More new offerings for 2016–Announcing Urban Meditation Group, San Rafael
I am happy to be a co-founder and instructor at the new Urban Meditation Group in downtown San Rafael. Beginning Monday, January 11, 2016, and happening each Monday evening 7-9 p.m., Urban Meditation Group will be held at OpenEye, a beautiful venue created by friend, co-founder and co-instructor Tarane Sayler. OpenEye is located at 875 4th St., San Rafael, CA. I’ll be leading the first evening on January 11.
The Urban Meditation Group is a place to learn and practice meditation in downtown San Rafael. Our purpose is to offer a safe non-denominational refuge in an urban environment, where anyone can find silence, inner peace, awareness, compassion and community. Meditation instruction is provided by experienced instructors. Our gathering is suitable for beginners as well as long-time practitioners. No religious belief or affiliation is required to participate and to benefit from the practice of meditation.
The group is led by Hal Blacker, Jeff Bickner and Tarane Sayler, and occasional guest instructors. The format of our gathering will include meditation, instruction in meditation and an opportunity for questions and discussion.
There is no charge for attendance but donations are graciously appreciated.
We meet at 875 4th Street—just 2 blocks from the San Rafael Public Transit Center, on the East end of 4th St., above the Sacred Tibet Shop.
I am pleased to let you know that I will be teaching a series of meditation classes at Yogakula in Berkeley, California beginning next week, Wednesday, January 13. I will be emphasizing natural mindfulness, an approach to meditation that is based on relaxation and effortless awareness. The classes on are on a drop-in basis–you can attend all of them or any individual class. This is an opportunity to learn meditation, deepen and re-inspire your on-going practice or join others for group practice. Here’s the information:
Dates: Wednesday, January 13 and February 3, 17 & 24
Time: 7:30-9:00 p.m.
1700 Shattuck Ave.
Classes will be offered on a donation basis, with a suggested donation of $10-$17.00.
One way to recognize intrinsic awareness–the original wisdom we were born with–is to see if there is something that is always the same. The sameness that is being pointed to does not exclude difference or change. It is a nonconceptual awareness that transcends the opposites of permanence and impermanence, of difference and sameness. It is a sameness that is seen in difference, a permanence seen right within this world of impermanence, a stable presence that pervades all states of consciousness whether peaceful or disturbed, happy or sad.
Seeing this sameness is a doorway to the simple recognition of one’s own awareness as primordial wisdom.
In this short meditative talk (about 20 minutes long), Hal points to the possibility of recognizing innate nonconceptual sameness. This talk was given at Real Dharma Sangha on May 1, 2012. To listen, use the flashplayer, below:
The everyday practice of dzogchen is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to all situations without limit.
We should realize openness as the playground of our emotions and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy.
We should experience everything totally, never withdrawing into ourselves as a marmot hides in its hole.
This practice releases tremendous energy which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining fixed reference points. Referentiality is the process by which we retreat from the direct experience of everyday life.
Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns.
When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection.
Since we recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, this might be a good time to briefly reflect on the relationship between our mother the earth and awakening.
Legend has it that when Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, he was challenged by Mara, the voice of limitation, death and delusion. Mara asked the Buddha by what authority he could claim awakening. In response, Buddha extended his right hand, touched the earth, and said, “The earth is my witness.” These words and this gesture have been immortalized by countless images of Buddha touching the earth, showing the earth-touching mudra.
The meaning of this symbolic story is profound. Many forms of spirituality claim descent from immaterial or “higher” spiritual realms, and set up an opposition between the spiritual and the material. In contrast, Buddha was a human being and he taught that his awakening came from the earth itself. This earthly orientation to awakening permeates the Buddhist teachings. For example, in contrast to the traditional yogic technique of withdrawing the senses—pratyahara, the fifth limb of ashtanga yoga as taught by the father of yoga, Patanjali—Buddhist meditative techniques commonly teach the development of mindfulness and awareness of the senses and their objects.
According to Buddhism, the earth and the objects of the senses are not themselves an obstacle to awakening. It is only a wrong relationship with them, based upon craving and ignorance, that creates our suffering. In the innermost essence of real dharma, the earth and all its forms, when seen without craving or ignorance, perfectly reflect and embody awakening. This wisdom teaching implicitly underlies Buddhism’s many manifestations—from the early Buddhist practice of mindfulness; to the Prajnaparamita teaching that form is emptiness, and emptiness is form; to the Third Turning teaching that Buddha Nature pervades everywhere; and beyond to the secret teachings of Tantra, Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
Seen with the eye of wisdom, the earth, its forms, all of its beings and we ourselves are embodied awareness, and are all worthy of reverence and love.
Meditation leading to liberation can be easy and natural. As the Buddha recounted:
“I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then following on that memory came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.’—Majjhima Nikaya 36
The Buddha had engaged in yoga and in self-mortification, but his desire for liberation from suffering was not satisfied. Then he recalled how, as a young man, he had spontaneously entered a natural state of meditative contemplation while resting in the shade of a rose-apple tree. It occurred to him that such natural meditation might be more conducive to liberation than the yogic trances or self-denial he had previously pursued. As a result, he took some food, and proceeded to the Bodhi tree where he sat naturally and easefully, with the strong intention to sit still until he penetrated the matter of suffering. The sutras recount that the next morning, upon seeing Venus rising, Gotama became the Awakened One.
The most fruitful meditation is like that of the Buddha—natural, relaxed, awake and with the intention of liberation, but at ease. The great teachers of Dzogchen, such as Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa, also taught natural meditation. In meditation, as in life, too much force, concentration or fancy technique is counter-productive. Since one’s true nature is the natural state-the default state of rest when craving is relaxed-it is not hard to understand how meditation that is natural and full of ease is the most direct path to its realization.