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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Each year we are blessed with a visit and teaching by Ajahn Nissarano. This year we have been fortunate enough to have him visit twice. Ajahn is based in Sri Lanka, visiting his home city of Perth once or twice every year or so. On such visits Ajahn is usually in high demand so we at AMG are very grateful of his time.  On this occasion Ajahn began the night with an explanation of meditation and programing our minds before we start our meditation. Being aware of negative states of mind prior to our meditation will help immensely. The two most important states of mind being motivation and intention. Ajahn talked to us about these states of mind and how they affect our meditation as well as our daily lives.

Ajahn then guided the group through a 30 minute scanning [body sweep] meditation suited to all, beginners to experienced alike.

After the meditation Ajahn opened the floor to "comments, questions or complaints". Ajahn then continued his talk on programming our own minds and the external influences we are subjected to in modern life.

 

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Rains has ended for 2018 and Ajahn graced us with his presence. The evening started with laughter and much fussing about with a new microphone. Ajahn, in his singular style, was able to find humour and fun even in this. Needless to say this set the tone for rest of evening. Prior to the Metta-Sutta Ajahn again set the mood by telling a joke. Ajahn rationalised this by telling us that there is enough misery in our lives today without adding more. By using humour we add energy to our lives.

Ajahn expanded on this by telling us to give 100% to everything we do. It doesn't matter how you meditate, as long as you give it 100%. This is not to say we should concentrate so much that we strain something. 100% in meditation is quite the opposite of what we normally would think or feel. 100% in meditation is being here in the present moment, not reliving the past or worrying about the future, just “relax to the max”, here and now in the present moment.

Having made us all laugh and relax, Ajahn then led us in a 30 minute guided meditation commencing with a body sweep. The meditation is well suited to beginners and experienced alike.

After meditation, Ajahn continued to instruct us using humour, jokes, funny stories and common sense.

 

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Bhante began the evening by taking the first three steps from Ajahn Brahm’s book, “Meditation for Beginners”. Bhante then lightly detailed each of the three steps with a brief and easy to follow instruction.

Present moment awareness is the first step. Leaving the past where it belongs, in the past, not thinking of the future because it will probably not happen anyway and so just being in this moment, here and now. Bhante then went on to give examples of the next two steps that we will take as we progress in our practice.

Bhante then led us in 3 ten minute meditations. The first one being present moment awareness, no thoughts of the past or the future. The second one being no thought (if we are able). This means that when thoughts arise, we try not to engage with them. Just let them come and let them go, trying to focus on the blank area between thoughts. The third is our traditional meditation where we focus, as best we can, on our breath. We do this by many different methods, some will focus on the sensation caused by the air moving into the nose. Some will focus on the air as it fills their lungs. Don't be afraid to try different methods, find one that best suits you.

After the meditation, Bhante opened to Q&A and used a simile for our Do-er and Know-er.

 

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Kathryn begins her second of four weeks at AMG by asking all to do a standing body shake - starting with the upper body and finishing with the lower body. This exercise is one practised by the director of Paliative care at Royal Perth Hospital to help patients dissipate the physical signs of stress that has built up in the body during day.

Kathryn then continued her talk on reactivity to external stimuli and what actually happens chemically within our bodies. She then details ways of shortening the time it takes for us to return from those situations that cause us to remain in that stressed state of mind. Mindfully being aware that it is happening will allow us to return to normal in a shorter period of time or, at the very least, shorten the time it takes for those chemicals to dissipate.

We all endure daily situations where we'd rather not be. Being able to be there without over-reacting and, to some degree, reducing the time that we are stressed, can be achieved with mindfulness.

Kathryn then guided the group through a 30 minute body scan meditation using mindfulness.

After the very relaxing body scan meditation Kathryn continued her discussion and talk on our reactions to the sensations we felt during the meditation with a focus on what we noticed or became aware of and not over-reacting.

Kathryn then talks on perception and conditioning within our lives. Kathryn openly relates from an example in her own life when she was nine and how this has changed her perceptions. Our conditioning affects our perceptions and our reactions to reality.

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Kathryn Choules is a regular meditator at the AMG and teaches meditation professionally. Once a year [during Rains], we are blessed to have Kathryn speak and guide our meditation.

This talk and guided meditation is part 1 of a 4 week beginners' course.  The emphasis for the  first week was on the role of Attention, Intention and Attitude in meditation. Kathryn gave examples of each and the resulting effects on our meditation as an introduction before guiding our 30 minute meditation.

After the meditation Kathryn opened to Q&A and provided good explanations to all questions.

 

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Bhante began his talk by explaining for our beginners ànàpàna-sati, or mindfulness, on in-and-out-breathing. Mindfulness brings us into the present moment leaving the past in the past, where it belongs, and not worrying about the future. Present moment awareness.

Bhante then guided the group in a 30 min meditation well suited to beginners and experienced alike using the breath as our meditation object.

After the meditation Bhante opened to Q&A. Bhante then went on to further his explanation of ànàpàna-sati, or mindfulness, on in-and-out-breathing. Bhante also explained the benefits, or rather mind states, that can and often will occur as we progress in our practice. Such as wisdom and there would be few of us that couldn't use a little more of that.

 

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Bhante Buddharakkhita started the evening by speaking briefly on the current big news items, the rescue of the soccer team from the cave in Thailand and the world cup soccer in Russia. This lead us to a happy or pleasing mind state referred to in Pali as Bhavana. Bhavana was translated in the 18th century to mean meditation, the development or cultivation of the heart/mind. Bhante used this and current events as an object for our meditation to encourage us to see that we are part of a much greater whole. Though we view ourselves as unique, wonderful and special, just as we view our children and loved ones, we are all just a part of a greater community which is just a small part of the entire cosmos.

Bhante guided us in a 30 minute bhavana or meditation well suited to beginners and experienced meditators alike.

After the meditation Bhante asked us how we felt, how the meditation has left us feeling. Bhante then spoke on our concepts of self, to re-enforce that we are part of a whole.

 

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To find the answer to the question above, you'll need to listen to the session.

Ajahn, despite recovering from a bout of "pony virus", regaled us with his presence on a cold night at Club Med. Using humour, jokes, funny stories and common sense Ajahn warmed our hearts and calmed our minds while teaching us how to meditate.  Ajahn then led us in a 30 min guided meditation well suited to beginners and experienced alike.

After meditation, Ajahn continued to instruct us using humour, jokes, funny stories and common sense.

 

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Venerable opened the evening with a talk about a not often mentioned subject, preparing for our meditation and what we do as we end our meditation.  Venerable used the simile of a gate keeper allowing people to pass.  When we start our meditation we need a gate keeper to stop all thoughts but allow only those that are relevant to pass.  By doing this we enjoy a much quieter meditation.  When we end our meditation we need to take a moment to examine what has occurred during our meditation, look into the reasons such thoughts occur and what effect they may have had.  By doing this we slowly but surely build resistance to such thoughts occurring during our meditation.

Venerable then lead the group in a relaxed breath meditation.

After the meditation Venerable talked to us about the tradition of tudong.  Tudong is a Thai word used to describe Buddhist Monks when they go wandering or travelling in the wilderness.  Venerable then opened to Q&A.

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Ajahn Santutthi encouraged us to consider meditation as recharging the batteries of the mind. We are learning how to be passengers in our meditation practice, not dictators. So when random thoughts pop up, just observe, don't engage, let them go. Having present moment awareness isn't impossible, it just takes practice. The result is being right here, right now and gaining a stepping stone to inner peace. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

Ajahn guided us in a thirty minute meditation well suited to both experienced meditators and beginners. Ajahn suggested that we patiently observe our mind and see where it is in this moment. No heavy focus, just gentle observation and notice what we as individuals would like our meditation object to be, rather than making an arbitrary decision. By allowing our minds to be where they want to be as we start to meditate, we remove some of the rigidity. A softer approach. Once our minds are settled and we are just observers, we can then gently change direction and focus on an object such as our breath, as we would normally do.

After meditation Ajahn opened to Q&A.

 

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Bhante Sujato broke with our normal format and gave us a dharma talk on Dependant Origination prior to the meditation.  Dependant Origination is at the core of the Buddha's teachings and is viewed by many as a very difficult, confusing subject.  Bhante handled it by using real life examples from his own life, with a good dose of humour, using words and terms that the lay person can understand.

Bhante then asked the group what type or object they would prefer for the meditation.  The raised hands were fairly even on all the suggestions, so it was left to Bhante to decide.  Bhante having just given a dharma talk on Dependant Origination suggested a meditation on the four elements as recognised by Buddhists.  So the meditation object was Earth, Water, Fire, Air and how they relate to everything (our bodies and all things around us) both seen and unseen.

After meditation Bhante opened to Q&A suggesting that anyone who may have been confused by the dharma talk, should now ask.

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Venerable Cunda encouraged us to "give ourselves a break".  We carry the responsibilities in our daily lives very heavily, from new parents to business, and it affects both our physical and mental health.  Our life styles come with a cost.  From rushing around in our cars to trying to relax, we over do it all.  We need to give ourselves a break.  Relax, let it all go and just live in this moment.  Leave the past where it is and not focus on a possible future that may never happen.

Venerable Cunda led the group through a very relaxing body scan and breath meditation well suited to both beginners and experienced alike.

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

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Bhante talked to us about letting go. Just as we would automatically pull our hand out of a fire, so to, with consistent practice, will we naturally let go of our thoughts when meditating.

Bhante then leads us in a guided breath meditation. First encouraging us to relax our bodies and then guiding us to direct our attention to our breathing, to be aware of it, not change it, just watch it. Bhante's meditation is well suited to beginners and experienced meditators alike.

After meditation Bhante opens to Q&A. Bhante then gave a talk on morality, virtue and many of the steps needed by us in order to meditate.

 

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It was Vesak day on Tuesday and Ajahn Cittapalo joined us at AMG.  Vesak Day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.  Ajahn having attended Vesak celebrations at Dhammaloka on Sunday, where many people took refuge by becoming Buddhist, noticed that for many, the five precepts are hard and fast rules.  Many of us do the same when we meditate.  We try too hard and become disenchanted when we fail.

Ajahn would never say that it is ok to consume alcohol, rather that we consider that we really should try to stop.  So it is with our meditations.  When random thoughts occur, we should simply let them come and go.  Don't get entangled, but don't try too hard and be overly critical that the thoughts continue.  Over time the ability to simply stand back in your mind and watch will grow and the thoughts will be come less frequent.  The same will happen with alcohol, each time we consume it, we consider it and do it less until we don't do it at all.

Ajahn tells us that our intentions matter more in all things.  When we meditate, it is our intention to gain a peaceful mind that matters.  Not being overly self critical for having thoughts.  Just as with the five precepts, it is our intentions that matter.

Ajahn led us in a body scan to relax us then a very peaceful silent meditation.

After the meditation Ajahn continued his talk on our intentions, cautioning us all to not be too critical of our efforts both in life and meditation.  After Ajahn concluded he joined the group in celebrating Vesak day.

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An often funny but most of all relaxing evening with Ajahn Brahm.  Ajahn asks us to remember why the British Empire lost many of it's colonies. They stopped having "tea breaks".  They stopped taking a break, stopped taking a moment to relax both the body and the mind.  When we become stressed we become less efficient at everything.  Driving, working and even doing our domestic chores.  Stop, take 5 minutes and meditate.

It is very difficult to relax the mind if the body isn't relaxed first.  So take the time to look deeply into your body, asking silently each part of your body if it is relaxed.  If it isn't then focus on it and move it if you need to.  Scratch that itch, rub that nose but most of all, relax.  Then move onto the mind and simply observe.  Don't get tangled up in your thoughts, just let them come and go.  Relax.  Guess what, you are meditating.

Ajahn reminded us that organisations such as Google and Face Book now have meditation areas set aside for their employees.  This allows them to take a break, relax.  This improves efficiency greatly.  So we should take the time to relax, meditate, even for just 5 minutes a day.  Learn our bodies, get physically comfortable, then relax the mind.

Ajahn then guided us through a 30 minute meditation that is well suited to beginners, novice or advanced meditators alike.

After the guided meditation, Ajahn opened to Q&A.

 

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Ajahn tells us that change is inevitable in all things, in all matters.  Meditation helps us learn how to deal with the changes in our lives, our
circumstances and ourselves.  Such change is not always to our liking or such that we can prevent.   Change happens.  Deal with it.  Rather than
become angry, distressed or sad, we meditate and deal with it in a calm rational fashion.

We had no new meditators on this occasion so rather than a full guided 30 minute meditation, Ajahn and the fifty odd people in attendance simply focused on a breath meditation with occasional guidance from Ajahn.  The experienced meditators amongst the group were encouraged to do their own thing.

After meditation Ajahn opened to, and answered well, a number of questions very relevant to meditation.

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