Insight Meditation Group
Welcome, I am happy you have arrived here! I am passionate about sharing my enthusiasm for meditation, a practice that helps me negotiate and make sense of this mysterious, wonderful, but often painful human life.
This page gives details about the meditation meetings I lead each week at Fairfield House in Nelson. If you think you might like to attend, the details are immediately below. Scroll down further for to learn more about my personal journey with meditation practice and the Insight Meditation tradition.
I hope to meet you soon,
Weekly Meditation Group
When: Every Thursday evening, 7.30 - 9.00pm
(with breaks for school holidays - see note below)
Where: The Loft, Fairfield House, Nelson
Cost: Gold coin (for room hire) plus Dana.
The Buddha gave his precious teaching freely, in the spirit of generosity (or 'Dana' on Pali language), and in this same spirit these teachings have been passed on over 2600 years. I offer the space in our home and my leadership freely. Any dana you choose to contribute is a great support and deeply appreciated.
Programme: We generally begin each session with a silent meditation of 30 minutes. Instructions are given if beginners are present. The remaining time is used for group discussion. Usually Roger leads these discussions, based on a particular Dharma theme. Sometimes we listen to a recorded Dharma talk.
Beginners welcome. Please phone me if attending for the first time: 545 6167.
Some notes about my own journey with meditation practice
I have practiced Buddhist meditation for over 20 years. I began meditation practice with a strong commitment: I lived for four years in a small training temple in rural Japan. Under the care and guidance of my teacher Harada Tangen Roshi, together with about 25 other monks and lay-practioners, we lived a fairly austere life with a strict daily schedule. At that time I had rather narrow, selfish motives but also a great determination to learn what is true and real in this life. It took several years until I was abruptly confronted by deep contradictions between my self-image and the reality of my thoughts and behaviour - contradictions so terrifying they brought on something akin to a mental breakdown. My mind seethed with violent thoughts but fortunately I didn't act on these impulses. I felt totally evil and dispassionate. Believing that no Buddha, God or human could help me I cut myself off from any help my teacher could have offered. Unable to follow the temple routine I had to leave.
In despair I returned to my home town, Nelson, New Zealand. I felt profoundly disappointed in myself, disillusioned with Buddhist practice and holding no hope for either myself or the world around me. I could have ended my life right then, but somehow I knew that would only bring me to a worse place. Having lost all faith in spiritual practice, I didn't do meditation again until many years later.
Since death was not an option I had to find a way to live - so I trained to become a restaurant chef. I distracted myself from inner pain and a tendancy to depression by seeking short-lived pleasures - food, alcohol, girlfriends, movies, travel. At some point I realised that even though I held no hope for myself (in a spiritual sense), since this immediate, physical world was all I had I might as well contribute to it in a positive way. Gradually I began to take more care with my health and how I spent my time. I learned Iyengar yoga and over several years this practice brought inceasing stability to my mind and my daily life.
When I met Anna, who was to become my wife, I began practicing sitting meditation again and started attending retreats with her. On a particular one of these retreats I felt sufficiently calm to look carefully at the dark place that held my experiences in the temple in Japan. Looking carefully at my memories I realised it was only ME who was responsible for the heavy judgements that hung over my life. I was able to put down this burden - and suddenly the whole world felt like a fresh, new place.
Since then I have experienced moments of great clarity and joy as well as periods of terrible mental suffering and remorse. Throughout these extreme highs and lows but not once have I regretted embarking on this journey. It has been my great fortune to be guided by some wonderful teachers. These days I feel deeply content and resilient even in the midst of life's inevitable challenges. My own family members will assure you that I have not achieved anything approaching human perfection (he he).
With the benefit of hindsight I can see now that life is always conspiring to teach us. We are never alone or abandoned.
What is Meditation?
Here are some of my own thoughts:
Meditation is essentially an exploration of the relationship we have with ourselves. In the beginning it may feel like a totally private, almost selfish activity. With consistent, patient practice it softens the tensions that exist between ourselves and others and bringing us into harmony with our world.
It may be helpful to think of meditation as “mind training”. By bringing attention to our present-moment experience, which includes our thoughts processes, we naturally let go of views, beliefs and habits that are not serving us well.
Meditation training usually begins by sitting quietly and observing the breath. Eventually however we learn to bring a quality of careful attention into all areas of life. In the beginning it feels like meditation is a “special” activity, something we do separately from our normal, every day life. Eventually meditation evolves to become an integral part of life itself, something we can engage with at any time or place.
To practice meditation does not require us to hold any particular religious or spiritual beliefs. Any beliefs we hold will not interfere with the practice. What we do require is openness and curiosity, a desire to investigate our experience of life.
The following two sections on insight meditation and loving-kindness meditation come from the Insight MEditation Society website: http://www.dharma.org
What is insight meditation?
- Insight meditation (vipassana in Pali, the language of the original Buddhist teachings) is the simple and direct practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness. Through careful and sustained observation, we experience for ourselves the ever-changing flow of the mind/body process. This awareness leads us to accept more fully the pleasure and pain, fear and joy, sadness and happiness that life inevitably brings. As insight deepens, we develop greater equanimity and peace in the face of change, and wisdom and compassion increasingly become the guiding principles of our lives.
- The Buddha first taught insight meditation over 2,500 years ago. The various methods of this practice have been well preserved in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, and the retreats at IMS are all rooted in this ancient and well-mapped path to awakening.
What is lovingkindness meditation?Metta is the Pali word for friendship or lovingkindness. It is taught as a meditation that cultivates our natural capacity for an open and loving heart. With its roots in practices said to be taught by the Buddha himself, metta is traditionally offered along with meditations that enrich compassion, joy in the happiness of others and equanimity. These practices lead to the development of concentration, fearlessness, happiness and a greater ability to love.