This month has been rough for me and my meditation practice. Things haven’t been going well between us: I got a new job which always kicks my over-achiever self into over-drive (see what I did there? Clever, no? No, you’re right, not really) and I got sick. It’s very hard to be disciplined enough to do any amount of sitting on a daily basis when the simple act of inhaling turns your sinuses into…well, not to put you off your dinner or anything so we’ll just say into a very painful place. Not to mention the fact that, I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick, if I can drag myself to work and back when I get home, the last thing on Earth I want to do is anything that isn’t sleeping. Or dozing. Or napping. Or just lying down in general, really. Lying down = good.
The downside of all this, of course, is that I lose 5-20 minutes a day which help to focus and clear me after the day or, if I’m very lucky and got up early, for the rest of the day. That’s not a good thing. When I was sitting regularly, I was having better days. It was easier to take criticism; easier to keep my temper; just generally…easier.
So my goal for next month is to get back into my regular practice and one of the ways I aim to do this is to start visiting one of these two sites regularly again.
The Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, is kind enough to tape the dharma talks given by visiting teachers and the resident monks and make them available online. I’ve listened to most of the teachers listed on here, but my two favorites are Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Sucitto. Ajahn Amaro is one of my meditation teacher/acupuncturist’s teachers and he’s told me some great stories about listening to talks in person. On a less spiritual level, I have to say that I love the Ajahn’s voice and his sense of humor. He’s English; it’s dry; it’s all good. Buddhist philosophy is extra-wonderful when it comes with jokes about Marmite and Monty Python. Ajahn Sucitto, equally, has a wonderful speaking voice and a great sense of how to bring daily examples into his talks.
The other site I visit regularly is Dharmaseed.org. They also archive talks by a variety of teachers and I have spent less time exploring here, but I have had a great time listening to Rodney Smith and Bhante Gunaratana. Smith is another teacher I found through my teacher who has worked with him in the past and I think his sense of humor and passion really come through in his talks. He claims to be a “one note dharma teacher,” but I don’t think that’s true: or if it is only “one note,” it’s a very…flexible note. Bhante Gunaratana I originally found through his books — a post for another time — but his talks are also excellent. I would caution you, though: when I downloaded a couple of his talks I found they were incomplete and there was a “Part 2” or “Part 3” on the website that wasn’t clearly redirected from the original part. So check the titles carefully!