Monday, November 23, 2015

A sangha of one

A while back, I met a friend for coffee, and she gushed, "I'm in love!"

We had both recently lost our aged dogs (mine was a basset mix named Charlie). She, however, had a new puppy, a shiba inu that looked like a little stuffed animal. I oohed over the photos, then enumerated all the reasons I was not getting another dog, the primary one being I was at work all day. She said she had thought the same thoughts, then decided she didn't care.

This resulted in my getting another dog, Betsy Beagle. I too fell in love. But when next I met my friend for coffee, I commented that, by getting a new dog, I missed an opportunity to face my self. She said, "And that's a good thing."

I knew that this was *not* a good thing, but life was full of distractions.

Fast forward. While rereading Teach Us to Sit Still, by Tim Parks, I paused to look up the definition of a term online. Included in the resulting search list was a link to the Insight Fort Wayne group, described as a sangha practicing Vipasanna meditation.

My SO practices meditation twice daily. I have tried meditation off and on over the years, mostly off because I have not been able to establish the habit. The FW group meets on Tuesday evenings, not the best day for me because of conflicts, but a Monday evening class for beginners was starting soon, so I signed up for that.

It's over now. While I don't think I learned anything new about meditation per se, being in a group with a teacher has helped me start a regular practice. I started with a 10-minute "sit" in the mornings, to set my intentions for the day. I tried complementing that with a longer sit in the evening, for 20 or 30, someday 40, minutes, but if the day had been full, I sometimes forgot or, if I remembered, struggled with nodding off. Now I sit for 40 minutes most mornings.

I have managed to attend the regular weekly meditation session on occasion. First comes a 40-minute sit, usually in silence. This is followed by a dharma talk, either one delivered by our teacher (Tamara Dyer) or a prerecorded one by another teacher, like Gil Fronsdal, a co-teacher at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California and the Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. (Audio Dharma is a source of free dharma talks.)

And that is it.

Right now I am a little confused about the difference between Zen and Vipasanna Buddhism. Gil has trained in both the Japanese Soto Zen tradition and the Insight Meditation lineage of Theravada Buddhism of Southeast Asia, so they must not be mutually exclusive. Our local teacher, Tamara Dyer, is a retired psychotherapist and is of the Insight school. From my own readings, Zen sounds more rigid and ritualistic, at least when compared with what I am experiencing with the local group. Maybe that is one reason I find myself responding favorably.

I plan to continue attending the sessions when I can. Meanwhile, I listen to dharma talks at home and practice on my own. Maybe I will wake up to my life, maybe I will come home to who I am. Better late than never.