June 2012

Meditation Opportunities

Thursday evenings at 1st Presbyterian  

We will meet for meditation on all Thursdays in June and July 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

Tuesday evenings at Hei’s house

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.   Please call him at 899-4845 for directions and to let him know that you are coming so he can prepare a place for you.

June Retreat Day

Retreat Day    Saturday, June 30, 2012    8:30 am – 3:00 pm        

                      Fellowship Hall

Hei Takarabe and Joseph Cotham will lead our June retreat day with a focus on Zen meditation.  We will have three sittings of meditation in the morning, a time for listening to a reading from the zen tradition, a lunch break, another three sittings of meditation, and conclude with a tea ceremony.  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.


Upcoming Events

Ongoing                                    Hei’s Tai Chi class at Oldemeyer

Center (Tu/Thur at 10:30 am)

Ongoing                                    Satsang – with Mokshananda

Unitarian Universalist Church

490 Aguajito Road, 624-7404

2nd and 4th Tuesdays 7 – 9 pm

July 28                                      MMG Retreat Day   8:30 – 1:00 pm

Creativity and Art with Chris and

Mary Moore

No August Retreat Day

August 14 – 19                           East West Meditation Intensive

Mercy Center Burlingame

August 15 – 19                           Centering Prayer Retreat

Mercy Center Burlingame

September 29                            MMG Retreat Day  8:30 – 1:00 pm

Sacred Poetry with Joseph Cotham


Summary of May’s Retreat Day

Joe Cotham and Joe Neary presented an inspiring and informative talk on neuroscience and the fruits of meditation taken from two main sources:  Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and Rachael Mendius and Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang.  The talk began with a focus on how the Mind/Brain is a source of our suffering and concluded with the ways our meditation practice can help us mitigate pain with the fruits of happiness, equanimity, love, and wisdom.

One of the main sources of suffering in Buddhist teaching is the fact that everything is always changing and we resist it.  Our brain is always trying to stop the river – it chases after moments that are not yet here, and wants to hold on to what passes by.  When our mind is in this state we are never satisfied.  We learned that the brain actually secretes chemicals that keep us on this wheel of suffering, and that it goes back to earliest humans and their strategies of survival.   As we live moment by moment, the part of our brain called the hippocampus decides if what we encounter is a threat or an opportunity.  If there is a pleasant encounter, the neurotransmitter dopamine is secreted and it creates a sense of desire.  If there is an unpleasant encounter, the dopamine levels are discontinued.  Thus our brains are wired to chase carrots (pleasant experiences) and avoid sticks (unpleasant experiences).  The human survival need to avoid sticks (death and danger) is the most powerful wiring in the brain.  The brain is able to detect bad information more quickly than pleasant.  The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences.  And we learned that many of problems of the human condition are tied to this fact:  greed is the desire for more and more positive experience, hatred is aversion to negative experience, and delusion is not seeing how things are ever changing in the world.  So, with these few facts about how our brains are wired, I suddenly have much more compassion for others and myself when I get caught in these feelings and when I am not able to control my thoughts in my meditation practice.  It’s a set up – our brains are working against us and we need to be patient with others and ourselves!

Our practice of meditation is a way to work with this wiring and create new pathways and choices.  One way to cool the flames and promote happiness that Joe and Joe shared is to balance the inhale and the exhale in our breathing.  The inhale activates the Sympathetic Nervous System and the exhale activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System and the balance of these two is our best bet for a long, healthy life.  A second way that meditation helps is our ability to practice equanimity.  The authors used an image of a mudroom in a house to teach us to leave our reactions to things in an inner mudroom so that our most inner selves remain spacious and in balance.  The mudroom creates a buffer between the feeling tones of an experience.  This is a practice of non-reactivity.

And finally the reminder of the importance of love to help heal and ease our suffering.  The story of the two wolves was told.  Each of us has a Wolf of Love and a Wolf of Hate within us.  The one that we feed the most grows the most.  It is not possible to kill the Wolf of Hate, only to continue to nourish the Wolf of Love so that it becomes more and more of who we are.

This just scratches the surface of the wealth of information presented in the talk – both Joe’s felt the book sources they used were excellent and they recommend reading them if you want to learn more about this fascinating topic.

In closing,

 “Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful” 

                             Thich Nhat Hanh



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