Meditation is not exclusive to one religion, but rather a practice shared amongst many different traditions. There are wide variety of meditation methods and also many well known benefits. The method most commonly taught here is meditation on the breath and body sensations. This is
because both are always available to us and we can access them wherever we are. Generally, people tend to spend
most of the time in their heads - thinking, planning,
judging, etc... While there are uses for all of these, we tend
to obsess about our stories and get lost in our dramas.
By getting back into the body, we become more present to
the moment. We can watch the myriad of sensations,
thoughts and emotions that come and go without becoming absorbed in them. As we develop our capacity to be awake
in the present moment, we gain a sense of spaciousness that allows all things to be as they are. Rather than reacting to stimuli, we are more able to respond with an action that is appropriate, kind, and well considered.
Bringing it all Together
At our Saturday meetings, we bring both these strands of practice together in an integrated way. We start with some chanting/song to connect us to our hearts and our aspirations. Next we meditate in silence or with some guidance. This is followed by some reflections on a theme of Dharma or life experience that we can all related to. After that, we explore this theme in an interactive way. This may involve sharing with a partner, working in a small group or participating in a whole group activity. We offer and receive support from each other as we continue to cultivate the quality of presence and mindfulness. Through this process, we discover something uniquely personal about ourselves and yet, at the same time, realize how deeply interconnected we are.
Spiritual practice - especially meditation - is usually thought to be a solitary event. It's something you do in the quiet of your own home or on a retreat where conditions are set up perfectly so that you can get into the "zone". Right? Yes and no. There are definitely advantages to solitary practice. It's like learning how to swim in relatively calm waters as opposed to learning how to swim in a choppy ocean. Of course, the mind will still be chattering away and getting caught up in thoughts like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. However, in group settings where the room is quiet and there are few distractions, the thought is that we can go deeper and experience mind and body phenomena with more clarity. Of course, this is possible and worth cultivating.
There is another approach to meditation which is more engaged. We learn to bring the quality of presence or mindfulness that we have developed in quiet, solitary conditions to the inter-personal field. This is more challenging but also more relevant to our daily lives. When we bring mindfulness to our interactions with other human beings, we encounter the habit patterns of the mind which act as the programs that run our lives. In doing so, we notice our resistance, our fears, and our longings and have the opportunity to embrace these with awareness , acceptance and compassion. This is the way transformation happens. It's not therapy per se, but rather the power of non-judgmental awareness to dissolve the knots that we carry around in our mind and body so that we can experience a greater sense of freedom.
"Humans are thoroughly relational: by evolution, pack animals; neurologically and hormonally social. So any Dhamma that would tell us about the human experience might do well to include a relational as well as individual perspective. Insight Dialogue is a practice for arriving at this understanding, of “seeing for ourselves” the liberating truths of our humanity."