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Online recollective awareness meditation course

Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust is really pleased to be able support a recollective awareness meditation teacher when they return to New Zealand in November 2016. If in the meantime you’d like a taste – or another taste perhaps – of this kind of meditation practice, Jason Siff and Linda Modaro will be teaching a four-week online course from 25 June to 22 July 2016.

This online course will have both an introductory and an intermediate track running at the same time and will require about five hours of your time each week, including two or more meditation sessions each week.

While registration for the course will open in the week of 1 May 2016, until that date you can reserve a space by filling out an online form here – skillfulmeditation.org/forms/2016/. Tech support will commence in the week of 13 June and the course starts on Saturday 25 June.

The author of Unlearning Meditation: What to do when the instructions get in the way and Thoughts are not the enemy: an innovative approach to meditation practice, here is what Jason has to say about this online course:

‘The last course, which I offered in January of this year, far exceeded my expectations. Participants received the equivalent of what they might get attending a week-long recollective awareness meditation retreat, stretched out over the course of a month and it was done at home instead of at a retreat centre.

‘One thing it confirmed was how this approach to meditation integrates with the rest of our life and does not require a retreat setting to be effective. This makes perfect sense, because by allowing our thoughts and emotions into our meditation sitting from the moment we sit down to meditate, our life enters directly into our meditation practice and then our meditation practice can directly affect our life.

‘Of the 18 people who signed up for the August 2015 month-long online course, 17 continued to the end. I offered 90-minute live interactive talks on each of the four weekends, hour-long small group meetings and individual interviews. I also posted audio recordings from my retreats and workshops, videos for meditation and journalling instruction, articles and excerpts from my books, as well as links to other resources.

‘The participants were actively involved, though not pressured or bombarded with information or assignments and we found a nice balance between meditation, reading and talking.

‘This new course will have all of that. What’s more, participants will be able to keep their own pace and receive individual support for a meditation practice which fits into their own life.

‘I will be giving two 90-minute meditation workshops each weekend, one with time-zone consideration for those in New Zealand and Australia (American and Canadian participants can attend if they wish) and another timed for those in the US, Canada, UK, and Europe.

‘On weekdays, Linda Modaro and I will be offering small group online interviews and, along with other teachers trained in recollective awareness meditation, Linda will offer individual interviews on the phone or by Skype.

‘We will have a course manager who will assist everyone getting up and running, maintain a web page and provide access to the various supplemental materials. She has created video tutorials to help people connect via computer to the talks and small groups, and will be available to troubleshoot problems participants might encounter when trying to log on.’

The fee for the course is USD $200 per person. Participants can ask for a reduced fee and people in groups of two or more taking the course together will only be asked to pay $100 each. If you have any questions about this course, send an email to jason@skillfulmeditation.org. To register, go to skillfulmeditation.org/forms/2016 Online Course/.

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Amanda Palmer – The Art of Asking

Musician and artist Amanda Palmer believes we should create a new relationship between artists and their fans, one based on generosity and trust. Watch her TED talk and be prepared to melt in wonder at her audacity. Marvellous!

‘I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.’

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Give, receive and dance

Here’s a wonderful TED talk by Nipun Mehta, founder of Service Space, on generosity. What do you think of it?

Link to video on youtube.com

 

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The importance of giving

Giving needs to be practiced and developed because our underlying tendency toward attachment, aversion, and confusion so often interferes with a truly selfless act of generosity. An act of giving is of most benefit when one gives something of value, carefully, with one’s own hand, while showing respect, and with a view that something wholesome will come of it. The same is true when one gives out of faith, respectfully, at the right time, with a generous heart, and without causing denigration.

– Andrew Olendzki, ‘Dana: The Practice of Giving’ www.tricycle.com/-practice/dana-practice-giving

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What a wonderful week

– a few words on Martine and Stephen Batchelor’s Taupo retreat

by Maggie Blake

All the dross from the teachings was removed, allowing us to desist from trying to find a way through all the various techniques, which may or may not have helped through the years.

For me it was so helpful to get rid of everything else apart from the four noble truths and the eightfold path.

Over the years of course, one knows the way down the path but one is seduced into thinking that there might be an easier or quicker way. Stephen just cleared all the extraneous bits for me, so now it is on with the teaching just as it is.

It has also been interesting with my own teaching. There is no waffle; there is no other way. This is it. Why go anywhere else, when it is all there.

The Buddha seemed very clear, so did Stephen. Martine was a joy to listen to with her clear directions for following the path. Her accent was a joy for me to listen to.

Having been with them both at Sharpham for three years, it felt like I was back in the family, and of course I am and it was wonderful to connect with them again after 16 years.

My week was one of joy, heartfelt thanks for the dharma, and tremendous love for Stephen and Martine, who continue to bring us the teachings pure and simple.

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Car stickers … and for elsewhere too

In green and yellow like this website used to be, four new car stickers are now available. To get one send a message using the Contact Us page with your postal address saying which one(s) you want.

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And you don’t just have to put them onto your car…

Thanks to FotoFirst in Palmerston North for generously producing these for us – http://www.fotofirst.co.nz

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Slow take off but the journey’s a long one

Launched in September 2009, Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust has received donations from a small number of people in the first three months, but the extent of the generosity has been both truly heart warming and surprising. We’re aware it will take time for the wider dharma community to become aware of the fact that ABET exists, to see value in the work of the trust, and decide to support it. What has been given, though, has taken the trustees by surprise.

Here’s how things stand with each of the four appeals:

Gregory Kramer (coming to teach in March and April 2010) $80.00
Martine & Stephen Batchelor (coming to teach in November 2010) $50.00
Eric Kolvig (coming to teach in April 2011) $50.00
General fund $1,959.44

There are two further donations on their way through Givealittle which are visible on the website but not included in the above. When discussing the notion of a charity to pay the travel costs of overseas insight meditation teachers, what we heard was that people wanted a way to help bring a specific teacher here which is why there are separate bank accounts for each teacher.

The wonderful surprise we’ve had is that there are those who are keen to to see the buddhadharma develop in New Zealand, who are prepared to give substantial amounts to do so, and they realise that ABET is an avenue for this. We weren’t expecting to get large donations into the general fund right away but we’re really glad we have, of course.

Tricycle community
Those familiar with the excellent magazine Tricycle may not be aware they’ve started an online community at http://community.tricycle.com. The publishers’ intention being to create an online sangha, their main attraction is the large number of groups and discussions. It also contains audio and video dharma resources, blogs, photos and even live chat. When you join this community you’ll see there is a group associated with ABET – Aotearoa Buddhist Education Project.

Please join this group and help us talk up the work of the trust. Find it at http://community.tricycle.com/group/aotearoabuddhisteducationproject/.

The practice of generosity is very much more developed among US buddhist communities, so it would be no surprise to find a small number of overseas practitioners welcoming a way of helping to make the practices and principles of insight meditation more easily available to folk in other countries. Your help with this would be of great value.

Payroll giving
From 7 January 2010, a new government initiative encourages charitable donation directly from your salary, in such a way that you receive an immediate tax credit. How much you give, and how often you do it, is up to you.

Assuming you are paid monthly and wish to give $100 each month to ABET. Doing so, you’d receive an immediate tax credit of $33.33. This means your wages would be just $67.77 lower than previously as your employer remits $100 to ABET in your name.

Previously, an individual could only claim back one third of qualifying donations up to a maximum of $630. The amount you can now claim back has gone up to the level of your taxable income.

When you tell your employer you’d like to make a donation from your pay to Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust, give them the ABET bank account number your donation should go to [found elsewhere on this site] and point out that they can find us on the IRD’s list of approved donee organisations.

Finally
We thank all those who have given, whatever your intention and whatever you’ve given, and we encourage anyone who is considering developing your practice of generosity to take a look around this website. You are invited to get in touch in you have any questions.

– from the December 2009 INSIGHTAotearoa newsletter

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Tricycle group created

All you social networking people out there will be interested to learn that a group called Aotearoa Buddhist Education Project has been created in Tricycle magazine’s online community. Come on down and network with us!

Visit http://community.tricycle.com, sign up and join the group. We’d love to hear your ideas about ABET and your ideas for better ways to publicise the work of the trust.

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Newsletter interview

INSIGHTAotearoa is the monthly newsletter of New Zealand’s insight meditation practitioners and communities. Editor Deborah White interviewed the ABET trustees for the October 2009 newsletter. Seeing as we are spread geographically – Vivien is on Auckland’s North Shore, Ramsey is in Wellington, Brigid in Nelson and Christine in Port Levy – she interviewed us by email.

IA: What was the origin of this charitable trust? How did you work together creating this project?

ABET: The idea of a charitable trust arose out of conversations among a number of insight meditation practitioners who were concerned about the affordability of retreats that were coming up which are to be led by overseas teachers. Starting with our desire that as many people as possible might be able to benefit from these teachings, we talked about the fact that those individuals and communities who organise retreats need to be fiscally responsible, which means to at least break even, and wondered how we might help in the process. When Stephen and Martine Batchelor came to New Zealand in 2004, there was a big fundraising effort through your newsletter. This lowered the cost of their Otaki retreat and allowed free entry to the public talk Stephen gave in Wellington, but it didn’t help towards the Christchurch retreat, and in hindsight this was unfair to South Islanders. So the question arose: how can we raise money in a coordinated, national way to bring teachers over? The answer was a charitable trust which appealed for funds through a website from those who know the benefits of these teachings and who appreciated that this was a way to help others discover those benefits.

A: Why just fundraise for their travel costs?

ABET: Good question. What could we appeal for, we wondered? Well, the first thing to go for is a teacher’s travel costs, as it’s a huge part of the cost of a retreat. If we are wildly successful and more than cover their air fares, the cost of the retreat goes down even further for everyone. If we don’t raise enough, then the trust has a general fund which can be used to top up what has been donated for a particular teacher. Another, major, thread of our conversation was about generosity; how this develops in Asia through the culture, but which we as westerners need to cultivate, and how this charitable trust might be part of a practice of generosity. Following on from these conversations and wanting this to be a national initiative rather than one which simply came out of Wellington’s insight meditation community, Ramsey took the initiative and, with agreement from Brigid, Christine and Vivien to be trustees, got to work and set up Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust.

IA: How will you let people know about this wonderful initiative?

ABET: This newsletter, INSIGHTAotearoa, is the most important way that people will learn about Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust. We have a website at http://www.abet.nz, which we encourage everyone to take a look at, and of course there’s there will be links and mentions on insightmeditation.org.nz and www.insightaotearoa.org. We also ask that people share info on the trust with their sangha and friends. If anyone wishes to do a fundraising activity themselves, ABET has registered with givealittle.co.nz and this means that people can set up their own fundraising page for the trust there. Already there’s a teenager who may do a sponsored run for one of the teachers, and there’s even talk of a sponsored weekend sit! With three writers and an artist as trustees, the website text is an object lesson in plain English. Bruce Staples has built a beautiful website, and Adam Shand is taking care of the hosting. We are very grateful to Bruce and Adam. There was a piece on our intention to form the trust in the July INSIGHTAotearoa. Following this, we were offered a significant donation, which we gratefully used to open a bank account at SBS Bank in Nelson.

IA: How will teachers be selected to come to New Zealand, and who qualifies for funding?

ABET: We’ve started off raising funds for those teachers we have invited to come here: Gregory Kramer, Stephen and Martine Batchelor, and Eric Kolvig; as well as a teacher that one of us wants to bring here: Pracha Hutanuwatr. Should a community or an individual want to bring over an insight meditation teacher they should contact us with the name of the teacher, some information about them, their website, and so on. If ABET is to raise funds for a teacher, we will all have to agree to this happening. Could we say that we’re keen to support teachers who are predominantly from, or who have worked with the insight meditation tradition, at least in the first couple of years, rather than spread ourselves too thinly.

IA: How do we donate?

ABET: Okay, now we are officially launching Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust to the world! The flags are flying and the fireworks will be going off after dark. We ask readers to visit www.abet.nz and we hold out our bowl for your dana. You can contribute by cheque, using online banking and by credit or debit card, and your donation can go towards a particular teacher, or into the general fund. As we are a registered charity you can make what they give even larger by claiming tax relief on their donation if you pay New Zealand tax. We are encouraging people to claim that tax and then give that also to Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust.

– from the October 2009 INSIGHTAotearoa newsletter

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Creating opportunities for generosity

To embrace dukkha is to fully embrace the suffering of the world. When the Buddha talks of the path, the whole business beginning with fully knowing dukkha, it’s also an injunction to compassion. When we begin to be more attuned to the tragic nature of our own existence, when we begin to wear down the rigidity of our selfcentredness, that has the effect of making us more empathetically open to the far, far greater suffering that is going on all around us; in others, in the environment.

– Stephen Batchelor, from ‘The Secular Buddha’ a talk given at a London Insight Meditation retreat, September 2008

WHEN people begin to explore the practice of meditation, more often than not it’s because they feel there’s something unsatisfactory in their lives: they believe there’s something wrong with ‘me’, with what’s going on in ‘my life’ and they want to find out if meditation will help.

If then they attend an insight meditation session or retreat, they find they’re encouraged to be generous; that while there may be a charge to attend the retreat, in addition they are asked to make a donation – give dana – to the teacher for the teachings they have received.

This could seem like they’re being asked to pay for something twice. That it’s part of a tradition, well whoopeedoo, what a cool tradition, and they reach into their pockets or their purses and pull out a coin or two or a bill with a picture of Sir Ed to put into the dana bowl.

The brave among them will ask for guidance. Consider what a night out in the city costs, they may be advised, with film tickets, popcorn and a latte, and give accordingly, or they might be asked to compare an evening with a meditation teacher to a yoga session.

Generosity of spirit is rarely instilled in westerners as we grow up. While well-off Victorians had the practice of charity as a way of easing their conscience about the injustices around them, generations X and Y learn with some difficulty sometimes that there is a world beyond themselves.

For our part, we need to be patient, using these opportunities to assist them develop generosity as an important and integral part of the way of meditation, supporting them as they work with their dis-ease.

So, following the injunctions of the four ennobling truths, as we embrace suffering, let go of grasping, experience stopping and create a path, this we do in the hope of curing ourselves of this sense of dissatisfaction.

Those who persist with the practice of meditation discover that this sense of dissatisfaction, or dukkha, is more about ‘us’ rather than ‘me’. We become hugely more aware of the suffering of others, that our own suffering is so tiny by contrast with the suffering of the world, and that there is a direct and very real connection between the world and ourselves. And that’s the point that generosity becomes a significant part of the path.

As repeatedly our heart goes out to all beings in metta practice, it becomes a felt sense rather than repetition by rote and, surprise, we come full circle. We discover the joy that arises out of generosity, from being there for other people, and for other beings.

And from that generosity the ‘me’ actually grows and gains so much. As practitioners, how can we enable others to become aware of this process? As well as the injunction to practice, those of us committed to a buddhist path need to ensure that our communities offer newbies a number of opportunities to practice generosity.

With this in mind, four dharma buddies from around the country have come together and started a charitable trust, Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust, the object of which will be to raise funds to bring overseas insight meditation teachers to this country.

Our initial aim will be to ask Aotearoa’s insight meditation communities to help us to at least cover a teacher’s air fares. New Zealanders would then be able to taste of Buddha’s teachings more affordably, leaving more in their pockets and purses to offer as dana.

When the results can be seen clearly, we hope that enough of you will feel the value in donating to the trust, and we would hope to be able to cover more of the cost of running retreats. Perhaps all? We would hope so.

– from the July 2009 INSIGHTAotearoa newsletter

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