It was only Venerable Mudu's second visit to the Armadale Meditation Group's Tuesday evening session and as such, a most welcome surprise. Venerable started the evening by letting us know that he doesn’t really have a preferred method of meditation. In Venerable’s words “I really don’t have a fixed kind of meditation of step one, two, three and four. I roll them all into one, I sit down, shut-up and just watch what goes on in my mind”. Venerable does recognise that those of us new to or still learning, need guidance though. With that in mind Venerable related to us his experience when he first started to learn meditation techniques of breath and metta etc. On a nine day retreat when still a lay person, his view of daily life differed from what he is now learning. In this example he demonstrated how the simple mantra of “Make Peace Be Kind Be Gentle” helped him to overcome his conditioned response of self criticism.

Venerable Mudu then led the group in meditation. Venerable started the meditation with a short body sweep giving thanks and being grateful to our bodies for the work they do each day. For the balance of the meditation we all went in search of the beautiful breath.

After meditation Venerable continued his explanation of why we should meditate each day. Venerable concluded the night with a joke he was asked to deliver to us by Ajahn Brahm. Everyone in attendance left relaxed and happy. This meditation is well suited to both beginners and experienced alike.

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When visiting us at the Armadale Meditation Group, Ajahn Brahm always starts and ends the evening with humour. Tonight was no exception. Cleverly, Ajahn uses humour to bring us into the present moment. We are listening, we are focused, we are laughing and at ease. Forgotten are the troubles of the day, the plans for tomorrow. We are here in the present moment with Ajahn Brahm, listening intently to his jokes, funny stories and his instructions on meditation.

Ajahn Brahm led us in a thirty minute meditation easily enjoyed by beginners and experienced meditators alike. To begin, Ajahn simply asks us to make ourselves comfortable and as much as possible to relax. Not a traditional body sweep. Ajahn then progresses us to simply dealing with what is in front of us, rather than trying to suppress or dismiss our thoughts. Instead, encouraging us to focus on the silence between thoughts. As we practice this, the silence between thoughts gets longer.

After meditation Ajahn opened to questions. Several of the questions are those many of us face.

 

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Ajahn Jhanarato [Ajahn JR], prefers an unstructured meditation so begins the night by explaining why. We do have a tendency when learning something new to want or need instructions or structure. Though many of us still like to have a guided meditation, sometimes it's interesting to just start our meditation and see what arises.

Though preferring an unstructured meditation, Ajahn then led us through a longer than usual body sweep meditation.

 

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We are frequently encouraged to watch our breath during meditation. It is a time honoured practice we all use during meditation. Venerable Bodhidhaja references a novel written by Michael Ende titled Momo to encourage us to truly listen to what is happening in our minds rather than watching. Venerable uses this method because of the difference in how we define watching and listening. For many of us, when we watch an activity we are inclined to form an opinion or to perhaps wish it to be different. We are thinking. Not what we really want to do. So by just truly listening with the utmost attention and empathy, we don't tend to engage or form thoughts and opinions. A thought arises, we listen rather than watch and we let it go.

Venerable then guided us in an entirely relaxing, different meditation practice that encouraged us to listen with full attention and empathy, rather than watch our thoughts. Venerable commenced with a body scan and then softly moved to breath meditation. The meditation is well suited to beginners and experienced alike.

After meditation Venerable opened to questions.

 

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We haven’t seen Ajahn Santutthi at The Armadale Meditation Group for some time now so it was a welcome surprise. Ajahn began the evening by asking us to let go of the doer in our mind, so the mind can begin to relax. We constantly look for things to do in life and our mind isn’t much different. Our mind is constantly looking for things to make it happy, things to do. The doer in our mind doesn’t do relax. So to really relax, we need to let it go and just be in the present moment.

Ajahn led us in a longer than usual meditation this evening that is well suited to beginners and experienced alike. After the meditation, rather than talk on any specific subject, Ajahn opened to a Q&A to conclude the evening. Interspersed throughout Q&A are some funny stories to further relax us all. 

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Tonight’s teacher was Ajahn Appi. Ajahn opened the night by explaining how our minds change over time through meditation. The basic methods of meditation are relatively easy, the hard part is sticking with it and practising. For beginners and experienced alike, finding those moments when we can meditate for minutes at a time can be difficult. Our modern world fills our heads with all manner of distractions and hindrances. Then our mind will throw up thoughts of the future, such as “is my super going to be enough”, or thoughts of the past “he said some horrible things to me”. So how do we stay in the present moment and avoid all this? We practice, as often as we can.

Ajahn then guided the group in meditation beginning with 5 minutes focusing on the darkness we see when we first close our eyes. The effect of this for beginners is to bring them into the present moment. Ajahn then continued the meditation focusing on the breath, this kept us in the present moment. This meditation would best suite beginners to intermediate meditators.

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The Armadale Meditation Group doesn’t often get to see Ajahn Brahmali so when we do we are very grateful.

Ajahn began the night by relating a story of a visit from Ajahn Ganah to Bodhinyanna Monastery. So as not to spoil the story I will stop here. Ajahn Brahmali told this story to highlight how meditation can change people and other's perception of them. We become happier, more patient and more relaxed, but it takes practice and perseverance.

Ajahn then lead the full house through a very peaceful and relaxing 30 minute meditation suitable to both experienced and beginners alike.

After meditation Ajahn opened to comments and questions before continuing his talk on how we change with meditation.

 

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We don’t see Ajahn Cittapalo often enough at The Armadale Meditation Group. Ajahn is particularly good at delivering instructions on meditation that are easily understood by beginners and those new to meditation.

Ajahn began his talk tonight by making us all laugh when he used our headset microphone for the first time. This had the immediate effect of relaxing us all and bringing us into the present moment. Ajahn then commenced his talk and instruction by asking us to consider what our intentions and motivations are before we meditate or, in the case of “newbies”, (as he calls those of us who are fairly new to meditation), to look carefully at our intentions and motivations before we sit down and attempt to meditate. If we do this for a minute or two, and try not to place undue pressure on ourselves, the meditation becomes less of a task and thus a more pleasant thing to do. No-one wants to add another task to their day.

After giving us instructions and describing the benefits of meditation to the “newbies”, Ajahn lead the group through a body sweep and peaceful meditation intended to help us simply relax and look inward. This meditation is well suited to beginners and those new to meditation.

After meditation Ajahn continued his talk on those things that hinder our meditations. He also asked us to consider trying different meditations and even different teachers before giving up. Ajahn talked on those things that we humans allow ourselves to become addicted to, suggesting that an addiction to meditation would be more beneficial. Ajahn further encouraged us to look within our own minds to resolve those things that bother us so deeply.

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We humans seem to have an issue with doing nothing! Ajahn describes doing nothing as an art form. When we start to meditate our mind will try all manner of tricks to keep us from a still, quiet session. It will monkey about and thoughts will come to mind of the past, of the future and even of the present which is all intended to keep our attention away from our goal of a quiet mind. Ajahn Brahm uses humour and common sense to make us laugh and relax. This is a good step on the path to meditation. Having a happy, relaxed mind prior to meditation is so much better than having a mind stuck in the past or desperately trying to predict the future.

So in the inimitable style of Ajahn Brahm, we heard jokes and funny stories and had a good laugh prior to commencing our meditation. Ajahn led the group through a body sweep prior to focusing on the present moment.

This meditation is well suited to beginners and experienced meditators alike.

After meditation Ajahn opened to questions and was asked to further explain the "doer and the thinker". Ajahn used his life experience and funny stories to illustrate the answer.

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Bhante started the night by asking the group if there was a particular subject or topic that he might use to base the evening’s meditation and talk on. One member asked for a meditation with Metta whilst another suggested a meditation dealing with physical pain. Bhante, after careful and clever consideration, was able to deliver a talk which combined both subjects. Gratitude, as described by Bhante, is the airbag we need when things aren't going well, or to our liking, in our lives. Bhante described the two darts of suffering as one being a physical pain, for which we might seek relief with medication, and the other as a mental pain. Many of us sadly use our mental suffering to make our physical pain so much worse than it need be. A good meditation can most certainly help. We humans often don't separate the two which leads us to make our physical pain so much worse with an increasingly negative mind set.

Bhante then led the group in a guided meditation on gratitude that went a little longer than usual. By focusing on gratitude for everything from the simplest smiles of family or friends to the big events in our lives, we build an airbag to cushion us against adversity and pain.

After the meditation Bhante continued his discourse on gratitude. He pointed out to us the many ways we can build up our resistance to both bad situations and physical pain, by remembering those times and things that we are grateful for.

 

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Ajahn Appi started with an in-depth explanation of meditation for beginners. He outlined many of the benefits that can be gained from a regular meditation practice, such as peacefulness and a resistance to stress, anger, anxiety and many of the garden variety feelings that we as humans encounter in our daily lives. Ajahn continued his explanation until meditation time, touching on how each of us will be individually affected by a continued practice, with the main benefits being an improved wisdom and emotional outlook on life.

Ajahn then lead the group in three different techniques of meditation. The first meditation which is five minutes, is to use the darkness we have present in our minds when we close our eyes and begin to meditate. This is done to draw our attention away from thinking.

The second five minute meditation focuses our attention on our breath moving out of our bodies, then in, all the way to our abdomen, and then out again. This method of following a moving object is recommended for less experienced meditators as it is easier to follow a moving object than a stationary one.

The third meditation is twenty minutes and asks us to focus our attention on the very fine feelings, or rather sensations, that arise at the edges of our mouths and/or nostrils when we breath. Ajahn also recommends doing these meditations in a dull or darkened environment. This helps us turn our focus inward rather than be distracted by external events.

After meditation Ajahn opened to Q&A and then gave us a talk on the hindrances for beginners. Ajahn briefly touched on Karma, and how it can accumulate and affect our daily lives.

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Bhante approached subjects that we westerners have trouble with, and he did so with humour, candour and wit. We all have an inner voice that most of us either try to ignore or take too seriously/literally. It can often lead to feelings of shame if we feel we have made a mistake in life. We need to have compassion for ourselves, to forgive ourselves and realise that the inner voice that may be telling us we are stupid or foolish is wrong. We also spend a great deal of time blaming our decisions, our actions and our situations on our parents. We are old enough, surely, to realise that we can decide to stop this cycle and change our own direction by listening to our hearts and not the voice of shame. We can change the direction of our lives by having compassion for, and forgiving, ourselves.

Tonight’s meditation went a little longer than the usual 30 minutes and is well suited to those of us who find our inner voice telling us that we are stupid or foolish, or to those of us who are blaming our parents.

After the meditation, Bhante continued his talk on compassion and forgiveness for ourselves by using his own life experiences as an example.

 

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Ajahn Jhanarato [JR], started the evening by relaxing us with an explanation of the quiet moments that we experience between thoughts. These quiet moments are what we need to focus on but how do we do that without effort, without tripping our “self” into a thought process. Don't, that's it, don't. When a thought arises, just let it pass, don't engage, gently pull yourself back to your meditation. We will do this many times and eventually [with lots of practice] we start to notice that the gaps, or quiet moments, become longer. After a while they will become more frequent than the random thoughts. Ajahn recommended to us all that we read Ajahn Brahms booklet on "The Basic Method of Meditation" before we attempt to move onto more advanced states of meditation.

Ajahn then led us through a very relaxed and easy 30 minute meditation, asking us to just notice the quiet moments of our mind. He reminded us to use our breath as an anchor to return us when we strayed into random thoughts.

After meditation Ajahn opened to Q&A with explanations on some of the more difficult concepts to grasp for beginners.

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It was Venerable Mudu's first of, hopefully, many, visits to the Armadale Meditation Group's Tuesday evening session. Venerable opened the evening by introducing himself to us all and relating a shortened version of his life as a monastic. After his introduction he posed the question of "Why on earth would we want to meditate". Is it because it's cool, hip and popular? Well, yes it is cool, hip and popular, but that isn't enough of a reason to do it. Venerable related a story of a visit Ajahn Chah had from an American scientist. The scientist, wishing to know what, if anything, was going on when we meditate, brought along all manner of instruments to try to measure any results he might find. Before he commenced, he asked Ajahn Chah “Why do you meditate”. To which Ajahn Chah responded "To have a healthy body, you must eat right and exercise". "To have a healthy mind, you must meditate".

With that in mind, Venerable then gave an explanation easily understood by inexperienced and experienced meditators alike on the simplest way to start meditating and gently gaining experience with practice. Venerable then led us through meditation beginning with a body sweep and progressing to breath meditation.

After meditation Venerable opened to Q&A before continuing his talk on monastic life and life in general.

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The first session back after the end of year break and tonight we were attended by Ajahn Appichato, best known as Ajahn Appi. Ajahn started by describing several of the simpler methods of meditation such as using objects or a point of focus. Ajahn's favoured object is the blackness that we encounter when we close our eyes to meditate. It should be noted though that for some of us it will be white, like a light. In either case, it can be an interesting object to focus the mind on. This effectively shuts out the rest of our senses and allows our mind to slow down. For the beginners Ajahn also talked briefly on our breath and breathing as a focus object.

Ajahn then led the group through meditation with changes of focus from the blackness or white light, to breath and breathing meditation. An easy meditation for beginners and an interesting meditation for the more experienced meditator.

After meditation the room was so quiet and relaxed that you could easily have heard a pin hit the floor, and it's carpet.

Ajahn then opened to questions before giving a talk on resolution.

 

 

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Ajahn Brahmali, as one of our most senior and respected monks, doesn't often get the time to visit us at AMG so when he does, we have a full house as he is an excellent teacher.

Ajahn began the night with a talk on the obstacles and problems most often associated with meditation for beginners. Tiredness and the thinking mind, these are the two main issues we deal with when we first learn to meditate. Actually, even experienced meditators experience these obstacles. Ajahn continued to explain how to overcome them.

Ajahn then guided us through a 30 minute meditation followed by opening to questions and offering sound answers and explanations. One of the questions related to death contemplation which in western society is not so much a taboo subject, but one most of us don't want to hear about, let alone contemplate. Ajahn showed us that this was a way of putting down our thoughts of the future when meditating.

This meditation is well suited to those wishing to get a start in meditation.

 

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Ajahn opened the evening by having us make bubbles and laughing. Ajahn then explained that like popping bubbles we can pop our thoughts as they arise during meditation. Ajahn further explained that trying to meditate without joy and happiness in our minds is so much more difficult than with peace, harmony and joy. If you try to meditate with a heavy, dark or unhappy mind it will be difficult, if not impossible, to have a good meditation. Letting go of our thinking mind is the object we all seek. Popping the thoughts as they arise, just as we would a bubble, is where we wish to go. In this way we become an observer of our thoughts rather than being a controller. We let our thoughts pass more easily and more quickly as an observer.

Ajahn then lead the group in a 30 minute guided meditation starting with a body sweep. This meditation is well suited to beginners and experienced alike.

After meditation time seemed to have vanished for all of us so Ajahn reiterated that we need to start our meditation from a peaceful happy place.

 

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Bhante Buddharakkhita was about to start the evening when he noticed that the Christmas lights were on in our room. Bhante asked that they be left on, and the main lights turned off, so as to mark the time of the year which, to those of us in western society, is Christmas.  Such things, that may seem not to be an issue to us, are to others a trigger for anxiety and stress.  As this was the case for some in our audience, Bhante explained that to run for a lifetime from such things does not make them better or resolve them.  Sooner or later you have to face such triggers and where better than in a group of like minded people who are all learning to meditate.  Bhante then further explained that to help resolve such issues in his own life he would reverse the process by acknowledging the event, and trigger, and instead of allowing it to stress him, he would tell himself to relax.  In this way he managed to resolve his anxiety and simply relax.

Bhante continued his talk, returning to his subject of gratitude, prior to leading the group in a meditation with gratitude foremost in mind. Bhante used the image of floating in a swimming pool to relax and extend his gratitude to the universe before moving to a breath meditation.

After the meditation Bhante used his ample wit and humour to continue his subject of gratitude.  Bhante encouraged us to look for gratitude in all situations and used, as examples, his experience in teaching meditation to a group of children of various ages.  In doing so we can resolve situations that make us anxious or annoyed.

 

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Ajahn spoke to us on the impermanence of thoughts in our meditation. Thoughts arise and then they pass. Just let them go. We know that, in life, nothing is permanent, things happen then they pass. So it is with our meditation. It doesn't matter if it's metta, breath, counting or a mantra the thoughts will arise and then pass. What matters is that we don't latch onto them, just let them go and return to our meditation.

Ajahn then asked the group which meditation they'd like to do. We chose body contemplation or body sweep and then moving to a breath meditation. Ajahn then reminded us that it isn't so much the method of meditation, it's more that our mind changes over time as we practice. The more we meditate the more relaxed we become.

 

 

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Venerable Cunda used his own life as an example of our habit of overloading ourselves with stress. Business, home life or in our working lives, we tend to allow the stress to build up and then overload. We need to find a time in our daily lives to peacefully meditate, leaving the stress behind.

Venerable Cunda leads the group through a peaceful meditation starting with a body scan. The meditation then progresses to the breath with long peaceful silences. The simple but relaxing meditation is well suited to both beginners and experienced alike.

After meditation Venerable expanded on the benefits of meditation - we are more relaxed, more calm and physically relaxed when we meditate. Venerable then opened to Q&A.

 

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