Posted in meditation, mindfulness

Mistakes

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I’ve done many things that have harmed myself and also may things that have harmed others. That’s a really difficult thing for anyone to wrestle with. But when we start a mindfulness practice, when we start seeing ourselves clearly, then we see the good and the bad.

Ram Dass said, “You can no longer deceive yourselves as sincerely as you did before.”

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’m sorry to anyone that I’ve ever harmed. I spent a lot of my life being a very negative and a very selfish person. That’s a hard thing to admit, but it’s the truth. And I believe in being honest with you.


I carry a fair bit of emotional baggage around the deaths of my parents. It impacted me deeply (as it would anyone) I’ve always thought I was lucky that I didn’t fall into drug addiction or some self destructive impulse. But what I did fall into was….not realizing my potential. I’m really only now realizing what a mess I made of my 20s and 30s. That’s not an excuse for any of the mistakes I’ve made, but it definitely had a big role in shaping who I am. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if you had known me a few years ago you’d be thinking “Why would anyone take advice from him on anything?”

I was the most negative person around it took many many years of meditation practice to change that.

We need to practice kindness but we also need to remember to give ourselves kindness too. We have to reflect on our baggage and see what we really need to put down.

That’s why our meditation practice is so important. We need to learn to put down our baggage so we can live more fully. We need to learn to see things clearly so we can make the best decisions for ourselves. And we sure as hell need to cultivate compassion. It’s in short supply in the world today.

We don’t meditate to be good at meditating. We meditate because it helps us in our day-to-day lives. It’s also only one tool in our arsenal. We need to eat vegetables, spend some time outdoors, relax, and tell our friends that we love them. All of these things help us unleash our full potential.

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Want to practice meditation with me?

I’m teaching a class the first three Sundays in October. It’s not too late to sign up.


Introduction to Zen Mind:

https://www.floweringlotusmeditation.org/event-details/introduction-to-zen-mind-a-mini-course-in-three-sessions-with-beth-herzig-and-daniel-scharpenburg

Posted in meditation

A Calm and Even Mind in the Pandemic

The world has stopped.

Well, it hasn’t really. But a whole lot of things have. My kids are out of school for the year. This year school ends at Spring Break. I’m not sad about this time at home with them, but I’m nervous I’ll go back to work before summer.

I’m working from home, and I’m one of the lucky ones. Some people are having to go to work during an outbreak. Other people have lost their jobs.  

It’s a really scary time.

But the worst thing to me is probably the uncertainty. We don’t know when this lockdown will end.

I’ve tried to encourage myself by encouraging others, so I’ve been doing videos every day on my Facebook page (facebook.com/dscharpy). I’m teaching from a text called “The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva.” I haven’t had the opportunity to teach a class on Buddhism in a long time and this is sort of scratching that itch for me, although I’d like the chance to do an in-person version and I’m hoping an opportunity like that appears.

Anyway,

There’s a virtue we talk about in Buddhism called Equanimity. It’s learning to face the storms of life with a calm and even mind. It can be a tremendously difficult thing to cultivate and it’s an area where our meditation practice helps us a great deal.

Equanimity is what helps us when everything is going wrong. Equanimity is what stops us from falling apart in an outbreak, when we feel trapped at home. Bad things come and go in life. There are little disasters and big disasters and life seems full of them. Equanimity is what gives us the ability to say, “Right now it’s like this, what can I do to make it better?” instead of always saying, “Why is this happening to me?”

When people talk about the benefits of meditation practice, they often focusing on attention, or clarity. Equanimity sometimes gets left out. But it’s so important and so needed. The truth is that when we’re better at paying attention, when we’re mindful, when we see the world around us clearly, not taking things so hard comes naturally. We learn how to grow that space between stimulus and response so we can hold the question, “What can I do right now?”

When we feel like we’re going to fall apart, we really need the space for that question.

We’re faced with a disaster right now. I told my kids to keep journals because they’re living through a big historical event and the won’t really understand the implications until later. This outbreak is big and there will be consequences for many years to come.

Returning to stillness is our hope for weathering this storm. If you have a meditation practice, don’t let the disruption to your routine make you stop. And if you don’t have one, it’s a good time to start.

We need more mindful people right now.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

Posted in meditation

Reacting and Responding

When we have any kind of experience or sensation, we usually immediately react. We react without thinking or deciding how to respond. We have a lot of autopilot responses that just sort of happen. So sometimes things bother us because we expect them to. If you’ve ever met someone who reminds you of someone else, you know what I’m talking about. We can get immediate feelings about someone and make all sorts of assumptions just because they remind us of someone else.

If we can learn how to stop and pay attention, we may come to a totally different feeling or action in response to something. Sometimes we don’t even know where our reactions come from. If we can learn to have a moment of pause, in between stimulus and response, then there’s a lot of freedom there. We can choose how we respond to things instead of being on autopilot all the time.

That’s part of what meditation is about. We want to find that pause. We want to take that moment to consider how to respond instead of just reacting all the time. With meditation we’re training our minds to see how they work. There is a lot of power in this.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in meditation

What Meditation Is Not

Many people have ideas about meditation.

I want to address some of those ideas that I think might be misconceptions. I’m doing that because many times I think people go to meditation events with certain expectations. Some ideas we associate with meditation are true and others are not. And some ideas may apply to some systems of meditation, but not the simple practices that I lead at Fountain City Meditation.

We do not chant secret words, we do not visualize magical things appearing, we do not pray or ask spirits to appear. And also we aren’t going to shave our heads or put on weird costumes. That’s not what we do, we’ll leave that to others.

We are training our minds to be fully present and to gain insight into our selves. The goals are attention and awareness. So, with that being said, I’m going to go over some common misconceptions.

  1. Meditation is just for relaxation: the issue here is with that word “just”. Relaxation is a part of this but it isn’t everything. Concentration, relaxation, and insight. This is about changing the way we interact with the world. If it was all relaxation, we’d just be going to sleep.
  2. Meditation is zoning out: There may be forms of meditation where this is true, but that’s not what we’re doing. If anything, it’s the opposite. We’re zoning in. We’re becoming more deeply involved in our experience, not going away from our experience.
  3. Meditation is mysterious and/or weird: I like to say I’m selling water by the river. It may not always be easy to talk about, especially if we’re thinking in terms of measurement or success, but it is about being where we already are. It’s all right here.
  4. Meditation is for people who are calm or spiritual: I think it’s for everyone. We can all improve our lives with this practice. There are no gatekeepers or prerequisites. If we think we have to have some measure of stability BEFORE we start a meditation practice, we’re probably never going to start.

 

So, those are some common misconceptions. It’s all here. Are you?

What are some other misconceptions you can think of?

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

Posted in meditation, videos

Insight Meditation by Ram Dass (video)

These are Vipassana (Insight) Meditation instructions that were written by Ram Dass. Ram Dass passed away yesterday at the age of 88. He was a beloved spiritual teacher who wrote the books “Be Here Now” and “Be Love Now”. He said, “I want my life to be a statement of love and compassion and where it isn’t, that’s where my work lies.” Giving this guided meditation is my tribute to him. Go here for more: https://www.ramdass.org/meditation-2/

 

 

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in meditation

Why Bother Meditating?

Meditation is challenging.

Anyone that tells you it’s easy is probably trying to sell you something. It takes time, energy, and determination. Often in life we feel like we have a shortage of these things. It’s tempting to avoid meditation. I could meditate, but I’d rather watch Netflix or sit and drink beer. These days it’s so easy to fill our time with many things that are either productive or pleasurable. We always have things to do. Is it worth our time to stop and do nothing for a little while?

Why should we spend our time meditating?

We do this because life and hard and it helps. Every one of us is a mess. We may think we are and some people aren’t, but we’re wrong. Everyone is a mess. We’re confused, we struggle to be happy, and we’re distracted. A lot of the time we’re just sleepwalking through life, missing everything. We have difficulty being fully present.

There is a way we can learn how to live our lives more fully. That what this is about. We’re trying to learn how to be more present and aware, to see more clearly, and to be more genuine. There is depth and clarity in our lives that we’re missing.

Sometimes we get stuck in an “if only” perspective. If only this or that was different, then I could be happy. That can easily steal all our joy. We have a pervasive mental habit of always wanting. We spend a lot of time labeling the world around us, putting things into categories to try to make sense of the world. Good, bad, boring, fun, etc. We put things in categories then decide how to react. And sometimes we don’t even know we’re making those judgments ourselves. When we call something bad we want to push it away. When we call something good, we want to try to hold on. We always have less power than we’d like to push and pull these things. No matter how hard we try to hold onto good, sometimes we can’t. No matter how hard we try to push away bad, sometimes we can’t. And when there’s nothing good or bad, we’re often bored. We have put ourselves in chains of grasping our likes and pushing our dislikes. We’ve put ourselves in chains but the truth is we have the key.

And we can improve that by seeing clearly.

Another thing we struggle with is change. Things are always changing when we want them to stay the same. Change is the nature of the universe. When we learn to pay attention to our minds we see that there’s plenty of change there too. Our thoughts come and go and lead to others thoughts, sometimes so fast that we  don’t even know how we got from one thought to another. People come and go in our lives. Good things come and go. Bad things come and go too. It’s all about change. And, of course, ultimately it becomes increasingly clear to us that we’re getting older. Our bodies are, slowly but surely, going too. Change is inevitable and hard to accept.

What it all comes down to is this. We are carried around by a subtle discontent that I call suffering. We can learn how to manage that by learning how our minds work and training them. We can learn how to recognize our desires and not be controlled by them. We can want or fear something without becoming unreasonable and/or obsessed.

Through meditation we learn to see how our minds work, then we can learn to see ourselves more clearly. That’s where the magic happens. When we see ourselves clearly we can really learn how to manage our suffering. Mental cultivation through consistent meditation practice is a powerful method transforming our relationships to ourselves and to the world. Meditation purifies our minds. It cuts through the baggage and the bullshit and shows us what’s really happening. This brings us clarity and helps us develop wisdom, mindfulness, and compassion. Meditation softens us and opens us up so we stop making enemies out of everything all the time. Meditation can make us deeply aware of the world and our place in it. Meditation also helps us sharpen our concentration so we can pay attention, really pay attention, and experience the world in a more full way.

Why meditate?

Because I want to live my best life. I want to see the world in a more clear and full way than I ever have before. We may not be able to add years to our lives, but we can add life to our years.

Why not try?

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism, meditation

The Three Kinds of Laziness

Laziness is often what stops us from being consistent in our meditation practice. but also from anything else we might do for personal development or self care. Laziness is very common, probably something we all struggle with in one way or another. It’s a powerful force that gets in our way and regularly stops us from working toward our goals.

In Buddhism we sometimes talk about different kinds of laziness. It’s said that laziness comes in 3 different forms. I call them Procrastination, Feeling Unworthy, and Busyness. These are the things that keep us stuck and I think just identifying and being aware of them helps us manage them.

Procrastination is what we normally associate with the word laziness. I want to avoid inconvenience. I’ll do it later. I want to stay in bed. We can come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid doing things. I need to wait for the right time to meditate. I would meditate now but I don’t feel like it today. We’ve all had thoughts like this. You know what happens if you wait until you feel like it to meditate? You just don’t do it. This is all rooted in comfort. If we’re comfortable in the situation we’re in now, then we’re reluctant to change it. This not only stops us from achieving our goals but it also can limit our experience of the world.

Feeling Unworthy is when we don’t try because we feel like we can’t do something. When people find out I teach meditation sometimes they say things like, “I wish I could meditate, but I’m just not stable and calm enough.” It comes from a place of thinking that other people can do it and you can’t. This kind of laziness occurs in all sorts of ways. We might not apply for a promotion because we think we aren’t qualified. Or we might not ask someone out because we think we’re not good enough for them. We might not create art or write because we think we aren’t skilled enough. This is all rooted in hopelessness and ignoring our potential. Whatever the thing is, we should try to do it and see what happens.

Busyness doesn’t seem like a form of laziness at first, so I have to unpack it. There’s one aspect of this that’s an excuse and another aspect that’s sort of true. “I don’t have time to meditate.” “My life is too active.” These are lies. You may not have time to go to meditation classes, but if you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate. We use this for other things too. Anything we do that’s to better ourselves, we can convince ourselves we don’t have time, whether that’s meditation, working out, spending quality time with your family, or whatever else. You have time. But the other aspect is this. We fill our time in unexpected ways. Social media has us glued to our phones and we’d be shocked if we really measured how much time we spend scrolling. Phones are the busyness of our era. We fill our times with scrolling through apps and for most of us it doesn’t even really bring us joy. Most of social media is either boring or frustrating.

We need to remember to make time for self care and personal development. We could all manage our time better. We have to make time for quiet and to be present. So let’s see if we can challenge our laziness.

 


If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in meditation

Meditation and Facing Yourself

Meditation practice is like making an appointment to sit and be real. We take our seat and then we are just present with ourselves and facing what we find. It’s in this practice that we have an opportunity to put down all our baggage and the lies we tell ourselves and to just be present with what’s underneath.

The way we react to our experience in meditation can sometimes mirror how we handle things in life. If you are avoiding your practice at all costs, you’re probably someone who avoids dealing with things that need your attention. If you get to meditation and hold onto the practice really hard, you’re probably someone that’s high strung. If you fidget constantly during the practice, you’re probably someone who is often distracted in day to day life. None of these things are incredibly bad or worse than the others, but it helps us to know ourselves.

Sometimes people express that they don’t know if meditation really helps with their self awareness. This is one of the ways it helps. It helps to show you what you’re working with. Learning what your big struggles are is a big step. Some of us spend our lives avoiding reflecting on our shortcomings. Meditation practice forces us to stop doing that. You have to face yourself.

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in meditation

Patience

Patience is something we can talk about a lot. It’s something we should be trying to cultivate because it’s very helpful, not just in our meditation practice, but in our day to day life too. We can always try to have more patience.

There are also different kinds of patience. My partner Alicia once described me as a really patient person and I don’t really see myself that way. That tells me a lot about this word and what it really means.

In some situations I have a lot of patience and in others I have very little. I have a whole lot of patience for dealing with people, especially kids. But when it comes to things like waiting in line, being stuck in traffic, waiting for an elevator, etc. I struggle to remain patient.

So we’re using this word to represent things that are sort of different. I have more patience for people than I do for circumstances. I think many people are the opposite but I don’t know for sure.

I want to suggest we can think of patience in a broad way. We’re talking about how we get through the storms of life. How we can go through our struggles and not fall apart. This is a broader way to think about patience. I want to suggest we can start thinking of patience in this broad way, rather than making it so narrow that it only includes waiting around for things that should have happened by now.

Impatience takes all of our attention, so cultivating patience is important. Meditation helps a lot with that. How? Because I’m making time to do something boring that I don’t really want to do. When we sit still and do nothing for a while, we are training in patience. We may think we’re just training in attention, but we’re training in patience too. So let’s sit.

 

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in meditation

Posture – How We Sit

I’m going to talk about how we sit. What we are doing with our body in meditation is just as important as what we’re doing with our mind.

If we can sit in the full lotus position, that is said to be the best. It’s sitting cross-legged with your left foot on your right thigh and your right foot on your left thigh. I have difficulty doing this position for any length of time, so I often do the half lotus, which is left foot on top of right thigh and right foot tucked underneath left knee. If we can sit in this way we will be stable and our feet won’t fall asleep. I should note that if you meditate in a chair instead of on a cushion, the best way to do this is with your legs firmly planted on the floor.

More important than what we do with our legs is what we do with our back. We need to keep our spine straight. When I used to teach kids I told them to pretend a string was tied to their head holding it up so they stayed sitting straight the whole time. I’ve always found that when I start to slouch I also start to daydream. A straight back helps prevent the mind wandering. We think of body and mind as separate sometimes, but they’re not. Also, slouching for a long time will probably cause some soreness.

Next we need a plan for what our hands are doing. If we don’t have a plan, we might fidget. I recommend what I call “the bowl”. Place your left hand on top of your right hand, with each finger lined up on the opposite with your thumbs gently touching, so an oval is created between the thumbs and the fingers. Some people call this “the cosmic mudra” and I think that’s too fancy. Your hands should be in your lap, with your thumbs near your belly button. If this position really doesn’t work for you, the other option I recommend is called “the relaxation mudra”. That is simply placing your hands on your knees.

A lot of discussion could be had about what we do with our eyes. I recommend an eyes open practice. Tilt your head downward at about a 45 degree angle and gently focus on a spot on the floor. We don’t want to stare intensely but just look and make sure we’re looking at something that’s not too interesting or distracting. I’ve always found that if my eyes are closed, I’m daydreaming, but I know many people do recommend a closed eyes practice.

Posture is of great importance because body and mind are intimately connected. We think there’s a separation and there’s not. Straightening our body leads to straightening the mind.


 

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind