We haven't seen Bhante at Club Med for some years so it was a welcome surprise to see and hear him.  Bhante started the evening in an unconventional way which was an unusual but welcome change.  Bhante, having been present in areas of the world that have suffered greatly from both natural and man made disasters, replayed a podcast from the US radio station website "This American Life".  The podcast documentary tells the story of a phone booth in Japan that attracts thousands of people who lost loved ones in the 2011 tsunami and earthquake.  A Japanese TV crew from NHK Sendai filmed people inside the phone booth.  The phone line, however, is not connected.  The episode by Miki Meek is incorporated into our podcast but can be listened to independently by following the link below.

Bhante thankfully warned us that hankies and tissues would be and were required.

Bhante used this podcast to highlight the need for us to come to terms with ourselves more than anything and in doing so, forgive ourselves. Don’t wait for the forgiveness of those we have  trespassed against.  Forgive ourselves now -  for ourselves.

Immediately after the podcast had concluded, Bhante lead us into a body scan meditation.  Toward the middle of the meditation, Bhante used the Metta Sutta as a mantra in and for the rest of the meditation.  After the meditation, Bhante continued to talk on forgiveness and why we should forgive ourselves.

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This American Life - episode 579 - One Last Thing Before I Go - act one

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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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Are you not enjoying meditation? Perhaps you are trying too hard to achieve something in your meditation. Venerable Hasapanna teaches you to take your time; to relax your body and to practice metta and contentment before meditating on your breath.

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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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When you have ache or pain in meditation which adjusting your posture doesn’t solve, try to incorporate it into your meditation through awareness and caring for it. 

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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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Ajahn Appichato says in meditation we can experience deep tranquility, but it can be difficult to sustain. So Ajahn reminds us to develop our wisdom because he says insight is more powerful than tranquility.

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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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Forty five minute meditation guided by Ajahn Brahm. We apologise the introduction was unfortunately not recorded.

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We all have obstacles that come up during meditation again and again. Ajahn Brahm teaches us a useful trick to "pre-program our mind" by giving ourselves clear instructions on how to overcome obstacles before a meditation session.

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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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Strange things happen during meditation, such as feeling like ants are crawling all over your body, or the sensation of moving back and forth. Ajahn Brahm explains that during meditation our perception becomes amplified and by not interacting with these strange experiences they'll eventually settle down.

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Don't be afraid of silence. Ajahn Brahm talks about the power of silence and explains that in Buddhism silence is sacred and very good for your health and mental well being.

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