October 2013

Meditation Opportunities

Thursday evenings at 1st Presbyterian  

We will meet for meditation on all Thursdays in October and November (except Thanksgiving) 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 watching videotapes of Fr. Thomas Keating’s “Spiritual Journey” series.  This series is produced by Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. and describes the method and background of Centering Prayer developed and taught by Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado.

The topics the series covers are Developing Centering Prayer, Models of the Human Condition, Paradigms of the Spiritual Journey, and Contemplation the Divine Therapy.  

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.

Monterey Meditation Retreat

Contemplative Prayer Retreat

Zen as Engaged Spirituality:
Toward Healing a Wounded World

Ruben L.F. Habito

October 18–19, 2013

                                           HELD AT                                                            SPONSORED BY

                 First Presbyterian Church of Monterey                         Monterey           Meditation Group

                    501 El Dorado Street, Monterey, CA                              www.MontereyMeditation.com

Ruben L.F. Habito—a practicing Catholic and former Jesuit priest, as well as an acknowledged Zen master and a professor in the Perkins School of Theology and Southern Methodist University—makes a clear case that Zen practice can deepen a Christian’s experience of God, further clarify the Gospel teachings of Jesus, and enable one to live a more joyful, compassionate, and socially engaged life.

Ruben Habito is the author of numerous publications, in both Japanese and English, on Zen and Christianity and is a prominent figure in the Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. A native of the Philippines, Habito served as a Jesuit priest in Japan under the guidance of the great spiritual pioneer Father Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle, and studied Zen with renowned teacher Koun Yamada. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

                                            FRIDAY                                                                  SATURDAY

                                     October 18, 2013                                                       October 19, 2013

                                        Presentation                                                                Workshop

                                   7:00 pm – 9:00 pm                                               9:00 am – 4:00 pm 

Suggested Donation for Friday is $15, for Saturday $40, and $50 for both days.  Lunch is provided on Saturday.
All levels of meditation experience are welcome. Bring your own cushion or bench if you have one. Chairs are available.
For more information, contact Janet at hoffmanjms@gmail.com or 831-484-1686

Upcoming Events

Ongoing                                  Hei’s Tai Chi class at Oldemeyer

Center (Tu/Thur at 10:30 am)

No classes in September

October 12                              Garage Sale at Hei’s house

8am – 12 noon

Oct. 18/19                               MMG Weekend Retreat with

Ruben Habito

Friday 7 – 9 pm, Saturday 9 – 4 pm

Nov. 23                                    MMG Retreat 8:30 – 1:00 pm

Faithful Generations:  Effective

Ministry Across Generational Lines

Dec. 19                                   Cookie Party after 7:00 pm



Summary of Last Month’s Retreat Day

Joe Cotham and Joe Neary presented an inspiring and informative talk on neuroscience and the fruits of meditation taken from  Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and Rachael Mendius.   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.

We also watched a fascinating online video by Kelly McGonigal.  In it she talked about the “default mode network” and the “alternate default mode” that occurs with our mind.  When we are not focused on a task, the default mode network of our mind kicks in.  In this mode we are in the self-referential “I, me, mine” mode and our mind is full of stories, commentary, and images of the past and future.  This default mode also seems to drain us of more energy.  Brain scans show that a certain area of the brain is active when we are in this default mode.  Brain scans were also studied from long time meditators.   Another area of the brain was found to be active in these meditators called the “alternate default mode”.  In this mode the mind is focused on the experiential self in the present moment.  This awareness of self is based on awareness of the body, not from the stories and thoughts that the mind brings.

The video also described a study on pain tolerance using these same long-time meditators.  It was found that they had a higher pain tolerance.  They attended directly to the experience of pain and turned off the commentary of the default mode network.  It was found that the more they could turn off the commentary and stay present, the higher their pain tolerance.  Quite amazing!  And conversely, those who tried to distract themselves and ignore the pain were found to be in default mode and they experienced more pain.  If they ignored their pain, they got more default mode and more suffering.  This shows another great benefit of meditation.  The more we are able to train our minds to use the alternate default mode by staying present to our experiential bodies during meditation, the more we will reduce our suffering.  

In closing 

I have tasted the fruit of the earth, O God.

I have seen autumn trees hang heavily with heaven’s gifts.

I have known people pregnant with your spirit of generosity.

Let these be guides to me this day.

And may Mary who knew her womb filled with your goodness

Teach me the wisdom that is born amidst pain.

May I know that deeper than any fallowness in me

Is the seed planted in the womb of my soul.

May I know that greater than any barrenness in the world

Is the harvest to be justly shared.


J. Philip Newell

Celtic Benediction


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