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Web of Connection Newsletter
August, 2019

Web of Connection is a non-profit organization aimed at integrating
the Dhamma,  deep ecology and restorative ways of living 
into our modern day experience. 
Summer is in full swing and life at Deer Park in Colorado Springs is abundant and vibrant.  Our Saturday meditation and inquiry group has been steadily growing as we investigate the way that Dhamma and Nature are intertwined. The lessons we learn about growth, balance, feedback and regeneration apply directly to our lives. Next up on our agenda: "What exactly is mindfulness? Is it more than a fad? The article below should whet your appetite.

The Sangha is likened to a bouquet of diverse flowers, each individual being unique but also blending together to make one beautiful arrangement. I feel fortunate to be hosting the flower show and want to express my gratitude to all who bring their presence, their courage and their willingness to participate in the process of awakening the heart. Your contributions of groceries, compost, financial support, work in the garden and other offerings are acts of love made manifest. And to those who are unable to be here in person, your gifts are not overlooked. May the goodness of your heart be a support for your practice. May the scent of your virtue be carried to all the directions for the benefit of every being.

Ayya Dhammadhira
  
                           Mindfulness: the Unabridged Version

The roots of mindfulness go all the way back to the Vedic period in India over 3,500 years ago. Originally the Sanskrit word "smrti" referred to the memorization of scriptures but was later expanded by the Buddha to mean much more than that. However, since the early 1990's, mindfulness has entered mainstream Western culture stripped of its religious and ethical context. Instead of being one part of an overall system of teachings aimed at freeing the heart/mind from the inherent unsatisfactoriness of life, mindfulness has become a secular approach to coping with personal stress.  Increasingly utilized in the fields of education, medicine, business, sports, and more, this practice has been reduced to a fragment of what it was originally intended to be. While I do not wish to negate the positive effects of mindfulness in its current usage, I do question whether the real gist of this potentially transformative teaching is being missed. 

Despite its growing popularity, not everyone is a fan of mindfulness. I've recently come across two critiques of the method, one from a psychological perspective and the other from a socio-political perspective. In this article I'd like to address the first of these two and in the next newsletter I will address the second.  

Sahanika Ratnayake, a graduate Student in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge grew up as a Buddhist in Sri Lanka. It wasn't until her time in higher education that she actually encountered mindfulness in her newfound meditation practice. In the article, "The Problem with Mindfulness" she claims that mindfulness and particularly the teaching of non-self (anatta) caused her to be disassociated from what she really thought and felt. She saw this as a negative because it caused her to be despondent rather than engaged in her own life. Simply watching how her bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions come and go in a non-judgmental way left her feeling divorced from her own life. She felt it would be much more beneficial to ask why she felt and thought certain things than to just allow them to be as they are. Unfortunately Sahanika wasn't taught the complete practice of mindfulness. Noticing the coming and going of conditions is only one part of mindfulness practice. The other part is understanding why these conditions have arisen and how they cease to be.

As for the teaching of "not self", the Buddha invites us to investigate this for ourselves by looking deeply into our experience. Instead of simply believing a doctrine, mindfulness includes the investigation of how this personhood is constructed.  Analayo  explains this essential aspect of mindfulness when he says, "Such investigation of dharmas finds its expression in an attitude of keen interest, an inquisitiveness, a wish to follow things up and really understand them." Like when we see a mirage, we don't need to deny the existence of the mirage, but rather we can investigate the causes and conditions that give rise to this apparent reality. Similarly, you could say that this sense of self is a real fiction, the story of "me", not at all divorced from its context. 

Towards the end of her article, Sahanika points out some weaknesses in the mindfulness movement that I think are valid. They have to do with taking responsibility and addressing the larger societal issues that contribute to the stress that we are seeking to avoid. This will be the subject of next month's newsletter. Until then, may your mindful investigations lead to much insight. 

                         
                 

                    Web of Connection Welcomes You 

Saturday Meditation and Inquiry, from 4-6 pm weekly. All are welcome to attend these gatherings where we develop meditation skills, investigate Dharma themes and discover how they apply to our daily lives.


Dharma Contemplation, 6:30-8:00 pm, 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the monthThis is a contemplative practice that gives each participant the opportunity to be still, reflect and respond to a particular text within a supportive structure. Listening to the responses of other participants also helps to expand one's perspective and understanding. Each time we meet a different passage will be explored. All are welcome; no prior experience is necessary. For more information on the methodology of Dharma Contemplation, see this link.

 

Fridays in the Garden, 8:30-11:30 am,  Here's an opportunity to participate in our community garden for whatever amount of time you can offer. We will have activities for people of all ages and abilities (children are welcome too!) Working together mindfully we will plant, water, weed, harvest and touch the Earth with kindness. 


Deer Park Learning Center is located at 15 Columbia Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80904. The house and meditation hall are set back off of Columbia Road, just North of Pikes Peak and before you get to Buffalo Lodge. Turn onto the alleyway and then into the driveway on the left.

                             
                             
  We hope to see you soon!

 
Web of Connection is a 501(c)(3) federal non-profit organization. All donations that you make are tax deductible.                       EIN#: 81-4552275 

As an alms mendicant living outside the support structure of a monastery, Ayya Dhammadhira relies on the ongoing support of individuals like you to continue her practice and service in community. Your monthly contributions are much appreciated. 

Your generosity is what makes it possible for our programs to continue to touch the lives of many people. As our community develops, we will be able to provide a more extensive example of a sustainable lifestyle that nourishes body, mind and spirit. Each one of us is an integral part of this WEB. Thank you for your support!
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Web of Connection · P.O. Box 6848 · Colorado Springs, CO 80934 · USA

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