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Sangha Void

Are you interested in Buddhism, but have nowhere to go to learn about it?  That’s my situation. I’ve read more than a half dozen books on Mindfulness, Compassion, Meditation and other Buddhism related topics, but have never even met another Buddhist!

I’ve created this blog for those like myself that are interested in Buddhism but don’t live close enough to areas where Buddhists meet. Please join me in sharing thoughts and experiences here, at “Sangha 2 Go.” Beginners, novices and advanced practitioners welcome. Let’s share insights and meaningful experiences.

Everyone’s comments are welcome, let’s help eachother learn.  ~ Les

Why Can’t I Get Started?

I’ve read three, four, or five books on meditation and totally believe it’s important to do, even real beneficial to someone that isn’t interested in Buddhism. So why do I put off doing it? I don’t have the answer to that one.

Some more reading over the last few days is hopefully having an influence on me. Here’s a real simple and strong quote from the Dalai Lama, from the Little Book of Buddhism.

If a person has a really deep interest in spiritual growth, he or she cannot do away with the practice of meditation. That is the key to spiritual grown.

So here’s where I’m going to start:

From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Breathe! You Are Alive: Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

  • Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.
  • Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.
  • Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.
  • Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.

At About.com.

I especially enjoyed the topic Mix n’ Match Religious Practice

See you there. ~ Les

We have 3 kitties in our house; Charlie, our 4 yr old male tabby, Riley, our 6 yr old Siamese mix, and Perry, our 16 yr old orange/white long hair.

Cats, like people,  all have different personalities. Charlie, who we got when he was already 3 months old and had wandered a bit before winding up with people, likes to stay by himself most of the time. Riley, who we raised from kitten-hood, is every bit an ambassador and lover of people. Perry, who we raised from a kitten as well, is the neediest of our three kitties.

Here’s the interesting lesson I learned. Perry is our most “love and attention” requesting kitty. He is Charlie and Riley’s pet, always going to them so they can clean him. He is the one who climbs on my chest when I am working with my laptop on my legs. When he wants attention, he expects me to stop what I’m doing and give it to him.

So what’s the lesson here? I try to always stop what I am doing, even if I’m right in the middle of writing a letter and Perry comes between me and my laptop.  I’ll stop, hold and pet Perry for as long as he needs attention. (I’ve done this twice already while writing this post.) What I learned from Perry is that while it seems like he is the one that is getting all of the love and affection, it’s really going both ways. The love goes both ways when you’re giving a cat affection. It’s more of a sharing of closeness than it is of attention being given by one to another. It makes me feel good too.

There’s no reason for it to not be the same with people. If someone is needy, stop and give him/her the attention he or she needs. Chances are it will come right back to you and enhance your spirit as well. By trying to others feel good, we will feel better as well.

This is the pearl of wisdom I learned from kitty boy Perry.

As I am a newbie to Buddhism, Mindfulness and Meditation, I wondered where to start. Not having any Buddhist friends, I searched the net for some good *starter* books on the subject. The two that I bought, which are both wonderfully helpful in understanding what mediation is all about and how to get started are:

  • The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Mind you, I truly meditated, shall we say “by the book,” *once.* How’s that for establishing a practice routine.  Sheesh, but the two above mentioned books really helped me realize what I was to do and how to do it. It really is a practice, something that can only get better with practice. So that’s the direction I need to go. Just like surfing. As a kid on the East coast, I surfed in Jersey (when there was anything to surf.) I also bought every copy of SURFER magazine, and SURFING, but neither one of those mags improved my surfing.  Getting out there and practicing did.

Anyway, I highly recommend both of the books above.

The two books above, by the way, are great for anyone interested in meditation, whether you are interested in Buddhism or not, whether you believe in any religion or not, or if you don’t believe in any kind of God at all but would just like to be able to clear you mind and have a moment of peace.

Meditation is a experience to improve on for a lifetime. I sense that it is just like sailing, another one of my interests. I’ll never reach the point of saying “I’ve got this down, completely,” but what would be the fun in that anyway, what next then?

~ Les

Books: Buddhism, Mindfulness & Compassion.

I added a page (found on the right) of books that I have either read, am currently reading, or have for reading later.

They’re either on Buddhism, Mindfulness (which includes Meditation instruction) or Compassion. I have them in order by author, which may not have been the best way to do it, but the list is manageable. If you’d like to know more about any of the ones that I’ve read and commented on, let me know, and I’ll  write some more.  I bought 90% of these off the net at really reasonable prices.  My advice is buy used. The worst you’ll get is a few tattered edges now and then or a bit of underlining.  One book I bought was even a hard-cover retired library book. Yellow pages from age, but great shape. I love an old hard-cover book!

Here’s the thing, I’m not into “religion” per se, the thought of a group of beliefs somewhat “controlling” my life never appealed to me.  It’s partially because I just don’t like to be told what to do, “period” and because I (and I think we *all*) need to really believe in something to accept it as truth.  I also think it only has to be *truth* in our own mind, whether others believe in it or not, or whether or not we have *scientific* proof for something we believe. Science has ever *proved* that God exists, but that’s okay with me, because His (Her/Its) existence rings true with me.

Okay, so the Buddha said,  “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

I really like that. Why can’t all religions be more like that? I have often felt that various flavors of religion give me the shove-it-down-your-throat approach.  Well, if we’re really only going to be able to *believe* in something that rings true with our “own reason and (your own) common sense” then what’s the point of shoveling a belief at someone?

The Dalai Lama has said so many things that ring true with me, and that’s why I’m trying to learn more about Buddhism.  For instance,  the opening paragraph of “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama says:

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think the very motion of our life is towards happiness…

This is very encouraging to me. At one point in life I thought that life pretty much just plain ol’ sucked. Having read most everything that Jean Paul Sartre ever wrote, when he said that “Hell is other people” I incorporated that into my daily beliefs. Whew! I’m glad I escaped that frame of mind, because I now truly believe that we’re all just seeking happiness. Look at a young baby’s face, so full of life and joy, not yet burdened by all the things that we, as adults, let bother us.

In future posts I’m going to talk a lot about happiness and how it ties to Buddhism, because that’s what I’m getting out of what I’m absorbing from it. I’m pretty thrilled about it, because on my lifeline as a Buddhist, I’m just a newborn, if not a kid still unborn but growing in the womb.

Where are you? Has any of this struck a chord with you yet? Have any Buddhist teachings rang true with you yet?

~ Les

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