosity and interest.

When I encounter this anger I ask, what is this about? What is beneath the anger? I see that there is pain and fear, concern for the people I love and the harmful behavior they are engaged in. I feel the need to control the situation, to take to action and fix things. And finally, I fear my inability to act, my imagined inadequacies or cowardice.

As you can see, there is a lot going on under the surface of base anger. Responding to these feelings with mindfulness requires an intention to allow things to be just as they are and to receive our experience with compassion.

We can ask ourselves what are these feelings about? Can I allow them to be just as they are? If not, how can I relate to my experience in a way that will bring some relief? From here we are able to make thoughtful decisions instead of reacting to fear and anger.

Thank you for sharing in the awareness and presence. I wish you all a blessed week and hope to see you again very soon.

Much love,

Casey

Weekly Words: March 26th 2015

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Hello everyone,

Wow! Great to see so many new faces Tuesday evening. In a lot of ways meditation is about exploring our individual experience. However, supporting one another in silent presence and sharing our journey with the likeminded is essential to deepening and sustaining this practice.

Last night, several group members shared that in their meditation they found a useful tool for dealing with unpleasant physical sensations, such as tension or discomfort, was to shift their attention directly to the area of difficulty. Like a hungry baby crying, our body lets us know when it feels distress. It is important to tend to ourselves as we might a child or friend in need.

However, we often neglect our suffering in an effort to avoid feeling bad. Today, thinking it might be a good idea to bring some coffee with me to the laundry mat, I spilled the beverage on my white sheets as I squeezed through the door. My mind was instantly filled with countless thoughts of blame and anger.

Later, I was able to take a breath and shift my attention from the busy thoughts to the actual feeling of my imagined failure: aching and tenderness in the chest; I felt for a moment like a child being reprimanded for some minor offense; and then the feeling passed.

In our guided meditations the instruction is to bring ourselves from the thoughts and stories of the mind and into the here and now. We rest our attention on sounds, the feeling of the breath, the weight of the body or physical sensations. This allows us to bypass the minds effort to avoid or ‘fix’ difficult feelings, and engage our experience more fully. Through this practice we are able to let go of suffering.

So often, our pain wants only to be recognized. Think of a child who calls out repeatedly to his distracted mother until finally she responds, “what?” The child smiles and says, “nothing.”

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Hope to see you all next week. Go to the latest Weekly Words on our website to comment on this post or share similar experiences http://www.bushwickmeditation.com/

Also, check out the guided meditation with Tara Brach from Tuesday and the talk on Focus and Mindfulness from Jonathan Foust on the Bushwick Meditation Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BushwickMeditation. Please join and like us!

Much love,

Casey

 

Weekly Words: March 18th 2015

WeeklywordsMarch18th

Hi everyone!

Last night, several of us had the opportunity to share in the experience of simple awareness. I can really feel—and maybe some of you all notice too—the group and the practice ‘settling in’. Although we have only been working together five or six weeks now, already there is a real sense of evening out.

Maybe initially, many of us felt some powerful response to these sittings: feelings of doubt, resistance, discomfort; or possibly, increased focus and clarity, a sense of opening up and letting go. These experiences may have felt intense, like they held some great significance and, in some way, defined the practice. Yet, there is not one of us who can say our practice has not developed: powerful discomfort dulled, feelings of deep relaxation normalized and preconceived ideas about mediation challenged.

When I first began my meditation practice, I remember having some incredible experiences of relaxation and presence. For the first time, I was able to calm the busy mind and break through the discomfort of tension and internal conflict. After a while however, I found myself experiencing these effects less and less.

Although I grew very frustrated with the practice and disillusioned, I kept at it. Looking back, I can see that my quality of life was dramatically improved: I drank and used drugs less, I wasn’t quite as harsh and cruel to the people I cared about and my performance at work and school improved somewhat. The suffering continued, however it did not affect me the way it once did; the really self-destructive forces in my life were gone.

At the time, none of this positive change was clear to me. I only knew I felt bad and meditation wasn’t doing what I wanted it to. However, I see now that this simple practice of sitting quietly has a profound effect on my life, whether or not I am aware of it.

So often, we have some idea of how meditation should be; how pain and fear should be transcended and deep focus cultivated. In the moment when we actually experience this, we think, “Yes! This is it. Now I have arrived.” But soon after, the busy mind and reactive nervous system return, and we imagine we have lost our way. However, around our efforts to achieve desired results, there is a quiet ‘settling in’ occurring, naturally and spontaneously.

As you continue to practice meditation, see if you can notice the changes occurring in your life. Some may be obvious and others subtle; some may seem significant and others minor; you may notice your senses heightened to both the painful and joyful aspects of life. See if you can recognize that while some elements of practice may be intentional, all experience occurs spontaneously.

Great to see so many of you last night. Looking forward to counting the exploration next week.

Much love,

Casey

 

Weekly Words: March 11th 2015

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Hi everyone!

Great seeing so many of you last night. It is always incredible to see how open everyone is to this practice and how much we all trust and support one another. For me, it took several years before I even started meditating in groups and opening myself up to new ideas and teachings.

Before our first sitting, when I was trying to decide how to introduce this practice, I felt nervous. I know that meditation and this level of deep sharing is not something we are accustomed too. I was initially concerned there would be resistance, some of which might be directed toward me. However, everyone seems to intuit naturally what this practice is about and how it can best serve the individual.

I have shared with you all from the beginning that this meditation is about openness and experiencing what is present for each of us. My role is simply that of a facilitator. I offer informal guidance and suggest practices that, for me, have been transformational. It is my genuine intention that the meditation be conducted in this manner.

However, I often notice my mind begin to create an alternate story, one where I am separate and above others. In this scenario, I understand things in a way others do not. I imagine the group could really benefit, if only they would listen to and follow me.

This idea of the separate and, in some way, superior self can be very attractive to us. By placing ourselves above others, we are validated as individuals. A buffer is created, protecting us from anonymity and exclusion. Unfortunately, this attitude also fuels so much of what causes suffering in our world: prejudice, oppression, separation.

Recently, I have begun to explore this egotistical mind, to notice my condescending or critical thoughts. I ask myself, are these thoughts true? Is this person really boring or ignorant? And are these things really important? Do I need this false sense of superiority to feel ok?

I also explore how it feels to be judgmental, what are the bodily sensations that accompany these thoughts. Invariably, I notice a tightness in the chest and sense of grasping, an effort to hold onto what is mine, what makes me “ok”. I try not to resist these feelings, or be too hard on myself for what some might call petty thoughts or small-mindedness. I think all of us, on some level, crave validation and fear loosing ourselves.

Thank you all so much for giving me the opportunity to share and I hope some of this resonates with you all. If not, that is fine too. I am excited to hear what is real for you all as we continue to sit and share.

Much Love,

Casey

Weekly Words: March 6th 2015

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Hi friends!

Great seeing some of you on Tuesday! As a small but intimate group, we shared some difficulties and some more relaxing experiences. There is an incredible honesty in pausing to simply observe our moment-to-moment reality. Thank you all so much for joining me in this practice.

One of the instructions I gave on Tuesday was to simply notice if there were any feelings of resistance to the present experience, any desire for things to be different from how they are. I always try to follow my own advise, not only during the meditation but also in my day-to-day life.  For me, I sometimes recognize some powerful feelings of resistance towards my sexuality.

When I was twelve years old, I had a brief homosexual relationship with a boy who was at the time a close friend of mine.  For many years I was very distraught over the feelings and behaviors I had exhibited, doing my best to simply deny the experience all together. Of course, this response was neither effective nor helpful.

I have shared with you all the practice I developed in the last couple years to acknowledge and explore my suffering. I recognize now, when these desires surface they are often met with resistance, a desperate need for them to not be. They seem to define me in a way that feels unacceptable, a fear no doubt learned from the pressures of society.

This may sounds as though some essential element of myself is being revealed through this email. And in a way it is. Understanding and exploring ones sexuality is important and liberating. However, the intent is not to define myself as gay or straight or even somehow in-between. By simply recognizing and acknowledging what is, I awaken to an essential, infinite reality. Sensation and thought become small, dynamic players in a vast field of awareness.

The desire for things to be different is, of course, normal and natural. Grief, fear, guilt; feeling of inadequacy and rejection—these can be painful and difficult, sometimes even traumatic. But next time you notice some internal struggle or conflict you might try asking yourself, how am I responding right now to this experience? What am I holding onto? What is between me and complete freedom? This mode of experiential exploration can help us to let go of resistance and accept our experience just as it is.

Thanks again to all of you for your kind presence and receptivity. Hope to see you next Tuesday, if time and intention permit.

Much love,

Casey