December’s Learning Resources
December Theme: Returning Home
Embracing the contemplative dark months of winter as a time of reflection and renewal, looking back on the year past and beginning to plan for the new year. Looking at the past and future as a way to inform present personal, community and action in the world.
📚Suggested Resources and Activities:
- Reflect and Discuss:
- Looking back on 2021: In one sentence, how would you describe this last year? What were your most meaningful moments? What was a challenge you faced? What worked well that you are grateful for? Any regrets? What did you learn?
As you look towards 2022: What are you looking forward to in 2022? What would you like to start doing? What is one small step you can take toward a habit you would like to develop? What do you need to let go of? What has not been working for you?
- Read: Set Your Intention & Rejoice in Your Day by Thupten Jinpa (lionsroar.com)
- Watch: Reflections and Turning Inward with Lama Tsomo (Namchak Community YouTube Channel)
- Namchak Blog: Trying Something New? Try Bite-Sized Pieces.
- Lama Tsomo’s recommendation for the month: Current Issue of Buddhadharma. From Lama Tsomo, “It’s less than a book and more than one article. There are multiple articles about Sangha that point to the importance of community.” (lionsroar.com)
- Podcast: Atomic Habits with James Clear Part 1 and Part 2 (Dare to Lead Podcast with Brené Brown)
- Guided Meditation: Three-minute Meditation for Concentration with Lama Tsomo. Need a quick attention reset? Take three minutes to focus on your breath and improve your concentration skills.
✨Monthly Learning Circle Spotlight:
This month we hear from Tim, who is a member of the Meditation Without Borders virtual Learning Circle. This Circle was one of our first Learning Circles and was initiated in 2018!
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
– Plutarch, Theseus
I’ve been in my Learning Circle for over three years. During that time, we’ve seen members come and go. Each contributing, taking, and leaving the group better than before. We’ve seen members with a new interest in meditation, members developing their practice, and mature practitioners looking to go even deeper. Some, like myself, have been all three.
To ask if this is the same group or not misses the point. The group exists to serve the needs of the members for as long as they want to be part of it. Each person adds to the group in meaningful ways and leaves a different person. I’m confident that each person that’s been a part of our group would tell you that their life and practice has been made better by the time spent in the group.
I encourage anyone reading this to try a Learning Circle. It’s not a lifetime commitment. Participate for as long as it makes sense. You’ll find the experience helpful and the fellowship enjoyable.
Thank you for sharing your Learning Circle reflections, Tim!
ONE COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
Opening, Community Commitments, Check-Ins (30-35 min):
- Invite a moment of silence and give rise to Bodhicitta.
- Read Community Commitments.
- What is a word or phrase to describe, “How am I right now, here at the end of 2021″?
Reflection/Journal (5 min):
Now, I would like to invite us to just take a moment to silently reflect on or journal about your own sense of returning home.
What does home look and/or feel like for you?
What are the experiences and practices that have evoked that sense of returning home for you?
- Just taking a moment, allowing us to find and be in that place of home. We’ll give everyone about 3 minutes.
- Now as we come back together, if folks would like to drop in the chat.
- Paste in chat:
- A word or phrase that captures the qualities of that experience of returning home for you, your sense of what that home looks or feels like to help us all in connecting with that collective sense of home.
Read Article Together (10 min):
From that sense of returning home, being at home, let’s create a space for us to reflect on this past year. It is also important to acknowledge and name that in returning home we may also encounter a sense of grief, loss or sadness – especially as we reflect on what has happened or what has been. (In Miko’s experience of returning home, that place of inner sanctuary can often be a space where Miko can fully meet and tend to that experience of grief with compassion). Just name that reality and possibility, hold that together, and honor that experience if it arises.
Next, we will read from an author who Miko has loved and learned from, whose wisdom has helped to inform Miko’s own process of coming home, reflection, and intention setting. And that author is bell hooks. For those of you who aren’t familiar with bell hooks, bell hooks was a trailblazing Black feminist, author, activist and professor who recently passed away last week. One of the books that bell hooks is best known for is entitled “All About Love.” So, in the spirit of inspiring our reflection and honoring those who have come and gone before us: we are going to read an excerpt from “All About Love” that explores the idea of love as a verb.
Read article together “What is Love? Love is a Verb – bell hooks”
Journal Reflection and Sharing (10 min):
We will now take about ten minutes to stop, reflect, and share:
Paste in chat:
Were there any reflections that arose for you as you listened to that reading?
When you reflect back on this past year, how would you describe the force that most guided and shaped your life and your actions? Was it love, joy, sadness, hope or something else?
What do you feel most grateful for when reflecting on this past year?
What lessons and experiences from this past year would you like to carry forward into the new year?
- Now as we come back together, if folks would like to drop responses in the chat.
- Paste in chat:
- A word or phrase that captures what came up for you in your reflections on those questions. What was meaningful about this past year for you?
Watch Video (5 min):
- Now we will transition into intention-setting. We will watch a short video with Lama Tsomo, where Lama Tsomo talks about how we can harness the power of love as we move forward and guides us through a short practice.
- Watch Harness the Power of Love with Lama Tsomo. (Video is 3:23 minutes).
Journaling (3-5 min):
- Take a few minutes to journal further by answering any or all of the following questions.
- Paste in chat:
- What was your experience of that brief guided practice and how does it connect to your reflections on this past year and what you hope to carry forward for the new year?
- What are 3-5 intentions for your personal practice, community practice and world practice that you aspire to commit to for the coming year?
Breakout Rooms (10 min):
Break out into partners or groups of three and share what you have just journaled about in response to the questions presented and anything that stood out to you from the reading, the video, or this gathering so far.
Group Share (5 min):
Come back as a large group and find a non-verbal way to thank you partner over this screen. Feel free to add a couple words or a phrase in the chat that sums up and/or reflects a theme from your sharing with your partner.
Meditation (10 min):
- Let’s all imagine we are sitting in a room together in a circle.
- Now let’s practice a Sympathetic Joy Meditation with Lama Tsomo (8 min).
- After the mediation is over, invite sharing about how that experience was for Learning Circle members.
Closing and Dedication of the Merit (1 min):
By the power of this compassionate practice, my suffering be transformed into peace. May the hearts of all beings be open and their wisdom radiate from within.
Whether you are spending time alone, with family, friends, or communities of origin this holiday season, this time can bring up an array of emotions. Our experiences can range from the comfort of familiarity and tradition to the discomfort of feeling triggered and reverting to old roles and behaviors. We can reframe the stories we believe about ourselves and others by exploring the impermanent nature of reality and believing in our inherent goodness. This holiday season, we invite you to try something new: to build upon the foundations of mindfulness, and embrace the freedom that comes with clear seeing.
Most likely we have all heard the metaphor of putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. It’s a great metaphor, but how does that look in real life? Perhaps we can begin by getting cozy, of course, and asking ourselves some questions like, “What am I doing to take care of myself?” “How do I feel when I am taking care of myself?” “What are some signals that I need to care for myself better?”
Learn to ground yourself in the present moment by gaining full awareness of the experience of being embodied or being connected to your own body. To do this, we start by paying attention to the sensation of breathing, subtle movements in the body, and other somatic experiences as techniques to help bring awareness to our emotional landscape and ease anxiety.
Our Human Nature
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that as human beings we are part of the natural world, intricately connected to all forms of life and to the planet itself.