New Year Dream Practices

A New Year: The Twelve Holy Nights

Offerings from Linda Atwater:

Boughs down!

Crack. Limbs laden with ice give way.

Escaping the excess falling all around me,

Shedding that which no longer serves,

no longer wanted.

What am I ready to cast off?

–::::—-::::—-::::—-::::—-::::—-::::—-:::

Bow down.

Kneeling in gratitude for what remains,

Trunk, heart, a skeleton of I AM.

Parts lost or true nature exposed?

___________________________________________

“I bow with all beings to attain liberation.” -Zen verse-

-Namaste- I bow to the Divine within

Linda

For a description of the practice click here

____________________________________________________________________________

May the joy, kindness, compassion and equanimity of your true nature and the nature of all beingness rain down in unending blessings this year and in all years past, present and future.

May this practice, these words, and all actions be in service to the end of suffering for all beings, throughout all times, and in all directions throughout the cosmos.

-William

Practice

The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for a safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:  

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM PacificTime

Monday: calm abiding, Samatha, Tuesday: body awareness, Thursday: Tonglen

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time: Four Brahmaviharas

and

Monday and Thursday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time : Practice and Inquiry       

Please feel free to forward this email and any posts form our website at:

Sangha of the Pandemic                   

A New Year

While teaching in Waldorf schools, I was introduced to a practice for the children of starting each morning lesson with a questions: “What’s new?” In the early grades , their attention was directed to something new or different in the classroom. As the years progressed, the children began experiencing the question as more open ended and began including new experiences or new ideas that they had or were having. As we advanced to middle school, the questions was more refined to what we were studying at the time or what issues were active in the community. 

I was reminded of this practice by Chuck Fondse in a sangha share recently when he related an experience of approaching the solstice as fresh and new and then that leading to an experience of every moment and experience being fresh and new.. The daily habit of this question: “What is new?” can become a daily practice for us too. Beginning the day with this question may free the mind from habitual thinking and open the experience to what is.  

It is like the experience of a new year. New Year’s Eve has always been a time of washing away, putting down, releasing the accumulations in mind, heart and body that have bunched up from the previous year. In addition to un-clinging, there has been the habit of grasping for something new in the coming year by setting goals or planning specific changes in life. If instead one approaches the New Year with “What is new?” with pure openness, there is a possibility of freedom from expectation of something to come (grasping) or regret of something that has passed (clinging). A gesture of gentle, openhanded receptivity offers the opportunity for connection to what is, and strengthens the capacity to respond with the skill and means that are called for and not what the habitual conditioning thinks is needed. 

Rudolf Steiner introduced a meditation practice for the new year that has this openness to what is. There are many interpretations of this practice, referred to most often as The Holy Nights Meditation. It is often practiced from December 25 – January 6 in reflection of the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth. However, throughout Steiner’s lectures and notes form other folks, he indicates that the practice can begin on the longest night of the year, the solstice, and continue through January 1st. Some references include a 13th night as well. One of the reflections that I read about the practice was that beginning on the first day of the New Year, we start to collect uncompleted intentions, or we begin to fill up a trunk of hopes and regrets. This continues throughout the year until, near the closing of the year, there’s a bottleneck or backlog of stuff that wants to be attended to. The invitation in this practice might be to methodically reflect on the year month by month and see what hopes are being clung to or what regrets are taking up space in our consciousness. Another approach is to use the practice to open our mind-heart to unknown possibilities in the coming year. There are many other approaches as well so just seeing what shows up as you engage in the practice is great!

The Practice of the Twelve Holy Nights. (My interpretation)

  • Place a journal and pen next to your bed so that you can access it easily in the night or first thing in the morning.
  • Prepare, ahead of time, your question that you will carry through the Holy Nights. For example, you might ask what will come in the month of ____? (The first night would be January, second February and so forth through the twelve months.)
  • Each night before going to sleep write at the top of the page or area the month and year that you will be working with.
  • Go to sleep having asked the question and to the best of your ability refrain from dwelling on it as you drift off. 
  • If you wake in the night with a dream, write it down with as much clarity as you can and then go back to sleep. If you don’t dream during the night, upon waking up take time to write whatever you are experiencing or contemplating upon waking.
  • Repeat this for twelve or thirteen nights. 
  • It seems that one of the most important parts of the practice is to remain in an open, non-assumptive frame of mind when you ask the question and when you record your experiences in the journal.
  • If you are  using the practice to review the year, begin with December and work back by month until last year’s solstice. If you are practicing opening to what is coming toward you in the year ahead, start with January and progress through the twelve months
  • If an experience arises during the day that draws your attention in an our of the ordinary way, record that as well. 
  • If you are not able to begin the practice on the actual solstice, no problem. Begin when it feel right for you. The important thing is to stay with it for a consecutive stretch of twelve nights.

At the end of the twelve nights, review what you have written and keep the journal someplace accessible so that you can refer to it as the year progresses. This is not a prognostication practice so don’t be concerned if what shows up is odd or extraordinary or nothing at all. Like all practices, the invitation is to experience and notice the effect of the experience.

Another possibility would be to incorporate the reflection or question into your daily practice for these twelve days. The indication for the night and dreams is that the veils between our conditioned, habit stream and our open, non conceptual nature is thinned when we sleep. So maybe a daytime contemplative practice would work better for some folks.

May the joy, kindness, compassion and equanimity of your true nature and the nature of all beingness rain down in unending blessings this year and in all years past and present.

May this practice, these words, and all actions be in service to the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions throughout the cosmos. 

-William

A Path

From the perspective of the Mahayana teachings of buddhism, as far as my understanding goes, there are as many paths as there are beings to walk them; as many ways to walk the paths as there are atoms in all the cosmos, as many teachers as there are moments in and out of time. These paths, ways of walking, teachings and teachers are all revelations of true, untouched goodness, the primordial essence, thusness of all things.

Within the paths of the lineages of wisdom that I have been exposed to there seem to be some similar experiences in the process of revelation.  We have been exploring these in the last several weeks: 

  • faith
  • practice as concentration and insight 
  • revelation of obstacles on the path as the three poisons of passion, aggression and ignorance
  • awakening to the causes and conditions of these obstacles: karma
  • liberation.

These are by no means a complete summary of the experiences on the infinite paths nor are they the only commonalities on the paths. These are the ones that have been most prominent in my experience and understanding of the wisdom lineages that I am familiar with.

Faith: At some moment in a life or in pre-birth, everyone seems to have had an experience of complete ease, free from suffering and fear, with a non conceptual connection with all beings and an experience of unconditional goodness. When this experience passes, the imprint on the whole being remains and is like a permanent beacon that reminds us of the experience as being the true nature of all beingness. Regardless of what path one is on, it seems that there is faith in this experience, and the knowledge that arises as a result of the experience, that is guiding us or calling us to return to what we know, from that initial experience, to be the true nature of beingness.

Practice: All practices seem to have two core constituents; contemplation and insight.

Contemplation is the practice of quieting unconscious and habitual thoughts, feelings and actions. It is most often practiced as focused attention on one thing: the breath, an object, an inner picture, a guardian, a prayer, god. In this practice, what is thought of as a self separate from other and all the constructs that make it, begins to diminish and a stillness that sometimes manifests as a presence or presence remains. There is a taste of the experience of the nature of beingness in the quietude of the mind, emotions and body.

Insight is what sprouts, grows, and blossoms from that rich soil of quietude. It often a surprise and is rarely what one thinks they are looking for or needing because it arises, not out of the habitual mind, but the still, open mind of contemplation.

Obstacles on the path: The light of insight shines brightly on the path, not only illuminating the way of return, but the obstacles or unconscious, habitual and conditioned ways of being, that have diminished our inherent capacities and our nature of goodness. This light also illumines how one diminishes and hinders others on their path. When one contemplates the obstacles they seem to congeal into three types, referred to as poisons in some buddhist texts: passion, aggression and ignorance.  ( See the links for more on these. )

Karma: The revelation of the obstacles leads to the understanding of the causes and conditions of these unconscious habits of being or karma. In the contemplation of these causes and conditions one begins to see the how and why of their existence. This knowledge also reveals the insight of how they are perpetuated in, and perpetuate, an unending cycle of suffering. Upon further contemplation, one may begin to see that there is no reality in these poisons as such; that they are fabrications of early life or pre-birth imprints and resulting, conditioned habits. As a greater understanding of the mechanism that runs the engine of karma develops, mind, heart, and body, in their natural brilliance, begin to effortlessly drop the habits that have burdened us in the path to return.

Liberation: First in an instant, in moments, in periods, in days, weeks, lives, past and future, in timelessness, through the experience of a path, the suffering and obstacles on a path, and the glimpses of reality on a path, one arrives where there is no path and never was; where there is no arriving and no leaving; our omnipresent nature as goodness.

These words are dedicated to all wisdom elders and wisdom teachings and to bringing about the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

May it be so.

-William

Practice

The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for a safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:  

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM PacificTime

Monday: calm abiding, Samatha, Tuesday: body awareness, Thursday: Tonglen

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time: Four Brahmaviharas

and

Monday and Thursday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time : Practice and Inquiry       

Please feel free to forward this email and any posts form our website at:

Sangha of the Pandemic                   

Liberation

Liberations is instantaneous.

Liberation is in the moment when one sets down a burden and before picking up another.

Liberation is when the search stops.

Liberation is when the search, and what is sought are experienced as having no independent inherent essence. 

Liberation is when the mind rests in the understanding and experience of the emptiness of all things that arise as a result of a cause.

Liberation is the freedom of spontaneous, unconditional forbearance toward all beings and oneself.

Liberation is the dropping of the concept that one is not liberated. 

It has always been challenging for me to reconcile the luxury and ease of having the time and opportunity to be able to contemplate these things, and the awareness of other people, whose birth into genetic streams of generational trauma and whose lives and thoughts are consumed with just surviving, and not conducive to contemplation without a heroic amount of effort. In my life the experience of liberation is the freedom from habits of mind and conditioning that lead me to attachment or aversion. It is freedom from the mental gymnastics of doubt and judgment of self and others. What is liberation for the starving masses in war, flooded, and drought stricken lands? What is liberation for the deeply impoverished rural populations of the Western societies, who have been led into the addictions of alcohol, pain relievers, 24 hour hate media, and spiritual charlatans promising liberation? What is liberation for the urban destitute who don’t even have the respite of nature and its solace, but are born into canyons of empty, concrete and glass promises and unscalable and soul crushing mountains of the Wealthy’s law and order?

As I hold these disparate worlds in the crucible of contemplation, I notice that, by opening my experience to the images and thoughts that arise from seeing the lives of the folks who do not live in the luxury of having time and opportunities to contemplate, the incessant habit stream of conditioned thinking dissolves. I am no longer a cloud of lofty aspirations mulling the nature of reality. I experience being grounded in humanness and thisness. The non conceptual qualities of loving kindness, compassion, gratitude/joy and equanimity are unveiled as manifestations of true nature, not merely concepts. Fears of losing my place in the hierarchy of materialism and intellectualism drop away and I am left with the prayer that I will have the capacities and be presented with opportunities to bring ease to those who are suffering however, whenever and wherever that suffering occurs. 

That is all that is left.

I experience liberation.

In the teachings of the boddhisatva path to liberation, the buddhas and enlightened ones appear endlessly, without hesitation, wherever there is suffering. They rarely show up as pulpit bangers or cushion sitters or miracle workers, but dressed in the garb, the desires, the attachments, the lostness of those who are suffering, regardless of social class, spiritual lineage, or past deeds. They are relentlessly residing within the caves of the suffering, living as companions to those who are suffering, no matter how it manifests. In some of the teachings it is pointed out that those of us who live lives of material ease ultimately suffer immensely when we realize our ignorance of how we may have perpetuated suffering in the world because of our ignorance and desires to hold onto our luxury. While the sages immerse themselves into these caves of ignorance, greed and hatred they are shining lights on on the path to liberation that originates from each individual’s, unique, inherent manifestation of goodness. Like Jesus and all the wisdom teachers, these buddhas descend into hell, not to battle with the lost souls but to invite them without conditions into the heaven of their own true nature.

When I am able in a moment of presence to willingly and without expectation to offer all that I am, and am not, to bring about an end to suffering, I experience liberation. I practice and study the dharma, however it shows up, to be always ready to step into the cave and don the garb wherever and whenever the call comes. I often cannot hear or am ignorant of the call because it is drowned out by the cacophony of my own mind stream of conditioned greed and aversion. But there are moments, more and more with practice, that this willingness to show up, presents opportunities to apply the lessons of buddha, dharma and sangha, in the world. It is not like when, in my younger years, I would barrel into the barrios with my arrogance and righteousness to save those “lesser” folks from their lives. Riding in on my white horse into save the lives that I assumed were insufficient without what I had. The experience is merely waiting for the invitation to walk a path with another without any objective but to relive suffering, whatever that means to them.  

With the practice, the path, that I have the skills and experience and humility to travel, steps into me, meets me, and shows me where and how I can do this work without causing more suffering. When I slow down enough and listen without ambition or agendas, what is needed offers itself as a gift for deeper practice and understanding of the path. Liberation is the result of the acts of selfless/egoless serving and dedication to the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions. Liberation is the result of finally being willing to be unconditionally, essentially human.

These words are dedicated to all wisdom elders and wisdom teachings and to bringing about the end of suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

May it be so.

-William

Practice

The Sangha of the Pandemic offers several opportunities for a safe, inclusive, free, virtual community contemplative practice. Everyone is welcome regardless of meditation experience or spiritual lineage.

The Zoom link is:  

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays: 6 AM PacificTime

Monday: calm abiding, Samatha, Tuesday: body awareness, Thursday: Tonglen

Sunday at 7 AM Pacific Time: Four Brahmaviharas

and

Monday and Thursday evenings at 4:30 PM Pacific Time : Practice and Inquiry       

Please feel free to forward this email and any posts form our website at:

Sangha of the Pandemic