If you would like contribute please get in touch with Mike Baker
You can find the Sangha Contribution archive here
Here are the offerings for this month:
Cherish it just the way it is
“In the art of meditation you shouldn’t start with some idea of gaining. This is the paradox in meditation: we want to get somewhere – we wouldn’t have taken up meditation if we didn’t – but the way to get there is to be fully here. The way to get from A to point B is really to be at A. When we follow the breathing in the hope of becoming something better, we are compromising our connection with the present, which is all we ever have.
One place where ideas of gaining often come in, where people become obsessive about the practice, is in the task of staying with the breathing. We take a simple instruction and create a drama of success and failure around it: we feel we’re succeeding when we’re with the breath and failing when we’re not. Actually the whole process is meditation: being with breathing, drifting away, seeing that we’ve drifted away and gently coming back. It is extremely important to come back without blame, without judgement, without feeling a failure. If you have to come back a thousand times in a short period of sitting just do it. It’s not a problem unless you make it into one.
If you find yourself disappointed with your meditation there’s a good chance that some idea of gaining is present. See that and let it go.
However your practice seems to you, cherish it just the way it is.”
Larry Rosenberg in Breath by Breath – the Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation
Insightful Ageing Group
Did you know that within BIM there is a group called “Insightful Ageing” which has been meeting monthly for over two years. The group has been composed of largely older members of the Sangha but this does not necessarily have to be the case. The moment we are born the ageing process begins and the challenges of ageing occur at regular intervals and developmental stages in life as we go to school, leave home, form partnerships, have children etc. However, the focus so far has been on old age and death and it was the shock of witnessing these issues that moved the youthful Prince Siddharta Gautama to search for a way out of suffering.
Over the time it has been meeting we have been working through a number of books. The first “A Year to Live” by Stephen Levine focusses on how to live this present year in as fully a way as possible as if it were one’s last. The second by Mu Soeng, Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia and Andrew Olendzki is entitled “Older and Wiser” and introduces classical Buddhist teachings on ageing, sickness and death. The discussion has been accompanied by practical meditation exercises with opportunity for supportive mindful sharing.
As we move forward from Zoom to real life meetings we have set ourselves two objectives. The first is to develop practical meditations particularly relevant to the subject of ageing. The second is to work towards the planning and organisation of a day retreat on this subject.
We are looking to expand the group and you do not have to be “old” to join. All ages are welcome and if you are interested and would like to participate in a relatively small and friendly group, you would be welcomed.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact Ray Woolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributed by Ray Wolfe
Watercolour as a doorway to self-care and self-knowing: On “Soul Color” by Emma Burleigh
In Spring 2021, at the beginning of the first lockdown, I began writing my first book. Spring and Summer have come and gone again, and that same book has just been published. It feels apt and serendipitous to me that “Soul Color” has come into the world at this particular time. The book is a culmination of everything I’ve learned, unlearned, discovered, explored and developed since I began teaching people how to paint around 20 years ago. Over time I became more and more interested in how my painting practice could support me to have a more meaningful connection to myself and to life, and in how I could share this approach with students.
One of the more positive effects of this difficult eighteen months seems to be the time some people have gained to take up new interests, often as a way to counter the stress of world events. Learning how to bake, paint or meditate, taking more time to appreciate nature or explore new forms of self-expression has all been shown to be supportive as ways of managing mental health.
In my book I offer a range of creative exercises to build skills in watercolour, but also to help people find a ‘way in’ to deeper self-understanding and self-compassion. I suggest ways to get what’s ‘going on inside’ out onto the page, and also ways to respond to our own bursts of self-expression with interest and care. Soul Color takes the form of a ten-week watercolour course designed to cultivate self-awareness and creativity, but it can be explored and worked through at any pace.
Amongst all the stresses and strains of life, it can be easy to ‘lose sight’ of our own self, and a mindful painting practice can be a great way to reconnect with our hearts and minds, giving ourselves some space to self-soothe and self-care. The lovely thing about watercolour is that it’s quick and immediate, so you only need ten minutes.
“Soul Color” is a ten-week watercolour-painting course to nurture self-care, mindfulness and creativity, published by Liminal 11, a small independent UK based publisher with links to America and Canada (hence the American spelling – sorry about that!).
Wherever your personal interests lie, and whatever your ‘thing’ may be, I wish you a nourishing and supportive creative practice to resource you through the hard times and to enrich you during the good times.
You can order Soul Color by Emma Burleigh from all good bookshops including direct from her publisher’s web-shop: https://liminal11.com/product/soul-color/
Contributed by Emma Burleigh