The Meditation Circle of Charleston has been re-focusing itself of late into a more explicitly Buddhist-oriented group.
IF YOU WISH TO RECEIVE AUTOMATIC E-MAILS when we post stuff on meditation news and resources (or if you follow Web sites through Google and Yahoo RSS news readers) you’ll need to re-subscribe to this site. Starting this month, the Meditation Circle of Charleston has begun to listen to a wonderful series of talks on meditation by Bhante Sujato, of Santi Forest Monastery in Bundanoon, Sydney in Australia’s Southern Highlands.
Here is an online meditation resource with guidance for beginners on meditation, suggested by circle member Thad Settle.
There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by.
But there is really another whole realm of depth and sensitivity available in life, somehow, you are just not seeing it.
As the end of 2009 approaches and a new year commences, the Meditation Circle of Charleston will begin to undertake a discussion of the basics of meditation in the Buddhist tradition and the building blocks of a good sitting practice.
THERE WAS SOME DISCUSSION at tonight’s Meditation Circle gathering about finding teachers and seeking out retreats where teachers may be encountered. If one of these retreats interests you, you’d be advised to sign up soon as Bhavana gets visitors from across the continent and world and if you wait to the last minute, the retreat may be full.
For thousands of years, Buddhist meditators have claimed that the simple act of sitting down and following their breath while letting go of intrusive thoughts can free one from the entanglements of neurotic suffering.
Now, scientists are using cutting-edge scanning technology to watch the meditating mind at work. We’ve had a couple of requests for the metta (loving-kindness) meditation we do at the Meditation Circle of Charleston. May my parents be well happy and peaceful.  May no harm come to them, may difficulties not last long, may they have calm, centered minds.
Often we like to think that simply by adding meditation to our daily schedule, the effects of the meditation will permeate our whole lives without our having to do much of anything else. This is why, when you’re a meditator, you also have to look at the way you live your life, your day-to-day activities. There’s a teaching in the Theravada canon on five principles that a new monk should keep in mind. The second principle for creating a good environment for meditation in your life is restraint of the senses. It’s not that you shouldn’t look at the body; it’s just that you should look more carefully. The third principle for creating a good environment for meditation is restraint in conversation. If observing this principle means that you gain a reputation for being a quiet person, well that’s fine.
The fourth principle for creating a good environment for meditation in your life is finding some solitude. It’s important to believe in this principle, because this is what gives more power to your life. As for the second level of right view, the transcendent level, that means seeing things in terms of the four noble truths—stress and suffering, the cause of stress and suffering, the cessation of stress and suffering, and the path of practice to that cessation. According to the Buddha, it’s important to see things in this way because if you identify everything in terms of yourself, how can you possibly understand anything for what it actually is? In the process of revising our Web Site, I created a new subscription feed that, alas, in my self-taught Web designer bumbleheadness, erased the link if you have have been a subscriber in the past.
The talks are on the specific practice of metta or loving-kindness meditation, taught in a methodical fashion by a monk in Bangkok with whom Bhante Sujato has studied.
With advance notice (e-mail or call ahead by a couple weeks) you may also just go up when Bhavana is not holding retreats and get a sense of the place and buttonhole a monk or nun (well, their robes don’t actualy  buttonholes) to ask about meditation and the teachings that surround the practice. Bhavana supports itself in the traditional way, purely by donation, so there is no set cost for these retreats. It is adapted from a metta meditation done by Bhante Gunaratana, abbot at the Bhavana Society. May they have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.
The Meditation Circle has used the site’s pages for an ongoing discussion of the Noble Eightfold Path. See if you’re creating a conducive environment for the meditation to thrive and spread.

These principles apply not only to new monks, but also to anyone who wants to live a life where the meditation can seep through and permeate everything. If you know that something tends to arouse lust or anger, learn to look at it in a way that counteracts the lust or anger. For lay people, this means being careful about the friends you associate with, the magazines you read, the TV you watch, the music you listen to. When I first went to stay with my teacher, Ajahn Fuang, he said that lesson number one in meditation is keeping control of your mouth. You find that your words, if you’re more careful about doling them out, start taking on more worth. There you can get a sense of perspective on your life so that what’s going on in your mind can stand out in bolder relief. Turn off the TV, turn out the lights, and allow yourself to be alone without a lot of distractions.
Just look at the whole range of your experience: instead of dividing it up into its usual patterns of me and not me, simply look to see where there is suffering and stress. Instead of blaming your sufferings on people outside, look at what you’re doing to create that suffering and focus on dealing with that first.
When you follow these principles, they create a conducive environment for concentration, as well as a receptive environment that allows the results of concentration to permeate your surroundings. Along the way of introducing this metta meditation practice, Bhante Sujato undertakes an illuminating survey of the different kinds and methods of Buddhist meditation. See this post for more on the Circle’s ongoing discussion in 2010 on the basics of a meditation practice in the Buddhist style of insight or vipassana meditation. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look OK from the outside.
You feel insulated from the sweetness of experience by some sort of sensory cotton. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. May I have patience, insight, courage and compassion in meeting and overcoming the inevitable challenges, difficulties and failures in life.
But be sure to register months in advance as people from form around the world and retreat spaces fill up fast. You have to make your life a good place for the meditation to seep through, because some activities, some states of mind, are really resistant to receiving any influence from the meditation.
Otherwise the meditation just gets squeezed into the cracks here and there, and never permeates much of anything at all. This balances the one-sided view that simply focuses on a few attractive details here and there and tends to blot out everything else in order to give rise to lust.
After a while you find that this is not a case of restricting yourself so much as it is learning to see things more carefully, more fully. First, there’s belief in the principle of karma—that what you do really does have results.
When you develop this attitude in everyday life, it’s a lot easier to apply it to the meditation.
This way your practice, instead of being forced into the cracks of a hostile, alien environment, has room to grow and to transform everything around it.
The talk in the mp3 player above is a shortened version of his introductory talk that I edited down a bit so as to fit into a manageable size for listening at our meeting and online.
It requires a host of personal qualities which we normally regard as unpleasant and which we like to avoid whenever possible.
But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you, you keep those to yourself.
So, those interested in taking an active part in an ongoing discussion about the regular practice of meditation are encouraged to start reading the book online or it can be ordered from Wisdom or Amazon.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu outlines five principles of the ethical, restrained life conducive to meditation practice. In the case of lay people, it refers to the five precepts, and on occasion the eight precepts. Now you’re seeing both sides of things that used to seem solely attractive or solely unattractive. After all, if you’re constantly chattering all day long, how are you going to stop the mental chatter when you sit down to meditate?

When you do this, you find that things submerged in the depths of your mind come up to the surface—and it’s only when they come up to the surface that you can deal with them. I encourage you to seek out this and other talks by this very interesting Western monk who trained with Ajahn Brahm and who has a colorful past as a performer. As Ajahn Lee, one of the foremost teachers of the Thai forest ascetic tradition, says, be a person with two eyes, not just one. There’s so much garbage in there that you spend almost the whole hour cleaning it out and then realize you have only five minutes for any real stillness at the end.
But if you develop this habit of watching over your mouth, the same habit then comes to apply to the meditation. When people have trouble living in solitude it shows that there’s lots of unfinished business inside. When you’re without a lot of outside input, the mind will tend to stay with the meditation more easily. And what qualities do I need to develop, what things do I need to let go of, in order to let go of the craving, the ignorance underlying the stress?
But looking at things in terms of the four noble truths allows you to solve the whole problem of suffering. And then even that vague awareness fades away, and you are back to the same old reality. The Buddha described observing the precepts as a gift: a gift both to yourself and to the people around you.
Many times the mind wants to feel lust and so it goes out looking for something to incite the lust.
When I drop craving, can I be aware of what’s happening?” All too often when we drop one craving we simply pick up another. You give protection to other people’s lives, their property, their knowledge of the truth. It grabs hold of whatever little details it can find, even when those details are surrounded by all sorts of unclean things. Meanwhile, way down under all that you just know there has got be some other way to live, some better way to look at the world, some way to touch life more fully.
That way you find you have a much nicer place to settle in when you create your meditation home.
And when you make a habit of asking yourself these questions, you find that very little conversation is necessary. It is certainly a great deal easier just to kick back and watch television.
It is an emotional roller coaster, and you spend a lot of your time down at the bottom of the ramp, yearning for the heights.
And when these principles become precepts—in other words, a promise to yourself that you keep in all circumstances—the Buddha says that you’re giving unlimited protection, unlimited safety, to other beings, and you have a share in that safety yourself. Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? You start getting careless, running off at the mouth, and that turns into idle chatter, which is not only a waste of energy but also a source of danger. Often the things people say that cause the most harm are when they’re just allowing whatever comes into their mind to go right out their mouth without any restraint at all.
Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away. And just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away.
You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back — usually when you least expect it.
All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life.

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