These are our main meditational practices.
Mahasi Vipassana Insight Meditation:
Our insight meditation (vipassana) is grounded in the tradition of the Burmese meditation master, Mahasi Sayadaw, who began to teach vipassana insight meditation after World War II near Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma).
He developed a method to help us maintain moment to moment mindfulness from the instant we awake to the instant we fall asleep. There are two techniques: the use a simple word to note whatever we are experiencing and doing everything very slowly. Silence is maintained the whole while.
This leads not only to spiritual insights into our true, unborn-undying essence, but also, equally important, to the purification of the heart. So that we not only become wiser but more caring, generous, joyous and compassionate.
We follow a robust schedule, but meditators can modulate their practice to fit their level of experience, even absolute beginners. The accent is on relaxation and curiosity, rather than striving and concentration. And regular teacher contact, daily Q&A and personal interviews ensures students are supported throughout.
The retreat ends with Metta (see below) and advice on how to bring the practice into ordinary daily life to enhance our relationships and give spiritual meaning to our work and everyday tasks.
Please note, experience is not necessary and remember you can often stay for one, two or more weeks.
Metta Goodwill Contemplation:
Metta means goodwill, but it stands for all the Illimitables. These are the states of love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity that can be developed indefinitely. This is a contemplative practice widely used throughout the Buddhist world and there are various techniques to help the meditator develop these qualities.
The method used is to offer love to oneself and then to those close to us, then to friends and so on to all people and eventually all sentient beings. We bring to mind all these various categories and offer them blessings and good wishes. It is a means of transforming hatred into love, cruelty into compassion, miserliness into generosity and so on. In other words, it's a skilful way to change our attitudes and so live in a more wholesome way.
Metta meditation is a practice that helps us to open our heart and mind, reconnecting us with our innate capacity for compassion and kindness. We develop unconditional love, and radiate this out to all living beings. Metta can be practised as a meditation practice in its own right or as a support for vipassana practice.
It is taught in every course we teach.
The exercise begins with reflecting on unskilful ways we are attached to the body and our relationship to sickness, aging and death.
Then we turn the very same metta energy towards the body itself and it then acts as a fortifying or if necessary healing energy. This is done by visualising the various parts of the body and, as it were, pouring our love into those areas.
We then open up to 'other energy' with an exercise taken from the Tibetan Tradition and finally we share it with others in the group and onto all sentient beings. Those familiar with Reiki, a Japanese Buddhist practice of healing, will find similarities.
These exercises of metta and healing are seen as highly complementary to the main practice in Buddhism of investigating ourselves through the practice of vipassana, insight meditation.
Meditation in Ordinary Daily Life
This is included at the end of every course.
There is the monthly Tip o' the Day. See also Tip o' the Day
Noirin Sheahan does email based courses bringing the Dhamma into daily life.
Xmas and New Year Courses:
The first day is a regular meditation day with talks on vipassana and the Dhamma.
The second day is more contemplative.
At Xmas we reflect on the qualities of gratitude, generosity and renunciation as ways of looking over the past year. There is also a 'Listening to Carols' (optional) which may be a time to explore our feelings around Xmas and/or a time to experience spiritual emotions of rejoicing, awe, thankfulness and so on.
At New Year we reflect on the events of the year, personal or public, and see them as opportunities to explore the Dhamma. It is hoped that everyone will offer something and join in any discussion that follows.
At New Year we stay up to see in the New Year and if there is enough wood we light a bonfire.
The third day is communal. We take a walk together so do bring clothes and foot wear ready for a wintry day.
Occasionally there are short courses on Forgiveness and Metta. Very occasionally there is a course on introducing meditation teaching. We hope develop other such courses in the future and to offer courses to contemplate the teachings and the scriptures themselves.
(Please see the Schedule also.)