“Faith dispels doubt and hesitation, it liberates you from suffering and delivers you to the city of peace and happiness.” – Dalai Lama
Dear NVIM community,
At this coming Tuesday evening’s meditation (Sept 1st) I’d like to invite us to explore the significance of faith as it relates to our practice. I am not referring here to “blind faith”, which many of us associate with religious doctrine and is an unquestioning belief in something we are told. Rather I’m referring to faith in ourselves and our potential, which arises from our own experiences.
The word faith in the Buddhist tradition comes from the pali word “saddha.” Sometimes saddha is also translated as trust, confidence, and conviction. A somewhat literal translation is “to put one’s heart upon something.” To get out of the head that is wondering or fearing what is going to happen next, and to somehow find the courage to open up to life. It is this quality of faith that is an essential ingredient for our spiritual journey. It provides us with the courage and conviction to continue our practice in the face of uncertainty, even when things aren’t going so well.
Faith is really the seed that gets us to take up this practice in the first place. You have to believe there is some kind of value to sitting down silently for long periods of time and being with your breath. After all it’s not very “produce” in the usual sense of the word. We have to feel there is some value to meditation, otherwise why bother. Faith provides us with the initial motivation that this practice is somehow good for our lives.
Faith in ourselves and our practice leads to effort. The effort to develop our mind and heart. The effort in our meditation to bring ourselves back, each time our mind has wondered (hopefully in a very kind and loving way). Through these efforts mindfulness begins to arise, allowing us to develop our capacity to be with our experience in the present moment. This leads to greater concentration and the ability to see things more clearly than normal, because our minds are often so scattered and unfocused. When there is enough gathering of attention, then we can start to see how this mind works and wisdom arises. We begin to see for ourselves, on an “experiential level,” that everything is changing and that holding on to changing experience is a futile endeavor and leads to suffering. We may even begin to see that who we are is a process of change, as opposed to some fixed identity to whom life is happening.
Practice is difficult without faith. The doubting mind, one of the great hindrances to practice, makes us feel alone and disconnected. The voice of doubt says, “Everyone else is meditating and I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m a lousy mediator, this practice is a waste of time, I’ll never be good at this, ….” When our faith is strong, we develop trust in the process and in our ability to work with doubt and frustration. As Joseph Goldstein writes, “with the awakening of faith we have the energy to ford the streams of doubt and to bring our lives into alignment with our highest goals.”
Below are some questions you might wish to explore about faith and trust. Perhaps pick one and just sit with it silently in your heart. See what arises for you.
- What do you know to be absolutely true about life that inspires you?
- What can you draw on that helps you access your trust in the unfolding of life?
- When you’re going through doubt, as we all do, what can you draw on in your wisest moments?
Mediation for Beginners, 6:15pm – 6:45pm: Prior to our regular gathering on September 1st, we will offer our first 30-minute beginner’s class for those interested in starting a meditation practice. Gentle, basic practice instructions will be provided, inviting us to use our direct experience of breath, body and senses to support our capacity to receive this present moment experience with curiosity and kindness. Instruction will also include tips on how to begin and maintain your practice and a short question and answer period. All new or beginning meditators are warmly welcomed to attend.
Upcoming NVIM Events & Information:
Tuesday, Sept 8th, Guest Teacher Shahara Godfrey: NVIM will host a talk by Buddhist teacher, humanitarian, artist and meditation instructor Shahara Godfrey. Trained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition for over 20 years and is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leadership Program, the Path of Engagement Program and holds a PhD in humanities.
Saturday, Sept. 19th Daylong: Being an Earthling, with Wes Nisker: In this Daylong, Wes will help us explore the joys and sorrows of living in the modern era, including the issues of climate change and species extinction. For more info: http://goo.gl/Lvdnik
Thursday Morning Silent Meditation: For those interested in supporting their daily practice, we invite you to join NVIM on Thursday mornings for silent meditation. This 30-minute meditation will begin promptly at 9:00am and is a wonderful opportunity to nurture your practice in an intimate and supportive setting. All are welcome.
On-Line Course, Essential Buddhist Teachings: This 10-week course, led by Spirit Rock teacher Mark Coleman, offers an in-depth understanding of core Buddhist teachings and meditation practices and is useful for newer students as well as more experienced meditators who want to refresh their knowledge. The course starts on 9/3 and the cost is $100.
For details go to: www.spiritrock.org/calendarDetails?EventID=4088
On-Line Course, The Science of Happiness: Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, this free 8-week course will offer practical, research-based supports for living a happier and more meaningful life. Themes such as empathy, mindfulness and gratitude will be covered. The course starts on 9/8.
For details go to: www.edx.org/course/science-happiness-uc-berkeleyx-gg101x-1#!
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