Jonathan Foust

December 27, 2009

The New Year’s Retreat

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation, Photography — jonathanfoust @ 12:36 pm

Digging out from the blizzard of '09.

Today we pack up and head out to the New Year’s Retreat.  This year we’ll have 120 people, our largest group yet.  I suspect we’ll have both sides of the coin.  A large group builds a lot of energy as we practice for five days in silence together.  We’ll also probably be treated to an unprecedented symphony of sniffs, coughs and sneezes.

I’m looking forward to the week, which will be paradoxically quite busy for me.  I’ll be leading mindful movement sessions twice a day, facilitating group interviews, private interviews, leading some sits and giving a talk on “Impermanence and The Body.”

Enjoy your week.  Happy holidays!


October 4, 2009

A Way Cool Mindfulness Aid: Nick Chang’s Online Meditation Bell

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 10:35 am

Med bell

In the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh’s communities, a random bell sounds during the day.

When you hear the bell you are invited to pause, take a breath and reconnect with the Here and Now.

Many years ago I got inspired by this practice and set my digital wrist watch to go off every half hour.  To be honest, much of the time I was annoyed, but other times it served as a powerful moment of waking up out of whatever trance I was in.

My friend Nick Chang has designed a website that provides this service for you.  You can choose your bell, how often it sounds and whether or not you’d like it at random intervals.

You can access the meditation bell here.

Thanks, Nick!  Awesome!

September 11, 2009

The Founder of MBSR on Meditation

Filed under: Meditation, Video — jonathanfoust @ 11:28 am

Jon Kabat-Zin has been one of the most influential people in the west when it comes to bringing meditation to the mainstream.  Way back when meditation was seen as an exotic and weird practice, working through the University of Massachusetts, he was looking at how it would be quantified as being of benefit.  Below you’ll see Jon on Mindfulness.

(Thanks, John!)

August 20, 2009

Dreading and Loving Your Meditation Retreat

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 12:41 pm

Robert Wright has been on the airwaves of late promoting his new book, The Evolution of God.  I heard him interviewed on NPR as I was driving up to New England earlier this summer.  I was tickled that when pressed about his own spirituality and mystical experiences, he spoke of his time at a rural meditation retreat center in Western, MA.

Not too much sleuthing revealed that place as The Insight Meditation Society (IMS) and his meditation retreat as Vipassana.

This piece from the New York Times speaks so well to our love/dread affair with all things meditation.

(Thanks, Holly!)

August 10, 2009

How Does This Moment Want You To Be With It?

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation, Photography — jonathanfoust @ 2:53 pm

AYTT graduation

I’m just home from leading a nine-day training on teaching meditation.  This is part of a 500-hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training program at Kripalu Center.  This group of 40 was made up of active and experienced yoga teachers.  The retreat was deep, still, filled with tears and laughter. I kvell when I think of each of these gifted and dedicated leaders taking meditation out into the world.

We covered a wide variety of techniques:

  • Breath-based Meditation
  • Sensation-based Meditation
  • Mantra Meditation
  • Walking Meditation
  • Standing Meditation
  • Body-scan and Lying Down Meditation
  • Conscious Eating
  • Open-eyed Meditation (Tratak)
  • Loving Kindness Meditation
  • Slow Motion Prana Meditation

We focused on core, simple techniques that help practitioners shift from thinking to ‘being.’  Through the days of practice and sharing about techniques and their effects, I’m reminded how each moment requires caring attention and a question of ‘how this moment wants me to be with it.’

The yogic approach to meditation speaks of the balance of ‘chitta and prana.’  Chitta is mind and awareness.  Prana is energy and feeling.

We are constantly seeking balance between the two.  If you come home in your head and wound up tight from a hard day at work, you’ll want to do something to loosen up:  go for a run, do some yoga, pop a beer, take a nap, cook a meal.

Signs of ‘too much prana’ are those times when you are over-emotional, have 10,000 idea but just can’t complete one, feel confused and lost.  You’ll want to get your ‘chitta together’ and focus on what’s most important.  You might talk to someone to get some perspective or try to get centered, get some perspective and cultivate a sense of priorities.

Some meditation techniques, like counting breaths or steps when walking, are designed to cultivate one-pointedness and concentration. Other techniques, like slow-motion moving meditation and chanting, can open us up to a greater sense of flow and expansion.

I’m honored to have had this time with such dedicated and sincere teachers.  More photos at my flickr site.  I’ve got a lot of shots here so folks can pick the ones they like best.

June 16, 2009

I Believe

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation, Video — jonathanfoust @ 9:25 pm

A wonderful, lively and articulate interview with Hyan Gak Sunim, passed on to me from my friend Francesca Vanegas, director of the Florida Yoga Institute.  This interview is with Hyan Gak Sunim, her first meditation teacher in RI at the Providence Zen Center  back in 1990. He now lives in Seoul, Korea and has become well known in the international community of this Kwan Um School of Zen.

As Francesca invited me, have a cup of tea and enjoy this 26 minute interview!  The “I Believe” series with Dennis Wholey, part of PBS, is quite ambitious.

June 9, 2009

Meditation Hits the Schools

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 2:04 pm

A new article on meditation in the schools in USA Today entitled, “‘Mindfulness’ Meditation Being Used in Schools”.

And in case you’re interested, here is an article from the Washington Post (front page!) that drew on a training that yours truly leads at Whitman High School in Bethesda entitled “Overachieving Students Hear a New Message:  Lighten Up.”

May 22, 2009

Five Months of Silence

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 9:59 am

There is an aspect of any spiritual discipline that entails restraint with awareness.  When we step away from habitual activity and pay careful attention to what arises and our relationship to it, we become more self aware.  This is a short piece on someone who practiced silence while on a five-month retreat.  It’s here on the Huffington Post.

Thanks, Janice, for the link.

May 17, 2009

The “What Am I?” Retreat

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 5:02 pm

An important aspect of the “What Am I?” retreat we did on Saturday is the principle of “interpersonal meditation.”  In addition to silent practice, participants sit quietly with another person.  The questioner asks, “Please tell me what you are.”  After a sincere inquiry into what happens inside contemplating the question, the speaker shares what arises in the mind and body.

Because we hold a commitment to confidentiality and do not ‘discuss’ what arises, participants feel free to openly share what they notice internally when they take on this most challenging inquiry.  What happens for many is a sense of safety, trust and though there is no ‘discussion,’ a deepening sense of intimacy – with ourselves and each other.

I’m struck by the following poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which speaks to the connection possible between us:

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

May 11, 2009

Living in the Body: A Dharma Talk

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation — jonathanfoust @ 11:15 pm

At our retreats, I lead mindful movement twice a day, help people with their seated posture and often give a talk on the first foundation practice of mindfulness of the body.  I love feeling how my years of yoga training are integrating with the Buddha dharma.

If you’d like to listen to my talk, you can download it or listen to it live here at the IMCW website.

“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centred on the body.” Gautama Buddha

Thanks, Janet, for your quick as a bunny service!

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