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

Weekly Words: February 25th 2015

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Hi friends!

Great seeing some of you last night! It is always interesting to break from the day’s busy distractions to sit quietly with the intention to simply observe our experience. Often times this can have a restorative effect, bringing clarity and peace to our otherwise frantic minds.

As human beings, it is very natural for us to try and make sense of and control our experience by rationalizing and categorizing, defining certain behaviors and thoughts as good or bad, productive or unproductive. We imagine ourselves a certain ‘type’, grouped with others who also fit this mold, always separate from those who appear different.

Of course, this isn’t bad (or good), it is simply the mind behaving as it sees fit. It does become problematic however, when we begin to believe these stories to be true—the stronger our conviction, the sharper the division, the tighter and more restrictive the mold.

Through my regular and dedicated meditation practice I have come to see how this mental behavior plays out and how it causes suffering in my life.

When I take the time to observe the quality of my essential experience, I notice this profound hardness or pressure in my body, an unwillingness or inability to advance. I describe it as a wall directly in front of me, pressing on my chest and face, like being pressed against a glass window—rather uncomfortable.

As I sit quietly, I try to see what this solid presence is about and what is my relationship to it. I see there is a sense of holding back, a primal effort to remain separate from what is harmful, to protect the soft vulnerable ‘self’. I see on one side of this barrier is that which is good, productive, beneficial and on the other side those harmful, bad things. ‘I’ occupy one side while the ‘other’ remains separate.

I can easily recognize, as I’m sure many of you can, that these mental tendencies are not very helpful, and in fact, are usually counterproductive. The constant chatter of the mind and habitual thinking clouds our judgment and makes us less alert. Our fear of abandonment and greedy affections can push others away. But of course, to resist and attempt to control our thoughts is to dive blindly back into the cycle of reactivity.

It seems like sort of a catch-22, I know. But next time you notice your mind caught in the process of labeling and categorizing, imagining yourself talented in this way or lacking in that, allied with this group and at odds with that one, you might simply ask yourself, what is this about? What am I believing about myself and others? Is it true? Do we actually fit perfectly within this mold, or does it seem always a little forced? Maybe I am ready to drop this belief; or maybe not just yet. And see if what ever you uncover during this inquiry can be received and accepted just as it is.

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Always a pleasure to sit and share with all of you. Hope to see you next Tuesday.

Much love,

Casey

Weekly Words: February 18th 2015

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Hello friends!

Last night at meditation our group consisted of two humble yogis. I know we all have busy schedules and if you are unable to attend a Tuesday night sitting, no problem. While group practice has its benefits, solo meditation can also be very helpful. Even taking a 15 minute break in the middle of the day, or when you first arrive at work, to sit quietly and check in on your sensory experience can have an incredible calming effect on the mind and nervous system. Try it!

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Last night both my fellow practitioner and I shared some experiences of tension and discomfort following the sit. Meditation can at times be difficult because we can come face-to-face with our demons, so to speak, on a level not previously experienced. Our response to this discomfort often times is resistance: our mind wanders, so we focus harder; our thoughts are uncooperative, so we reprimand them; our back hunches, so we sit up straighter.

I shared previously that for several years now I have struggled with some very difficult emotional and mental states, making even basic social or professional engagements, at times, a seemingly impossible struggle. These issues were not only present but intensified during my mediation practice.

For many years I applied a sustained, focused mediation, imagining I could somehow break through these incredibly tense feelings. This approach was harsh, and for me even aggressive and brought me no relief from this suffering.  In retrospect, it sounds a bit ridiculous, but I think so many of us have adopted this practice, on some level, of ‘fighting through the pain’.

After several years of this uncompromising, blind resistance I slowly began to experiment with a different approach—one of radical self-compassion and acceptance in whatever way felt natural. For the last year or so, my practice has been to sit as comfortably as possible (at times even putting my head down or pulling my knees up to my chest) and engaging in considerate conversation and warm reception of these imagined demons. The experience, I am happy to report, has been considerably less harsh and infinitely more transformative.

There is a story about a Buddhist monk who was asked by one of his students how he dealt with tension in his meditation. In response to the question the monk nodded and said, “I agree, I agree.”

Next time you sense the mind or nervous system behaving in way you feel somehow isn’t right or does not serve you, it might be interesting to simply say ‘ok’ and, if you’re environment feels safe, actually give in to that thought or feeling.

We will meet next week Tuesday the 24th @ 7pm. All are welcome. If there are any changes or cancelations I will let everyone know. Hope to see you then, if time and intention permit.

Much Love,

Casey

Weekly Words: February 11th 2015

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Hey friends!

Great seeing so many of you last night—always such a warm silence with this group.

After the sitting when we were all sharing someone made reference to experiencing thoughts at times as water flowing by and other times being caught up in the flow. You might call this the difference between an objective mind and one lost in thought.

For so many of us we feel caught up in our thoughts most of the time and maybe when we begin to practice meditation there is a tendency to define this busy mind as bad or something we must ultimately conquer. We imagine we are failing in our efforts. This mindset leaves us very frustrated.

It is interesting and encouraging to recognize that on some level all of us already practice meditation, although we may not call it by that name. Think about the last time you got in an argument or heated discussion with someone, getting very caught up in an effort to defend your ideas or actions, while trying desperately to discredit those of your imagined opponent, possibly with personal insults.

This is not meditation; though very common and natural behavior—something probably all of us engage in.

Now think of the day after the argument, when you sat down with your friend or loved one to review the heated scene from a calm distance. Maybe your discussed what began the altercation, what fueled the anger, how each of you felt in that situation. You may have even been brave enough to admit some responsibility (which seems inevitably to be followed by the other party admitting their part).

This process is absolutely meditation and, as adults, something I know all of us have done.

Another member of our group last night talked about the importance of naming our experience as a mode of self-exploration: this is the busy mind, this is the calm mind; this is anger, tension, hurt; this is being caught in turbulent waters; this is watching the river flow past.

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I think it is incredible how receptive and open we all are. For me, this is something I have always struggled with and I am excited to be on this exploration of consciousness with you.

Hope to see you all next Tuesday the 17th @  7pm. If there are any cancelations or changes in schedule, I will update you. As always, feel free to invite your friends. All are welcome! See directions below.

Much love,

Casey

BFP address is 119 Ingraham St. (at Porter Ave), Brooklyn, NY 11237. From the Morgan stop on the L train, walk east on Harrison pl, make a left on Porter Ave and the building is on the corner of Porter and Ingraham. Please call when you arrive and I will lead you to the studio—571.205.7368

Our First Group Meditation at BFP!

Weeklywords

Hey friends!

Great sharing the experience of life and silence with you all last week. I think this process of sharingwhat is can really bring some compassionate awareness to our everyday experience, helping us to understand and let go of what creates tension and conflict both in our relationships and within. I feel honored and blessed that you all have joined me in this exploration. I hope we can continue for as long as possible. Please invite anyone you think may be interested in our sittings. All are welcome.
As of right now we will be meeting again on Tuesday the 10th @ 7pm. Burr please let me know if there are any issues or anything comes up last minute. No need to RSVP, just come if you can. See directions below.
Thanks again and I look forward to continuing the journey,
Casey
BFP address is 119 Ingraham St. (at Porter Ave), Brooklyn, NY 11237. From the Morgan stop on the L train, walk east on Harrison pl, make a left on Porter Ave and the building is on the corner of Porter and Ingraham. Please call when you arrive and I will lead you to the studio—571.205.7368.