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Mindfulness-Based Classes & Instruction in Central PA

Joshua David OBrien, OM

Hummelstown, PA 17036 phone: (717) 877-7664
Thursday, March 05, 2009
This story was extracted from Richard Bach (author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull), in his book "Illusions".
"Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last, 'I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.'

"The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!'

"But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks. Yet, in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

"And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, 'See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!' And the one carried in the current said, 'I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.' But they cried the more, 'Savior!' all the while clinging to the rocks, making legends of a Savior."

It’s obvious that Mr. Bach was making reference to Jesus, but the bare context of the story could easily apply to any of the great spiritual teachers of the past. That being said, let’s turn our focus from the principle character to the principal messages; Freedom and Letting Go.

The object of mindfulness meditation is not to cultivate an altered state of consciousness, but to let go of our attachment to and identification with our mental and emotional states that lead to unconscious living. It doesn’t take much time in our formal mindfulness meditation practice to realize that we are not our thoughts, and we are not our emotions; instead, we are the awareness in which they arise and subside. In a way, it’s like identifying with being the sky, instead of with the clouds and storms that pass through it.

It’s from this perspective that we can begin to enjoy freedom; freedom from our own habitual and reactive patterns of thoughts, emotions, and subsequent reactions. We are freed from being subservient to our mental and emotional experiences of anger, stress, pain, fear, jealousy, envy, hatred, and any other states that we are normally enslaved by. Mindfulness meditation cultivates a quality of space between you and your habitual reactions to situations, and affords you the ability to observe them as awareness itself instead of becoming entangled in them. With time, mindful living becomes a new way of life which gives you the freedom to just be, and go with the flow in peace, happiness, and unharmed.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
From the book “Mindfulness in Plain English” (Available for free on our website at
“’Discipline’ is a difficult word for most of us. It conjures up images of somebody standing over you with a stick, telling you that you're wrong. But self-discipline is different. It's the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. It's all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there. There is only one way to learn this lesson, though. The words on this page won't do it. But look within and watch the stuff coming up-restlessness, anxiety, impatience, pain-just watch it come up and don't get involved. Much to your surprise, it will simply go away. It rises, it passes away. As simple as that. There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience.”

Lao Tzu
“Do you have patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”

From the book “The Art of Living”
“Our suffering stems from ignorance. We react because we do not know what we are doing, because we do not know the reality of ourselves. The mind spends most of the time lost in fantasies and illusions, reliving pleasant or unpleasant experiences and anticipating the future with eagerness or fear. While lost in such cravings or aversions, we are unaware of what is happening now, what we are doing now. Yet surely this moment, now, is the most important for us. We cannot live in the past; it is gone. Nor can we live in the future; it is forever beyond our grasp. We can live only in the present. If we are unaware of our present actions, we are condemned to repeating the mistakes of the past and can never succeed in attaining our dreams for the future. But if we can develop the ability to be aware of the present moment, we can use the past as a guide for ordering our actions in the future, so that we may attain our goal.”

From the book “Being Nobody, Going Nowhere, Revised”
“As long as we have practiced neither concentration nor mindfulness, the ego takes itself for granted and remains its usual normal size, as big as the people around one will allow.”
Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Meditating with others is a beautiful way to reinforce your individual meditation practice.  Moreover, the group shares in the mutually beneficial experience of support, encouragement, and sense of community.

The Vast Sky Sangha is a group of friends and acquaintances that gathers on a regular basis to meditate together.  We come from diverse social and spiritual backgrounds, but share a common interest in the practice of mindfulness and meditation in daily living.

Though we have no particular religious affiliation we have borrowed from the Buddhist tradition in naming our group.  It is our way of acknowledging the rich contribution the Buddhist tradition has brought to our understanding of human consciousness.  “Sangha” is simply a Sanskrit word for community.  “Vast Sky” symbolizes our consciousness as being expansive and still regardless of what clouds, winds, or storms might pass through.

Typical sessions start off with a reading selected by the facilitator.  After the reading we gently enter into 20 minutes of sitting meditation, followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation, and conclude with a second 20 minute period of sitting meditation.  Each time segment is marked by the soft invitation of a meditation bell.  This pattern allows you to participate for the amount of time that best fits your schedule.  Some like to stay for the entire hour, other choose to finish after the first 20 minutes.

All who are interested are welcome to be part of the meditation community.  We welcome newcomers and offer meditation instruction and orientation for beginners.  Please join us. We look forward to seeing you.

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