The Zen of Philip Whalen ’51

Students of zen meditation are famous for their cultivation of the arts of haiku, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. Presence. Simplicity. The qualities that emerge on the cushion appear in every aspect of one’s life.

The cross-currents of zen, poetry, and calligraphy, have a rich history at Reed as well. “Loosen Up. Festoon.” by John Sheehy ’82 (Reed Magazine, March 2016) explores the currents sailed by Reed poet and zen master, Philip Whalen ’51 (Crowded by Beauty: The Life and Zen of Poet Philip Whalen by David Schneider ’73). Continue reading

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Schedule Change TODAY Only (Jan 31)

Apologies for the last-minute change, but the College is sponsoring a Support & Solidarity Rally today, 12-1, in the Library foyer. Because that event begins almost at the same time as ours, I’m delaying the start (and end) of sitting meditation by 5 minutes. So our first three bells will ring at 12:15 and final bells at 12:45.

Go to the Rally if you wish. Drop in at meditation when you can. There’s time for both (maybe).

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A Quiet Place, An Open Place (reposted)

Back in the 1960′s, a Trappist monk named Thomas Merton wrote,

Douglas Steere remarks very perceptively that there is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.

He went on,

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace. It destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

‘Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander’ by Thomas Merton*

I have spent most of my 60+ years being ‘carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns.’ If the internet and email and work haven’t been enough, there has also been my natural desire to be valued by my peers and my unshakeable belief that my ‘value’ is rooted in my accomplishments, real and imagined.

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Paideia 2017 – Meditation Classes & Sessions

Next week, Jan 16-19, brings some special meditation opportunities as part of Reed’s informal winter session: Paideia 2017. Here’s the full list (with class descriptions at the bottom):

  • Jan 16, M, noon-1 pm, Eliot chapel – Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners taught by Mary Priester ’76 and Prof. Alan Shusterman
  • CANCELLED (College closed because of weather) – Jan 17, Tu, noon-1 pm, Eliot chapel – sitting meditation, first bells at 12:10, last bells at 12:40, drop-ins welcome-come when you can-leave when you want
  • Jan 17, Tu, 2-3 pm, Dance Studio – Walking Meditation taught by Alan Shusterman
  • Jan 18, W, noon-1 pm, Eliot chapel – Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners taught by Mary Priester ’76 and Prof. Alan Shusterman
  • Jan 19, Th, 2-3 pm, Dance Studio – Walking Meditation taught by Alan Shusterman

All of the events listed above are also listed on the Reed Meditation Google calendar, and are open to all members of the Reed community and their guests.

While it isn’t necessary to sign up for the classes, doing so could be a good way to show Paideia organizers your support for meditation. Tuesday noon-1 sitting meditation repeats weekly throughout the spring semester. See Our Schedule for dates and locations.

New to meditation? Here are descriptions of the two meditation classes:

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2017 Resolutions – Patience & Equanimity

Last night I sat at the dining room table making a list of things that I needed to do today. As I wrote a few items down, new things, some that had been nagging me for days, even weeks, started to crowd around, demanding to be added to my list. So many things to do.

The ultimate To-Do’s, of course, are my New Year’s resolutions. Like everyone else, I tend to treat my life as a Personal Improvement Project. Just a little thinking about the ways I might improve myself in 2017 has unleashed a flood of ideas: eat better, get more exercise, get more sleep, go to bed earlier, pick up the flute I used to play, pay and file bills more regularly, get my finances in order, clean the house regularly, … and I was just getting started.

So, before your New Year resolve flies out the window, here’s a much shorter list of resolutions inspired by a David Nichtern‘s 2011 New Year’s Resolution published in the Huffington Post:

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STOP-ping Power

I’m looking out the window at the busy street that runs in front of my house. It has been covered by snow for the past 48 hours, but now it’s melting and traffic has picked up. A smart driver knows, however, that a small ice patch could be lurking anywhere so it’s important not to follow the driver in front too closely. Your car may lose its “stopping power” if it skids on that patch of ice.

Following an upsetting conversation, or an email thread, or a news feed, too closely presents some of the same problems. Instead of leaving some space around these provocative stimuli, I attend to them closely, vigilant, ready to take offense, already constructing the words that will win a debate or cut an opponent down to size. And then I have my say and craashh! What happened to my “stopping power”?

Meditation is a practice of learning to make space and give ourselves more stopping power. In fact, the word STOP also serves as a handy acronym for a basic meditation practice. Read what Dr. Elisha Goldstein has to say about it here (Mindful.org), and listen to this online lesson. Increasing our stopping power can save us all kinds of heartache.

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Silent Illumination – The Method of No-Method

‘Silent illumination’ is a meditation practice from the Zen school of meditation.* The practice is described in ways that often sound impossible and contradictory to the Western ear: just sit, the method of no-method, and so on. So how does one attempt to do something that is ‘not doing’?

Lion’s Roar has published an eminently practical description of silent illumination from Master Sheng-yen [1930-2009], the founder of Dharma Drum Retreat Center (“There is No ‘I’ Who is Sitting,” 1 Sept. 2003). Some bits and pieces from his teaching:

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Unsure What To Do? Breathe. Exhale. Repeat.

“Breathe. Exhale. Repeat.” is the title of a popular article (NY Times, 9 Nov 2016) on the how-to, and benefits of, controlled breathing. As the article puts it, “Controlled breathing … has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. … It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.”
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The Energy of Emotions

The election polls closed less than 24 hours ago, and as elections often do, they unleashed a tsunami of emotions: fear, anger, vindication, triumph. I wish I could have escaped, but I was swept away just like everyone else. The current still feels pretty strong, but I’ve also done myself a favor by taking some time to sit still and ask myself, “what is all this really?”

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The Illusion of Failure

“Anyone who enjoys inner peace is no more broken by failure than he is inflated by success.Mathieu Ricard, “A Way of Being” (Tricycle, Summer 2006)

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