February, 2011

February Retreat

Saturday, February 19 2011

A Day of Zen Sitting

Rev. Hei Takarabe will lead our February retreat day with a focus on Zen meditation.  We will have an hour and a half silent meditation in the morning, a two-hour talk and discussion time, a lunch break, and conclude with another hour and a half period of silent meditation.  Come join us as we learn from Zen practice how to deepen our silence and bring more love and peace into the world.  Please bring a sack lunch.  Coffee, tea and refreshments will be provided.  A freewill offering will be available.  All are welcome.

Meditation Opportunities

We will meet for meditation on all Thursdays in February and March from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. in the fellowship hall. Our format for the first hour is two 20-minute periods of sitting in silence with a 10 minute walking meditation in between.  For the second hour, we are practicing group contemplative listening.  We listen to a short reading from a contemplative author or poet, sit together for a period of silence, and share our reflections with the group.  This is a wonderful way to practice deep listening to each other.  All are welcome to join us at any time

Hei has opened his house to those who would like to join him for meditation from 6:00pm – 6:30pm on Tuesdays.  It is one half hour of sitting meditation.

Upcoming Events

Jan. 10 – March 7                            Monday evening meditation at Christian Church of PG  6:30 – 8:00 pm

February 8                                      Hei’s Tai Chi class begins at Oldemeyer Center (Tu/Thur at 10:30 am)

March 4 – May 13                             Spiritual Masters Series (Pema Chodron and Thomas Keating) taught by John Provost

March 21                                        MMG Retreat Day – The Brother Bernie Story

April 30                                          MMG Retreat Day

May 21                                           MMG Retreat Day of Zen sitting

June 25                                          MMG Retreat Day with Prof. John Provost, The poetry of Rumi

August 14 – 21                                 Yamada Roshi Sesshin at Mercy Center

Summary of January’s Retreat

For our January retreat day we watched a video by Thomas Keating from the Spiritual Journey Series, “The Human Condition”.  In this video Father Thomas instructs us to REPENT! – in other words, to change the direction that we are looking for happiness.  As human beings, in childhood we develop energy centers that keep us fixated on trying to achieve happiness by 1.  Getting more and more power and control, 2.  Getting more and more affection and esteem, and 3.  Getting more and more security and possessions.  As long as we keep living out of these energy centers, we will continue to be frustrated and unhappy.

The problem is, a simple decision to change the direction we are looking for happiness is not enough.  The effort to dismantle these programs for happiness is not simply a conscious decision.  The real work to dismantle these programs has to happen in the unconscious.  That is precisely why the practice of meditation is so important, as it works on bringing awareness to our unconscious ways of being.  And secondly, Father Thomas teaches that in daily life it is important to pay attention to the emotional upset that occurs when our emotional programs for happiness get frustrated.  Each time one of these irritations arises (anger, grief, apathy, fear), they faithfully acknowledge that our values are still tied in to our habitual responses of not getting what we want to make us happy (if I only had more power, affection, or security I will be OK).  As long as we get entangled in our emotional reactions, our energy centers are controlling us. Attachment to the demands of our energy centers hinders the free flow of grace in our lives, prevents us from living in the here and now, and prevents us from loving unconditionally.

Father Thomas encourages us to make it a practice to notice these emotional upsets in daily life.  Once we are able to notice them, he encourages us to name the emotion and then see if we can pinpoint the triggering event arising from one of the emotional programs (am I frustrated because I am not able to control the situation, because others don’t like me, or because I don’t feel safe?).  Once the emotion is named and followed back to its trigger, the third step is to be willing to say, “I give up my desire for power and control/ affection and esteem/ security and survival”.  Our energy centers were built up by repeated acts to form habits of behavior, and they can be broken down by repeated acts to create new ways of being in the world.  Our hope is that through our practice of meditation and becoming more aware of our emotional reactions in daily life, our controlling energy centers will begin to be broken down and we will become more and more free to live in a way that accepts everyone unconditionally.

In closing, a poem by Denise Levertov

In Whom we live and Move and Have Our Being

Birds afloat in air’s current.

sacred breath?  No, not breath of God,

it seems, but God

the air enveloping the whole

globe of being.

It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, the sacred.

leaves astir, our wings

rising, ruffled – but only the saints

take flight.  We cower

in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly

on branches close to the nest.  The wind

marks the passage of holy ones riding

that ocean of air.  Slowly their wake

reaches us, rocks us.

But storm or still,

numb or poised in attention,

we inhale, exhale, inhale,

encompasses, encompassed.

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