Tuesday, 19 June 2018

This week @ Beaches - last sutta study until October!

Hi guys.

This week we have an early sutta study so that we don't miss out on too many over the break. We're up to sutta #5 called 'The All'. This is where Gotama (the Buddha) describes the totality of human existence. It's the shortest sutta in the book, but a really juicy one for discussion. 

This will be our last sutta study until we return after the winter break, so please do come along and take part.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 11 June 2018

This week @ Beaches - a special guest

Hi all.

This week
This week @ Beaches Sangha we have a special guest coming to give a talk...Winton Higgins. Winton was an important part of bringing Beaches Sangha to life, having given regular talks and led sutta study with us for the first 6 or 7 years. This week he's making his only appearance at Beaches for 2018 and he'll be giving a talk called "Confidence without certitudes in dharma practice'.

Winton is also a walking wikipedia, and in all the time he taught regularly with us, we never managed to find a question he didn't know the answer to....so if you have any questions at all on anything dharma-related, please bring them along.

The program
I also want to let you know that there'll be two breaks in the sangha program this year. One for 3 weeks in July, most of which is due to hall maintenance by the council. The other is a winter break from mid August to the end of September, largely because I'll be off racing in Europe. 

With only 3 more Thursdays until the first break, I very much hope you can make it this week to welcome Winton and contribute to our always-vibrant questions and discussion.

A sangha resource for next year
It's apt that Winton is with us this week because he is involved in a project to produce a workbook for Stephen Batchelor's most recent work: After Buddhism. He and some others have a Kickstarter project going to fund the production of this resource. 

I've made a pledge of $125 from our sangha, which means we'll receive some of the workbooks when they're done. Assuming Beaches Sangha continues to 'dependently arise' next year, I'm thinking we can use these after we finish our sutta study. 

We don't actually have much in our bank account at present, but enough to make this contribution without jeopardising our existence (in the short term anyway). If you'd like to support our Sangha in this act of generosity, please feel free to contribute some extra to the sangha basket this week.

Hope to seeya there.

Monday, 4 June 2018

This week @ Beaches

Hi everyone.

As it's the first Thursday of the month, we have our monthly sutta study this week. This one is a very well known sutta, and a particularly important one for us secular types. It's called Discourse in Kesamutta and it's the one where Gotama gives advice on how to decide what to believe...the most reliable method being to know for ourselves.

As always, if you value our sutta study sessions, please indicate that by turning up and joining in, even though the nights are getting colder. Our sangha will only continue to exist if people participate.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 28 May 2018

This week @ Beaches - a special guest

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha we have a special guest, Jill Shepherd. Jill lives something of the mendicant's life - she has no fixed home, no car etc.....to some extent she's a 'wanderer' like the Buddha was. She's currently staying in the Blue Mountains and will be making her way down here (on public transport) to be with us. If there's any way you can join us this week to help welcome and support her visit to us, that would be wonderful (there are a few regulars who will be away, so I'm really hoping as many of you can come as possible). 

Jill's talk will be centred on helping us maintain momentum with our practice:

Practice in Daily Life: the Ten Parami as means to maintaining momentum
Many people struggle to maintain a regular meditation practice in the midst of daily life, and can get discouraged when their formal sitting doesn't measure up to the calm and clarity experienced on retreat.  The ten parami are a list of qualities that require the rough and tumble of daily life to develop though, so assessing our practice in terms of these qualities can be a more encouraging way of measuring progress.

Jill's background

Jill began practicing insight meditation in Thailand in 1999, and since that time has lived and worked at several meditation centres and monasteries in the US, Australia, England, and Thailand. She recently spent seven years on staff at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, where she participated in several long retreats and Buddhist study programmes, as well as offering weekly meditation classes at a nearby men's prison. She is a graduate of the IMS / Spirit Rock teacher training program in the US, under the guidance of Joseph Goldstein and Gil Fronsdal. Currently, she divides her time between the USA, Australia and New Zealand, teaching vipassana and brahma vihara retreats and offering ongoing study and practice groups focused on bringing the dharma into daily life.

Monday, 21 May 2018

This week @ Beaches - Batchelor podcast

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha, we're going to do another podcast by Stephen Batchelor. This month it's one of my faves. You will have heard us talk about 'Mara' - the mythical figure who tried to knock the Buddha off the path for the whole of his life. Batchelor talks about this in reality as anything that causes us to feel stuck, or that binds up our ability to respond to life with creativity and kindness.

It's a cracker. I hope you'll join us.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

This week @ Beaches - use it or lose it

Hi all. Sorry for the late post this week.

This week @ Beaches we have our monthly Open Discussion. This is where we can discuss things we've covered in past sessions, ask questions, or explore how the dharma might help us approach the situations we face in our daily lives. Gotama's teachings were very practical - the four great tasks - and so it's important to spend some time focusing on using them.

The heaters will be on. The bikkie supply will be replenished. I hope to see you there.


Monday, 7 May 2018

This week @ Beaches - a special guest

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha we have a special guest coming to give a talk, Michael Barnes. Michael is a bit of an out-of-the-box Minister in the Uniting Church who has a deep interest in the Buddha's teachings. His sessions are always thought provoking, eloquent and enjoyable. And he loves the questions and discussion that come from our group, so come along and join in.

And it's the week of Michaels....there are also some local Sunday evening 'Mindfulness drop-ins' in Mona Vale run by Michael Courtney (who's joined us for Sutta Study a few times recently) for anyone who's interested.

I hope you'll join us in making Michael Barnes welcome this Thursday night.


Monday, 30 April 2018

This week @ Beaches - sutta study

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha we have sutta study and we are up to sutta #3 which is called "Threefold Knowledge". Three of the 16 suttas in the book are relatively long and this is one of them, so make sure you give yourself enough time to read and digest it before Thursday night. 

Also, something we notice each year is that as the weather gets cooler, the number of people who show up for sangha can sometimes go down. I do spend quite a few hours each month preparing for these sutta discussions, which I am very happy to do as long as it's something people value. I judge how much it's valued by how many people turn up. So even though it might be tempting to stay indoors as the nights get chillier, if you're keen on learning the basic teachings of the Buddha, your presence is important to keeping these sessions going. 

I hope to see you there.

Monday, 23 April 2018

This week @ Beaches Sangha

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha we have our Wild Card night. April's activity is a podcast by Stephen Batchelor. Feel free to bring a yoga mat and blanket if you'd like to make yourself comfortable while we listen. As always, we'll have a discussion afterwards. I haven't yet decided which podcast we'll do - Stephen has so many good ones! That can be the surprise for those who join us.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 16 April 2018

This week @ Beaches

Hi all. This week at Beaches we're doing sutta study. It's sutta#2 called 'A Brief Talk to Malukya'. As always, it's most useful if you've read the sutta and the following notes about it, so that we can discuss and digest it together.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

This week @ Beaches + change to next week

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches
This week it's Speaker night and we have one of our old faves, Victor von der Heyde coming to give us a talk called 'Dealing with emotions and other mind states'. Victor is a long time dharma teacher and his talks are always thoughtful and thought provoking. I'll personally be on the Gold Coast this Thursday night cheering on our Commonwealth Games athletes, so please do venture out to the Peace Park to make him feel welcome in my absence.

Next week - change to schedule - sutta study
Last Thursday night the whole world seemed to be tired. The three of us (!!!) who turned up to sangha included! So we just meditated and then went home. The rest of you were so tired after the long weekend that you couldn't get yourselves there!! We know that many of you are keen on the sutta study sessions, so we decided to swap out next week's Open Discussion for last week's sutta study session. So if you'd like to participate, please make sure you've read sutta #2, and the notes that follow it for next week.

I hope you enjoy Victor's talk and ply him with some good questions and discussion.


Monday, 2 April 2018

This week @ Beaches - sutta study

Hi all. 

This week @ Beaches Sangha we have our monthly sutta study. We are up to Sutta #2: A Brief Talk to Malukya. You'll get the most out of the session if you have read the sutta (at least once) and the relevant notes that follow it. 

We'll start the session again with the same questions we did last time. The ones I'll ask for your answers on are:

1) What is the text about? If I had to say so in a word, which word?
2) With what major theme/s is it concerned?
3) What does the text demand of me? Does it ask me to alter my life in some fundamental way?

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday night.

Monday, 26 March 2018

This week @ Beaches - walking the talk

Hi all.

I just realised this week was completely missing from our Sangha schedule. I thought about doing an extra Sutta Study, but then some of you might have planned not to read the next sutta until next week as per the schedule. So this week I thought we could use the session to reflect on the topics we've covered so far this year and what, if anything, we've actually done differently as a result of the insights we've had.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

This week....talking meditation....what the??

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha we have our Wild Card session. The topic for March is 'Insight Dialogue'. 

This is a process that treats conversation as meditation. If you think about it, we spend a heck of a lot of time speaking with others, and Gotama (the Buddha) put great emphasis on the importance of speech. So in line with the idea that 'practice' is the way we live our lives, if we can bring meditative qualities to the way that we interact, that's going to be really helpful.

I hope to see you there.

(Photo by Ben White on unsplash.com)

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

This week @ Beaches

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches, we have our monthly Open Discussion. I'd like to start it by sharing any reflections on the last two sessions (Sutta Study and Everyday Addiction), and what, if anything, people have been noticing or doing differently to put insights into practice. 

Of course it's also our opportunity to bring to the table anything from daily life for discussion on how the dharma applies and can be helpful to us.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Wrapping up last week....and this week @ Beaches...

Hi guys.

Wrapping up last week....
Thanks everyone for an excellent night of sutta study last week. The questions and discussion were terrific and I was really looking forward to posting the podcast for those who couldn't make it. Unfortunately my darling husband unwittingly put a corrupted memory card into my fancy new digital recorder, and I discovered that only the first two minutes were recorded. 

I was a bit devo'd as it was a cracker of a session! I think our virtual sangha would have found it very helpful. Disappointment arose.

Since the session ended, I've had a few more thoughts that move me to clarify a few things we discussed. Click here to read them.  

Also, we ran out of time to think about the last 2 questions on Wallis’ list. What does the insight from the text demand of me? And to what extent am I willing to do that? My sense is that it demands us to catch ourselves in the act of impulsively reaching for more, more, more when we experience pleasure, and instead be mindfully present to the current pleasant experience, letting it go when it naturally passes. Let's discuss that before we begin next month's session.

This week....
This week we have Sylvie running a session called 'Everyday Addiction', which will probably follow on quite nicely from our discussion last week I suspect. It will be interesting for sure. I hope to see you there.


Monday, 26 February 2018

Sutta study + a change to sangha fee

Hi all. 

This week
...at sangha we have our monthly sutta study. Please make sure you've read Sutta #1 'The Hawk' and the commentary on this sutta in the second half of the book. Oh, and be ready for some good discussion!

Change to sangha fees
For over 9 years now, it's cost only $5 to come to sangha. This fee is our individual contribution to cover rent of the venue and supplies cupboard, insurance (which we need to book it), and tea & bikkies. A couple of years ago, Council put up the rent, and since then we've needed $50-$60 per week in donations to cover our costs. So most weeks we haven't actually covered our costs. 

This has been okay for a while because we'd saved a bit before the rent went up, and we've been able to draw on this to keep things going. However there's not much left, so we are going to have to put up the sangha fee. As of this week, we're going to suggest $10 as the fee to cover our sangha's expenses. 

As always, we don't want a lack of money to prevent anyone from coming to sangha, so if you truly can't afford $10, then please just give whatever you can, and perhaps speak to one of us about other ways you might be able to contribute. As the Buddha said, 'if you knew what I know about generosity, you'd never let a day go by without practising it'. Our sangha only exists while we are all engaged in that practice.

As you know, when someone has spent time preparing and facilitating a session, we also like to offer them donations ('dana' means generosity). The way we've structured our program this year, we don't need dana every week, as we don't always have prepared sessions. To help clarify things, if the 'dana' basket it out on the bench, it means we're offering dana to the person running the session. If only the 'sangha fee' basket is out, that's all we need to give.

Selena is making up some new signs to attach to the baskets so it's clear which one is which.

Hope to see you for sutta study!

Friday, 23 February 2018


Ok, first of all, sorry you didn't receive an update last week. I did actually do a post (see below), but last night I discovered no-one had received it. I've just figured out what I did wrong - I accidentally published it on the Secular Buddhism Australia web site, instead of our sangha web site. The two look exactly the same from the back end, and I didn't realise I was in the wrong one. Sorry about that.

Anyhoo...we had a lovely night of Noble Silence. For some people it was their first taste of it, and for some of us it was just the first time in this setting. We debriefed at the end, and while we did miss our little tea-time chats, we all agreed there was something very spacious about not needing to talk, and something very warm and supportive about being there together in silence. Having two meditations was also really nice and for many of us, the second meditation started much more calmly than the first. 

If you would have liked to join in but missed out because you didn't know it was on, there are three things I can offer:

1) If, in any week you don't receive the weekly blog post from me (I do miss one occasionally), you can see what's on by looking at the 'Whats On' page on the Beaches Sangha web site. The schedule for the whole year is there, so maybe add it to your 'favorites' on your browser.
2) Let us know you'd like to do it, and we can schedule another night of Noble Silence. We thought we might like to do it again some time anyway, so if we know people would like it, we'll schedule it in.
3) Come to sangha regardless of what's on. Just stick it in your diary as a weekly event and come. This is in fact the best way to ensure that sangha stays vibrant and alive, that you learn, and that your practice progresses.

Also a warm welcome back to Mick who joined us last night for the first time in a couple of years!

I promise I'll go back to posting on the right web site next week :).

Warm regards

Hi all.

Okay, this week at sangha we've got our Wild Card night. And this month our Wild Card is a taste of what it's like to observe 'noble silence'. Almost all Buddhist retreats have this as one of the ground rules. It basically means...no talking. 

We know there are quite a few people who come to sangha who've never been on a retreat, so we thought we'd have a Thursday night session where you can see what it's like. For those of you who've done retreats...you know the drill.... and it'll be interesting to see how it feels using this practice at our Thursday sessions which are usually quite sociable.

The format of the night will be a little different. We'll have two meditations rather than one, they'll be a bit shorter than usual, and we'll finish off by ending noble silence and discussing how you found the experience. Hope to see you there.

Also, next week is Sutta Study, so don't forget to read Sutta #1 - The Hawk, and the commentary on it that follows.


Monday, 12 February 2018

This week @ Beaches Sangha + some resources for you

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches
This week @ Beaches we have our monthly Open Discussion. These sessions are really valuable for applying the dharma (Buddha's teachings) to our daily life. As discussed last week, the dharma is a set of four 'great tasks' rather than philosophical musings. So it's important to look at the situations we face in life, and how the dharma can help us respond to them.

Sutta Study podcasts
Also, for those who can't get to the Sutta Study sessions, I'm going to be posting podcasts of our sessions on the Secular Buddhism Australia web site as a resource (note: this is not on the 'sutta central' page yet, it has it's own page for the moment). It was fabulous to have so many people attend our first Sutta Study session and the podcasts are definitely not intended as a substitute for coming along. Like everything, our sangha is a dependent arising - that is, it only exists when people come and participate. Think about it...if the convenience of staying at home and listening to a podcast leads to people not attending, we won't have any sessions to record and share! The questions and conversation of the group are important. It's our whole group that's creating this resource for those who aren't as lucky as we are, to have their own sangha.

I realised many of you aren't aware of this, but I also run a web site called Secular Buddhism Australia. I haven't added much to it over the last couple of years, but there are some good resources there. For example there's a podcast by Winton Higgins called 'From Plato to Nato' which gives an overview of the development of Buddhism. I've also just uploaded a podcast I recorded ages ago, giving an overview of meditation and the different approaches (both are on the 'podcasts' page). There are some self study worksheets on a few suttas from Stephen Batchelor's selection, a glossary of terms, and more. Go check it out! I hope to give this site some more love this year than it's had in recent times.

Monday, 5 February 2018

This week @ Beaches Sangha - One Page Dharma

Hi all.

This week @ Beaches Sangha I'll be giving my annual rendition of 'One Page Dharma' where we'll take a sprint through the Buddha's teachings to give you the big picture. 

This is a good talk for those who are new to the dharma, as we'll cover the key concepts in the 'Four Great Tasks' (traditionally called the Four Noble Truths). You'll even get a one page summary to take home. 

And because repetition is an important part of learning, it's also a good refresher for those who might have been around the dharmic traps for a while.

Hope to see you there.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

This week @ Beaches Sangha - sutta study

Hi all

This week at Beaches Sangha, the long promised sutta study begins. The suttas in the Pali canon are the most original version of the Buddha's teachings. If we want to adapt the teachings to our own place and time, we need to know what they were from the most original, least tampered-with source.

Over the next 18 months or so we'll be working or way through The Basic Teachings of the Buddha by Glenn Wallis which contains 16 suttas that he believes are core to the dharma. This week we'll start with the Introduction which frames these suttas in some important ways.

If you'd like to join in, please make sure you've read the introductory chapter ready for discussion on Thursday night.

I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

This week @ Sangha - haiku meditation

Hi all.

This week
This week @ Beaches Sangha, Selena will be leading a session on haiku poetry. This year we wanted to explore some creative and fun ways of attending to the world around and inside of us (meditating), and this is one of them. Bring along a notebook and pen and you can even have a go at it yourself if you'd like.

Next week - sutta study begins
Also, a final reminder that sutta study starts next week. If you'd like to participate, please get yourself a copy of the book The Basic Teachings of the Buddha by Glenn Wallis, and read the Introduction in preparation for next week.

I hope to see you Thursday.

Monday, 15 January 2018

This week @ Sangha + preparation for sutta study

Hi all.

Listening meditation last week was a terrific start to the year. We even had some impromptu Indian chime-playing from Carol to add to the multitude of sounds that came our way during meditation. 

This week
This week we have our monthly Open Discussion where we focus on applying the dharma to our daily lives, discussing experiences or challenges that we face and how the dharma might help. We hope you can join us.

Sutta study
If you'd like to join in the sutta study program this year, a reminder that you need to get yourself a copy of The Basic Teachings of the Buddha by Glenn Wallis. We'll set off on that adventure in two weeks' time. Please read the introduction to the book by then, so that the session will be most fruitful. It's a reasonable length introduction, so don't leave it til 5 minutes before sangha, but I think you'll find it very interesting.

This year's program
The program for the year is shaping up well, and we've updated it further this week. You can find it here.

Thought provoker
If you haven't already seen it, Winton Higgins wrote a short article in the SIM newsletter called Sanghas R Us. It's a timely thought prod as we start a new sangha year - indeed it's Beaches Sangha's 10th year. You can read it here.

Hope to see you at the hut on Thursday night.

(Photo by Yuriy Rzhemovskiy on Unsplash)

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Welcome to Sangha for 2018

Hello, and welcome to 2018 everyone! I hope you've all had a lovely holiday season. Beaches Sangha resumes its meetings this Thursday 11th January.

Over the past couple of months, your SOG (Sangha Organising Group) has been working on a schedule of topics for this year that we think will be engaging and educative. We've chosen 4 types of sessions that we'll rotate through each month. They are:

1) Sutta study: we'll be studying a book which contains 16 important suttas from the Pali canon (the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha). If you'd like to join in, you'll need to get yourself a copy of The Basic Teachings of the Buddha by Glenn Wallis. We'll start this in February.

2) Speakers: we've already got a number of speakers booked for the year and are waiting to confirm several more. A couple of them are open to suggestion in terms of topics, so if there's a topic you'd like to learn about, let us know.

3) Open discussion: we had lots of this last year and people found it really valuable. It's where we discuss how the dharma can help in our real life, day to day situations.

4) Wild card: prepare to be surprised - it'll be different each month. We have everything from sound meditation in the garden this week, to  poetry nights, our favourite podcasts, star gazing, and lots more. These nights are where we'll use creative ways to open to the dharma.

Click here to see what we've got lined up for you so far. We're starting this week with sound meditation led by Sylvie. Weather permitting, we'll do this outside in the garden.

Your SOG for this year is me, Selena, Sylvie, Renata and Kate. If you have any ideas for topics or for sangha generally, please do speak to any one of us. I'd also like to say a big thank you to Betsy who has looked after the program every year since Beaches Sangha started 9 years ago. Thank you so much Betsy. I've been there for all 9 years of it and I appreciate it very much. A thank you also to Florence who, although we didn't see much of her, was our Treasurer last year. 

I hope to see you this week for the start of a new year of sangha wonderfulness.

Warm regards