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A sample from the Stepping Stone Sangha
Introduction to the program – Unit 1
By Gregory Kramer
We have all come to this program for a variety of reasons, but universally we share an aspiration for awakening and we recognize the value of relational practice, specifically Insight Dialogue. There is a high level of support built into the program, and it’s an exciting opportunity to learn from and practice with experienced and compassionate people.
Over the next several months we’ll engage 14 contemplations, beginning with this one. These contemplations will cover the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and introduce us to Metta’s online relational dhamma program. Each contemplation will include an in-life practice exercise that you’ll work with and then email your reflections to the mentors. Following each of these email interchanges, an Insight Dialogue session will be arranged with a mentor or a group of mentors, after which you’ll receive the next unit in the program.
In this program, we meet the relational dhamma here via text and with our mentors via Skype. For more information about Skype, our primary medium of communication, please visit: www.skype.com. How do we practice? This is our contemplation right now. Let’s invite this exploration of the Insight Dialogue guidelines into our lives.
How do we truly practice and live fully into our capacity for relational presence? What does Insight Dialogue look like when it is mediated by text and email, or mediated by Skype that filters the voice and find us a physical world apart?
Technology is not separating us. Technology is bringing us together. Here and now is still here and now. Online the text on the screen—including the text of emails you write to your mentor—is the scripture of the present moment. It is as holy as we allow it to be. It enters our hearts as much as we surrender to it. It reveals the hurt and care of others as much as we open to perceiving these qualities. It awakens us as much as we allow ourselves to be awakened.
We are all mature enough to know that over the course of 14 contemplations there will be times that soar with joy and insight, and times that are heavy, mundane, aversive, distracted; the list could go on. We can also know that serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace in the storm. Whatever true openness we bring to our work together, this will be the source of our learning and release.
The contemplations, in which we’ll engage, together with our silent practices, are our practice. These texts, Skype calls and emails are our meditation hall. We bring the totality of our being to them, the practice form supporting an inquiry into how things are in all postures and throughout our entire lives. We will explore how peace is always available to us.
We participate with mindfulness established in the body.
Paused out of habit.
How can I step out of computer and speaking habits?
When the mind stops, what happens?
There is care, kindness and a loving attitude.
Resting in, attending fully to, this moment of online contact.
No resistance. Or, meeting resistance with love.
The mind inclines towards tranquility, towards peace.
How am I resisting this environment, these offerings?
What does ease feel like now?
Extended awareness penetrates assumptions about technology.
Our hearts encompass each other.
The internal and external meet in just awareness.
Am I lost in my inner conceptualized world? How is it to open right here, to this?
Attending inwardly, we find impermanence.
Attending outwardly, we remain focused on the topic of this moment.
There is trust.
Don’t know mind is invoked.
How does impermanence feel as I read, as I type?
How much do I not know?
Each word on the computer screen touches awareness and is received.
How can I yield to a deeper listening in relation to this text?
Speak the Truth:
We participate with honesty.
We speak all of what is called forth, but only what is truly called forth.
Is truth any different in front of a computer? On Skype?
We are all engaged somehow on the path of liberation. Our work, our family and friend relationships and this very new community; all of these meetings are opportunities for presence. How can we engage fully in a sense of community and spiritual friendship here; in our dialogues and with our mentors? How does the spiritual friendship enabled by this community feel in the body? How can I offer my best here?
In each unit there will be contemplations, which are something one holds in the mind more or less all the time. A background thought, a lens, a curiosity and orientation. There will also be practice exercises, which will provide a contact point with the program mentors. Practice exercises are something specific one does to explore further.
As you contemplate this, be slow, be patient. Let the quick answers rise and fall and see what remains. Consider this in your life. Carry it in your heart. Then, with economy, with heart, speak the truth through your written word.
Let’s explore a basic question. What brings you here? What are your aspirations: for this life; for this program; for this moment? Of all the things you could be doing, why are you doing this? How do you feel right now; in the body and in the vibration of mind states as your prepare to share words with new spiritual friends.
Please email your reflections to firstname.lastname@example.org. A Metta mentor will respond and then you’ll be contacted to set up an Insight Dialogue session on Skype.