Posted in lojong

Preliminaries (video)

How do we begin and why are we doing this?

If you want the audio version of this teaching you can click here:

or anywhere you get podcasts
Posted in meditation

Covid and Our Changing Lives

The Governor of Missouri stated that all adults in my state will be eligible for the Covid 19 vaccine on April 9th. I can only assume other states will put similar things in place. That’s good news to me because I’ve been waiting for my turn. That’s not to say the Pandemic is over. I think some aspects of this will change our lives forever.

I think Coronavirus is to Millenials what 9/11 was to Gen X’ers like me. Or it is to Gen Z what 9/11 was to Millenials. It’s a watershed moment, we’re all going to remember what it felt like for the rest of our lives.

A great many people said things like “2020 is the worst year ever!” And to me it feels like 2020 is really coming to an end now, three months after the official end.

It’s been a roller-coaster for me.

I gave up on a meditation group I was trying to establish. It was costing me too much money to rent a space. Giving that up was hard for me. I really want to share meditation practice with people, but it is what it is. There are so many places people can go for that in Kansas City. If I could work for someone else as a meditation teacher instead of trying to make my own opportunities I think I’d like that. Some of this was because I really wanted a new spiritual community after I got uncomfortable in my old one (the rime center) a few years ago.

I traveled to Washington DC in March to meet with members of Congress as a representative of Federal workers. That was an amazing experience. I met then-Senator Kamala Harris, among many other people. The last time I was around a crowd was a rally on the lawn of the US Capitol. This was all for my labor union. I was elected to a leadership position near the end of the year. Representing workers that need help feels like a calling to me.

When I got back from that trip in March things changed. That sticks in my memory.

I found out I have the gene for a heart condition and I’ll have to see a cardiologist every year for the rest of my life, but I’m considered low risk as far as this dangerous condition goes. I call it “the other kind of broken heart”

Lots of people had bigger struggles with Covid than me. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work from home for the last year. Alicia has as well. We know how lucky we are and how many people have not been lucky. If/when we have to return the transition will be hard.

Speaking of Alicia. We got married this year. We had planned a big reception, which we felt the need to cancel (we’re having a big first anniversary party in September) so we just had a small simple wedding. It was wonderful. I can say this relationship is the best I’ve ever had by far. I have the family I’ve always wanted.

We also bought a house in Parkville. (a cute little college town outside of Kansas City, if you’re not local). It took us a long time to find a house with enough space, we have four kids. But we did find a wonderful house and we love it here. I’m building a garden full of Buddha statues in the backyard. I call it “the Buddha Garden” but I’m hoping I come up with a better name.

I’m now meditating and burning incense every day, and working in the garden. I’m chanting too, which was always something that I didn’t like very much. I’ve been doing mantras dedicated to personal transformation.

And it all feels like it’s doing something for me.

I’m coming out of this Pandemic a better person than I was at the beginning. I have some optimism.

Posted in books

New Book: Sharpen Your Mind!

My new book, Sharpen Your Mind, is now available for purchase. You can click here to order your copy.

Are ancient teachings meaningful to our modern lives? Can regular people like you and me get something out of studying and practicing a 2600 year old spiritual tradition? In this collection Daniel answers these questions and more. This is about meditation practice for the real world. This is about applying ancient teachings to our lives and finding new meanings.

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 podcast

Too Busy to Meditate (podcast)

I recorded this podcast to address questions people sometimes ask about meditation.

Click here:

https://anchor.fm/daniel-scharpenburg/episodes/What-If-Im-Too-Busy-to-Meditate-ealhro

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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 buddhism, ch'an

Intro to Silent Illumination

Silent Illumination (mozhao) is a formless meditation practice.*

The Buddhism I really teach is Silent Illumination Chan. Its is a meditation practice founded entirely in the awakening of our true nature in the here and now.

These words aren’t used for no reason. “Silent” represents the core of our being. Some people prefer words like “emptiness” or “no self.”

What’s that? It’s our mind before thinking. Before we think about our baggage or the projections we put on the world. We have a lot of narratives and constructs around ourselves and the silence represents what’s underneath all that. There is what’s been called a “don’t know mind” or “beginner’s mind” that exists underneath these layers.

I call it silence.

When we can engage this silence, we can gain some insight. We can see that things are impermanent and that everything is connected. Sometimes this is called Selflessness, which is a kind of heavy and hard to understand word. It just means that we are part of the world. We didn’t come into the world, we came out of it and we are connected to everything.

The silent part of our mind is free from the coming and going of all our distracted thoughts and delusions.

We could say the silence is like the sky and all our thoughts and delusions, all of our bullshit, is clouds passing through. They just pass through and they’re gone. We don’t have to do anything except: not obsess about the clouds. The sky isn’t really effected by the clouds, and you don’t have to be effected by your shit.

The true nature of your mind is free from disturbance. And we can tune into that silence even when we’re in the middle of turmoil—even when everything is going wrong. That silence is still there. It’s not something outside of us. It’s not something we’re trying to gain; it’s there underneath. The nature of the mind is free of all that nonsense. And I call it silence.

Illumination represents the natural function of our minds, which is wisdom. This is related to silence because it’s that empty nature that allows this wisdom to appear. This is openness—mental freedom—the ability to change and liberate ourselves.

Illumination is the function of wisdom and it responds to the needs of ourselves and others.

It’s where we learn how to see things as they really are and have a more dynamic and clear view of the world around us. This is clarity beyond the stories we tell ourselves and our self image. It’s the sky without the clouds.

The practice is sometimes called “the method of no method” and that’s why some may find it difficult at first. Silent Illumination isn’t really a practice. It’s rooted in the idea that we already have the wisdom we are seeking.

To compare it to other forms of meditation, Buddhist meditation is usually put in categories of either calming (samatha) or insight (vipassana). One of these is designed to help bring stability to our scattered minds. The other is to gain insight into the nature of our minds.

Silent Illumination includes both. Traditionally it’s said that calmness leads to meditative absorption and insight leads to wisdom. In Silent Illumination these aren’t practiced separately. They’re practiced together because the truth is there is no separation. The true nature of calm is silence.

So how do we do it?

In sitting meditation we don’t try to do anything. We don’t need to try to force the clouds to go away. We just try to be aware of each moment. Just pay attention to the sitting that you’re doing.

We’re not trying to follow the breath; we’re not trying to keep a mantra. We’re not visualizing anything. We’re just being here. Be with your body sitting. Stop doing everything else and just sit. Every time you get distracted, just come back to sitting and notice how sitting feels.

Just be here.

When we sit in this way, the mind calms down and calmness (samadhi) comes. And after we do it a little while, wisdom (prajna) follows. And even if you have powerful experiences, even if you think you’ve made some wonderful attainment, still just come back to the sitting. This is all there is.

This is just a brief introduction. My favorite practice is the method of no method.

 

*a version of this article originally appeared on The Tattooed Buddha

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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