There was a question at our recent Town Hall meeting that we didn’t have time to answer but I thought it would be worth addressing now. The question was: Is New York Insight a Buddhist Center, a Meditation Center or a Mindfulness Center? To which my answer would be “yes”.
On Wednesday evening September 7th we held an "All Sangha Gathering" here at New York Insight. The administration shared some general information in a powerpoint presentation about the day-to-day business workings of our sangha. (See it here). This was followed by a robust brainstorming session.
My birthday is August 15th, and when I was young it always came with mixed emotions...the joy of a birthday came as a signpost that summer was coming to an end. The deep days of August hang heavy with humidity. My mind gets slow, the fan blades seem tired from turning all summer and the drone of it's motor clouds my thinking. The late August lifeguard watches over the pool with indifference. The watchman hasn't quite the energy for enforcement.
In Buddhism there is no shortage of lists of all the nasty states that one needs to see and overcome—the taints, the fetters, the cankers, the hindrances, the defilements. One can really feel quite burdened with the heaviness of it all. If we aren’t careful this kind of teaching can play right into the hands of what is already a highly developed capacity for self-loathing in Westerners. We hear about all these things that we need to overcome and this just precipitates new ways to beat up on ourselves. You get the feeling that you have to squash and pounce and beat things down.
Mature practitioners often report surprise at the tenacity of their quarrelsome tendencies. Even after years of practice the mind seems determined to find fault with self and others, to take exception to what is, and we can feel helpless in the face of it. One might say, “Well just stop thinking those thoughts,” but it’s not that easy, is it? The unawakened mind seems habituated to quarreling.