Awareness Through Movement Class

When:  Saturdays
Dates:  2019 classes TBA
Who:  Open – limited to 7 people – Contact Jeff by Friday
Cost:  6 class punch card $60 (expires in 8 weeks);
Drop-In $15
Responsibility:  Loose clothing, Bring a firm blanket
Please read:  How to take an ATM class
Teacher:  Jeff Bickford
Location & Register:  Contact Jeff no later than Friday before class

This is an ongoing class, offered every Saturday morning.  Each class will be a unique opportunity to practice awareness into your body and mind.  Participants will be guided through movement in sitting, standing, kneeling or lying postions.  Awareness Through Movement® is the group class form of the Feldenkrais Method®.  Please visit Unfettered Movement to read more about the Feldenkrais Method

Seeking, Wandering, Practicing

While the nature of beings has always been full enlightenment,
Not knowing this, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May overwhelming compassion be born in my being
.            ~ Trn. Ken McLeod

This stanza, toward the end of Rangjung Dorje’s Aspiration of Mahamudra has pierced my heart for 20 years. This teaching has left me in speechless tears for hours. In fact on one month-long retreat, I did little more than cry and memorize the third Karmapa’s twenty five stanza teaching. What could be more important than this?

Samsara continues to unfold in its usual way. Quickly we can forget what we know is important for the details of samsara. Perhaps it is our nature to get lost in the confused fog of daily life? When practicing on the cushion; simple, uncomplicated. When working in daily life; muddled.

How is your meditation practice when on the cushion and when mixed with daily activity? Can you feel the movement from uncomplicated to growing confusion? The ritual of daily meditation practice does renew commitment & intention. It is a reliable foundation. A clear initiation allows movement to be set up to follow an intentional path. Then in comes the fog of complication. How do you move through the fog without forgetting that commitment?

Recently I was in a place where there were many spiritual seekers all shopping for the best teacher, the best method, the most life changing ‘ah hah’, the quickest shift of energy, the organization with the highest level of practitioners & the most promising results. Where there are spiritual shoppers there are spiritual marketers, each with a different catchy line, name, group, study plan… It was like entering a muddy fast moving river, once caught in the current, difficult to swim to the shore. Look at us! We have a catchy name: Mahakala Radio! What is that? What does it say about our method of teaching, our catchy courses, our retreats?

Even in the muddy current of seeking, if you have developed some ability on the cushion, you can experience the motivation & effects of the movement. Are you are seeking to be seen, to be heard, to learn, to meet like-minded people, to have a deep spiritual experience, or to have someone trustworthy to follow? Consider that seeking is a phrase, not good and not bad. It is simply one phrase in a line of music, in a whole dance. Is this phrase of seeking motivated by your commitment and intention? Does the seeking grip your heart, open your heart or shield your heart? How can you know when to move on from seeking into wandering or practicing?

While the nature of beings has always been full enlightenment,
Not knowing this, they wander in endless samsara.
For the boundless suffering of sentient beings
May overwhelming compassion be born in my being
.

Another movement phrase is the experience of wandering. One definition of wandering is: walking or moving in a slowly, leisurely, casually or aimless manner. There is this phrase: “All who wander are not lost.” What images & experiences do you associate with the word wandering? In meditation, when mind wanders we are taught to bring it back. Does that mean that a wandering mind is ‘not good’? In mahamudra, when the mind unifies, there is no wander, no tight, yet there is definite vivid unbound rest.

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche says, “Do not try to adjust your state of mind; let it be as it is naturally.” Does this mean that we allow the mind to wander & seek this idea and that? In my limited experience, the instruction is closer to: Do not create an artificial state and do not prevent anything from arising.  This is an instruction to not wander and to not stay. It is an instruction to not seek and to not neglect.   It is an instruction that can only be known by practicing. The result is: awake deeply relaxed. That sounds like a contradiction, but it only appears that way in writing. This instruction suggests to you to move from seeking and wandering to practicing.

When I was 24, I spent a year locking myself in a wood floored room for 3-4 hours every morning. My intention was: to move from the inside; allow the movement to unfold without controlling it with my idea-driven mind; be present to what arises & the quality of space. When I have mentioned this to others, they ask me variations on the question: “What were you hoping to gain?” I usually answer with a variation of “Nothing.” The conversation ends there. I never tell them that I did this again when I was 26, 28….

When the waves of gross and subtle thoughts have spontaneously subsided,
The river of unwavering mind naturally abides.
Free from the stains of dullness, sluggishness and conceptualization,
May we be stable in the unmoving ocean of shamatha.

When looking again and again into the unseen mind,
The fact that there is nothings to see is vividly seen as it is.
Cutting through doubts about its nature being existent or nonexistent,
May we unmistakenly recognize our own essence!  

~ Aspiration of Mahamudra, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

What does it mean to be practicing meditation? I suggest that you can only learn this by giving it a try. There are many instructions available.  You who are seeking or wandering read them & take them to heart.  You who are practicing, give them a try.

Milarepa said to his student Paltarbum,
“If you sincerely wish to practice the Dharma, in my tradition you don’t need to change your name. Since one can awaken to buddhahood as either a monk or layperson, you don’t need to shave your hair off or change your dress.” Then he sang this song on meditation guidance in training the mind with four meaningful analogies.

Listen here, you lay girl Paldarbum,
Listen well, you rich and dedicated maiden.

Take this sky as your example,
And train in the meditation state without center or edge.

Take the sun and moon as your example,
And train in the meditation state without increase or decrease.

Take this mountain as your example,
And train in the meditation state without shifting or change.

Take the great ocean as your example,
And train in the meditation state without surface or base.

Take your own mind as the meaning,
And train in the meditation state without worry or doubt.

Teaching her the key points of posture and mind, he set her to practice meditation.

~ Trn. Erik Pema Kunsang

Copyright® Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio, April 2016

 

 

 

 

A Look at Discipline

Everyone I meet follows some kind of Discipline. We practice disciplines such as raising children, following a career path or paying our expenses. Culturally we are meant to believe that the discipline of acquiring objects, peak experiences, and money are most noble. Perhaps you have not thought of these activities as ‘a discipline’? Lets take another look.

Disciplines can be life-long such as maintaining a daily meditation practice or short lived such attending a conference. To follow a discipline is to make a vow. That vow is often unspoken, but if you look closely, you will find out the vows you have internally taken. The vow includes many elements: to show up, to apply limits, to engage optimal conditions, to attend to learning, to be aware globally and specifically to what is harmful or fruitful to the process… A discipline requires us to work deeply with certain habits or behaviors in order to learn a new skill, a new way of living or at the very least to reach a goal. So, if you look closely at a discipline that you have followed, you will find out quite a bit about your relationship to diligence, time, effort, difficulty, truth, rules, technique…

I have found that one of the most important aspects of following a discipline is that interest must come from inside. Others can encourage you, point it out to you, and describe how it may be a fruitful endeavor for you. Others can even take you to that class or inspire you to begin. Nevertheless, after that initial spark, the interest, curiosity, enthusiasm, effort must come from inside. This is not as grand an idea as intention, but rather a small sense that arises. The sense is that this discipline seems very ‘rich’ and you would like to partake of that richness to ‘learn/experience more’. This internal sense is bigger than a hunch, as it has definite non-conceptual sensory-physical energy within it. It is this energetic awakening, to subtlety beyond your mind’s voice, that will provide you with the resilience to follow the discipline, even when faced with the inevitable difficulties of any path. Look at a discipline that you have followed, what is one of the most important aspects in your experience?

I have the fortune to work with high level competitive figure skaters. They train on the ice for easily 5 hours daily, 6 days a week. They train off the ice 2 hours daily, 7 days a week. Three to four times a week, they have sessions with support people such as physical therapists, psychologists, myself, and massage therapists. They move here to work with a coach. They live often without their parents and family. They take college or high school courses. They see choreographers, clothing designers, and boot & blade specialists… Finally they have the competitions, where all that effort culminates in a scored event.

Many of these skaters begin at 8 years of age and are driven in their discipline by familiar patterns of behavior: pleasing any outside person of ‘authority’. This works to a point, until they are faced with inevitable physical, emotional & mental difficulties. A young woman of high school age is currently facing what she sees as overwhelming difficulty. For the past year, she consistently medals in the top three after her short skating program, but while skating her long program she faces overpowering mental, emotional blocks that affect her ability to skate. The result? She finishes in last place. Now, she asks, what should she do? Is her mind correct when it tells her there is something wrong with her? Does she have any worth when the coach is not pleased? How can she still follow this discipline, Now? Who & what can she rely upon to help her modify the methods she has used within her discipline?

This young skater is faced with difficulties in an extremely competitive discipline. However, every day when you follow any discipline you are faced with the similar difficulties. I ask you to connect to the interest inside. How do you reignite the energy to continue when faced with a wall? Do you know how to work with your judgmental, critical mind? Who or what could you rely upon to learn something fruitful for this path, this discipline, right now? No matter what discipline anyone follows, be it parenting, career, or competitive figure skating, we are faced with physical, emotional and mental challenges. This is the nature of disciplines, they require us to look at, understand and perhaps even shift out of the comfortable box we had thought was the limit of whom we were, are and will be. Perhaps following a Discipline is not such a tremendously arduous activity, but a definer of life itself.

I wish for you to explore this word Discipline. Look closely at the disciplines you follow. Find out about your internal interest, right now. Find out what you rely upon for support, education, assistance, encouragement when faced with difficulties. Find out what is harmful or helpful in the process of following your discipline. Apply what you know from Buddhism’s three disciplines: the practice of ethics, meditation and wisdom. Find out about Discipline in your life, so that you can continue, adjust, start afresh or with the great kindness teach another how to discover what is life itself.

Copyright© 2016 Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio

About Gail Gustafson

Gail Gustafson teaches awareness by means of meditation & movement through courses, retreats, workshops, individual instruction in Colorado and Online.  She was a student of Yen Lu Wong, Warren Lamb, Thupden Chodron, Ani Tenzin Kacho, Venerable Geshe Gyeltsen and Ken McLeod, who authorized her to teach in 2003.

More Gail:  Gail began her study of movement & meditation at a young age.  For 15 years she was a professional dancer, working with choreographers and visionaries who were exploring body, mind and spirit.  She has studied many somatic movement forms including Body Mind Centering, Hanna Somatics, the Feldenkrais method and others.   She is a Laban Movement Analyst, a Tellington Touch practitioner (companion animals), a student of Ba Qua Qi Gong, Chen style Tai Chi and Intuitive Archery.

“I was fortunate enough to find teachers who were willing to be right there in all the ups and downs of actually practicing meditation in this complex world.  For over 15 years, I worked with my primary teacher Ken McLeod.  His unrelenting insight and precise instruction, set free in a field of kindness, inspired and changed my way of  being.  Without this intense teacher-student relationship I could have never moved into guiding others in meditation.

I approach teaching as a unique adventure with each person.  There are many possibilities. Teaching in this way is lively, warm, direct and vulnerable.  I have heart-breaking gratitude for the awesome humanity of the whole endeavor.”

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About Jeff Bickford

Jeff Bickford teaches meditation classes & consults with students from different places in the world, while maintaining his practice in Colorado Springs, CO.  Jeff owns Peak Light Therapy & is a Feldenkrais teacher

He began spiritual practice with Pir Vilayat Khan, a Sufi teacher.  After a number of years he turned to Buddhist practice, first in Zen, then with a Shingon Buddhist monk.  Some years later he began practicing with Venerable Tenzin Kacho, which then led to many years of practice and study with Ken McLeod from the Shangpa/Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.  He completed Ken McLeod’s three year teacher development program and was authorized to teach.

Concurrently, he practiced and studied awareness in movement, beginning in the early ’70’s with Nikolais technique, which led to studies in Laban Movement Theory, Neuro- Linguistic Programming, the Pilates Method, and the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education.  For 25 years, Jeff was a lighting designer for dance companies & choreographers in the United States and Canada. Jeff also was the choreographer/director of his own performance company based in Seattle WA.  Jeff’s keen eye and knowledge of movement, space and light influences all of his teaching of meditation.

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Course Registration

This is for new students registering for our meditation classes in Colorado Springs or online. 

2018 Meditation Courses Mahakala Radio– Participant Information
Name:
Address:
Email:
Telephone:

Course Title:

1.  What about this course interests you?
2.  What do you hope to learn in taking this course?
3.  Describe your regular meditation practice:

4.  Describe what brought you to meditation practice:
5.  What are your principal traditions, teachers…
6.  Describe your relationship with your current teacher or your experience with spiritual teachers:
7.  Describe your relationship with sangha (fellow practitioners):
8.  Do you have a somatic movement practice? please briefly describe:
9.  What are three things you have learned through meditation or movement practice?
—–
10.  In some courses, we have online participants.  Are you willing to have at least 1 practice conversation every 2-3 weeks with an online participant?  
You will need to use skype or google+ or facetime for this conversation
11.  Do you have any medical, physical, emotional or mental condition that will affect your practice?
12.  Please read
these responsibilities and let us know you can follow them
13.  PLEASE COPY & PASTE THIS INTO YOUR EMAIL, FILL IT OUT, EMAIL TO US

Return to Meditation Class Page or to Awareness & Movement site

Sangha

‘Sangha’ is most often used to describe the gathering of  people with whom we practice; most often it is the people we meet weekly, say, at classes.  Sometimes ‘sangha’ expands to include the people we meet on retreat, or even all buddhist practitioners and beyond to anyone dedicating themselves to following a path that will lead them to living awake.

We can think of sangha as a ‘community’ that will support our efforts to live wakefully.

Let’s look further.

Traditionally, the sangha is those who have commited their lives to following a path of awakening, more explicitly, those who have taken ordination.  Monastics have provided the main avenue by which teachings have been passed down through generations.  In that sense, the monastic sangha is the very foundation of the dharma.

We can also look at the sangha as the original bodhisattvas.  The boshisattvas represent compassionate presence in the world; they are not so much individuals as an ongoing response to the pain and suffering of life.  Bodhisattvas are not present in the world for themselves, but to help others become free from suffering.  The bodhisattva sangha represents the ideal of dedicating your life to compassionately responding to what arises in your experience.

So we have sangha as monastics, as the original boddhisattvas, and as the group of people with whom we practice who provide support as we embark upon a different way of experiencing the world.

Let’s go a little deeper.  If we actually look in to our experience of sangha, we realize that in the moment of experiencing, what we see as sangha members is awareness arising as experience that we then name ‘sangha’ in order to refer to the experience.  It’s easier to say ‘sangha’ then ‘several shapes and colors that seem to produce the experience of sound that tends to correspond with thoughts and emotions that arise seemingly inwardly’.

So, sangha is experience; experience that supports our practice of living wakefully.  What if all experience could be our sangha, in the sense that it helped us in our movement towards waking up?   – our partner coming into the kitchen for tea in the morning, the wind outside, the cup we pour the tea into, the people we meet as we go out into the world, including the one tailgating you, the emotions that rise up, the deep seated fear that raises it’s head at seeming random times.

We hang out with these experiences, all the time. What if we began to see them as our sangha, giving us support in our efforts to live wakefully?

We bring together ‘sangha as those that support us in our efforts to live wakefully’, and ‘sangha as all experience’, and step deeper to ‘sangha as unrestricted experience’.  All experience, not just what makes it through our filters.

We do spend a fair amount of time with All Experience.  What if what arises becomes something seen as a support?  What if we let go of restricting experience, filtering it?  What happens then?

When we can be in all of our experience, without restricting it, without the confusion of grabbing on to what we like and pushing what we don’t like away and ignoring everything else, what we do will be more apt to meet the situation. Now sangha becomes the awakened actions that arise from opening to all of our experience.  We move a little bit towards the  bodhisattvas, becoming an ongoing response to the suffering we meet in our world.

© Copyright Jeff Bickford, February 2012, Colorado Springs, CO

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Shibashi – 18 Movements of Taiji / Qigong

Waving Hands (Rising & Sinking)

Opening & Closing the Chest

Swinging the Rainbow

Parting the Clouds

Reeling Silk (Rolling Arms)

Rowing Across the Lake

Raising the Sun

Gazing at the Moon

Rustling Leaves (Twisting, Pushing, Grasping)

Waving Cloud Hands

Scooping the Sea & Opening to the Sky

Rolling with the Waves

Dove Spreading Wings

Dragon Emerging from the Sea

Flying Crane

Turning the Wheel

Stepping & Bouncing the Ball

Gathering Energy, Pressing Palms

( Shine the Pearl )

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What is Given

Generosity is not a matter of giving something to someone else.  It is letting go of the requirements we usually place on the situations we find ourselves in, of the actions we take.  ‘If I am kind to this person, they will appreciate me and send some clients my way.’  ‘If I help this person feel better, I will no longer feel so intensely alone and bad about myself.’

Generosity is not barter.

It is simply being present in what is going on without demanding it go a certain way.  More, it is being wholeheartedly in what is going on, giving it your all, letting it be vividly alive.  Technicolor!  Being right there, with all your heart, all your attention, doing what you do, free from the stress of trying to control how things go.  Freeing the situation and those around you to be as they are.

There is a statement attributed to Buddha in his first teaching on karma, ‘There is what is given’.  What does this mean?  Perhaps it points to what we are given at birth and every moment thereafter.  Attention, open clarity (or call it buddha nature), luminous emptiness, joy, love, contentment, compassion – all right there, so close we rarely see them.  And there is what arises, like a river, a continual coming and going of experience.  All this we are given.

Can we receive it?  Can we meet the open clarity that is there if we notice? Can we meet what comes and goes in our lives without requiring it be a certain way?  Without requiring that it be peaceful, profound, resonant with holiness, or comfortable?  Can we let what is be as it is?

‘There is what is given’.  What is it that we can give?  We can be in what is going on and meet it, without dodging, without copping an attitude, without demanding the moment be other than what it vibrantly is, continually letting go of the requirements we place on all we encounter.  This doesn’t mean being passive, or dull – it is doing what we do, with all our hearts, but knowing that each moment contains more than we can ever imagine, so we let it live.

Can we feel gratitude, appreciation for what is, for what is arising – for what is given, as it is?

Copyright© Jeff Bickford 12/20/10

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