Upcoming Retreats

2019 Retreat Schedule TBA.  If there is interest, we will lead a non-residential long weekend retreat in the winter of 2019 and a flexible 4-10 day residential retreat in the summer of 2019.  We are open to teaching Residential Retreat, if the wish arises.

 

Equanimity

In the west, at least in our portion of North America, equanimity has become confused with ‘it’s all good’. This is a misunderstanding. Obviously, it is not all good. Take a look around, or inward. Everyone I know is suffering from one thing or another, if not now, a few hours from now, or tomorrow. And if we take a look at the news from around the world, it’s rough out there. Suffering is reliable. It is not, all good, unless one is very, very, numb.

But wait! Isn’t all experience an expression, a manifestation, a play, of mind nature? Yes! When we reach the actual realization of that, rather than just the conceptual understanding, we will be Buddhas. We will be awake. And we will be more aware than ever before of how for most beings, it is not ‘all good’. Beings suffer.

Think of cows, pigs, and chickens; yes, in terms of their DNA spreading and species survival, they have been very successful, but in terms of individual lives, most of these beings live in misery and don’t make it past their 4th month before they become our or our pets’ food. Think of your neighbor, your friend, think of you; all these beings spend most of their time doing repetitive work that is not often interesting, putting up with a truckload of amazingly petty emotional crap – usually their own, increasingly having more and more physical pain, and continually trying to figure out how to make things better, since clearly if things are not better it is their fault because we all have the power to have whatever we want immediately upon wanting it…….

Given that, for most of us, experience is not all-good, and most of us have not yet fully realized our Buddha Natures, how do we live with all this suffering? How do we find our way?

Equanimity, being with what is, is an incredibly useful gift, and tool. Just what might this ‘equanimity’ be?

Consider this definition, paraphrased from Shinzen Young:

Equanimity is not a cooled out, passive or indifferent attitude. Rather, it is not interfering with the operation of the six senses, including the level of preconscious processing. It does not imply that one would fail to take action with respect to external circumstance, nor does it imply passivity or apathy. Equanimity is radical permission to feel. Equanimity is a dropping of internal friction with respect to the flow of these six senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, the feeling body and the thinking and feeling mind. As a state of radical openness, equanimity is equivalent to love.

Equanimity – being with, experiencing, whatever arises as we live. Deeply experiencing – not shying away, or getting lost in trying to figure out how to fix it or in imagining a ‘better’ reality.

What good is this? This is your life, live it. It may be rough, but at least you’re alive to it, rather than lost in a hazy dream.

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

 

 

 

 

Why start meditation classes?

First
The fish needs to say,
“Something ain’t right about this
Camel ride –
And I’m Feeling so damn
Thirsty.”

Most of us come to meditation classes or retreats for exactly what Hafiz points to in this poem.  We get an inkling that something just isn’t right about our lives.  We cannot exactly say what it is that isn’t right.  All the externals may look great, yet the fish on the camel feels that it is not in its natural environment, and it is thirsty.  There is a yearning to connect to something deeper or higher or different.  “Is there something beyond being thirsty on this camel?” This thirst, this niggling feeling, becomes the initiator to start seeking.  What we seek is not yet known.  This is how the path begins & continues; following a feeling and seeking something that will start to quench that thirst.

In my own life, I came to practice through this kind of seeking.  In 1986, I was a dancer -training and auditioning in that competitive world.  I had studied with the “greats” of my time: Martha Graham, Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, etc.   I landed a coveted position with a prestigious dance company.  I was filled with the sense that I had “made it”.  In the third week of rehearsals it dawned on me, I was at the top of the world & yet I was “feeling so damn thirsty”. Something wasn’t right.  All the glamor was not touching what I was seeking.

I did something crazy.  I resigned.  I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I could not continue on the camel ride.  I spent many gloomy weeks doing my usual ritual of movement classes.  Technique was no longer fulfilling, other dancers avoided me & my internal critics had a heyday.   Then it dawned on me:  though I did not yet know what I was seeking,  I did have the use of a large old room at a local church in exchange for caring for their alter.  For three hours daily, for one year, I locked myself in the empty room, with the intention to move, listen & engage what I was seeking.

For a year I listened.  Sometimes I was inspired by movement, often I laid on the floor wide awake.  At times my mind drove me crazy and periodically there was complete peace.  After a year, I said goodbye to this practice & sought a teacher who would be able to engage what I now knew & guide me in ways to follow what I yet did not know.  It a took a few years to find such a teacher.  When I found one, my heart spun; like a compass that has finally found north, like a dog, who finally understands that a person’s language means something & the possibility of a whole new world awakens.  And so it has continued for me.  I practice, I reach impasses, I listen, I contemplate the seeking heart and a new teacher appears. This is why many practice meditation, to learn to engage what we seek.  Meditation practice is not about ignoring some part of your life.  It starts like the fish on the camel; recognizing something isn’t quite right.  Then it proceeds to asking your questions, engaging your seeking heart and learning tools to bring this heart into your life.

First, The fish needs to say, “Something ain’t right about this Camel ride – And I’m Feeling so damn Thirsty.” – Hafiz

Copyright© 2015, all rights reserved Gail Gustafson, Mahakala Radio offers meditation classes in Colorado Springs, online and meditation retreats

Responsibilities

This is for practitioners to read before attending our meditation classes and our Meditation & Movement retreats.

2018 Responsibilities for Practitioners and Teachers at Mahakala Radio

The responsibilities we ask of ALL our participants are:
1.  Do the meditation practices that are given in the class
2.  Stay within the time-frame of the class
3.  Apply the meditation practice in your life to the best of your ability
4.  Be clear about your intention in participating and return to that daily
5.  Do not misuse your meditation practice, other practitioners or the teacher/student relationship for your emotional needs
6.  Be curious, ask questions, be willing to practice and open to the effects & results
7.  Come to class ready to speak about your sitting & daily life meditation practice during the previous week

Responsible contact with other participants
In some meditation courses, we request in-person participants to contact an online participant at least 1x during the course.   Guidelines will be provided & a sign-up sheet will be distributed for this purpose.  We do not monitor these interactions.  This is a way to meet another practitioner & apply what you are learning.  We expect all participants to show up with respect, kindness and mindfulness.  A list will be sent to you to set up a time with another participant.  We expect you to not misuse the email list or the discussion.

For classes offered online – Responsibilities of our distance participants
1.  Email us at least one time a week, at least three days before the next scheduled meditation class date.  We want to know about your practice, questions/concerns or anything you would like discussed in the next class.
2.  If you have a personal practice concern that needs immediate attention, let us know & we may request to talk in-person.
3.  We offer distant participants one private meditation consultation during the course.  This is to support you as a practitioner & there is no extra fee.  This appointment can be with Jeff or Gail, your choice.

Jeff Bickford and Gail Gustafson have the following responsibilities:
1.  To respond in a timely manner & address what is presented by each individual
2.  To teach what we know through experience
3.  To train practitioners through interactive methods in tools and methods on their path
4.  To point out emotional, physical and mental blocks/patterns & to provide means to address them
5.  To not misuse the teacher/student or the teacher/teacher relationship
6.  To introduce the possibility of living from a different view & finding your way

*A teacher cannot:  do the work for you, save another person, answer your deepest questions

Click for upcoming meditation classes colorado springs or to return to Feldenkrais Site

Private Meditation Consultation

meditation consultation, meditation instruction colorado springs Sometimes a meditation class is not quite enough to help you find your way on the path.  The teacher-student relationship is unique and valuable.  It requires trust and willingness, mixed with a lot of courage.  This relationship can be the catalyst for deep insight to unfold.

We offer private meditation consultations by appointment.  Please contact us directly for more information on these sessions.

Or click here for our meditation classes offered, for more on Jeff Bickford, Gail Gustafson, & the student-teacher relationship.