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Practice Period


About a Practice Period

A practice period is a time to deepen and clarify our practice, both on and off the cushion. Historically, the practice period originated in the rains retreats of the early Buddhist monks and nuns when they could not travel due to heavy rains. During that time, the Sangha lived together for more intensive practice.

A practice period is an opportunity for practitioners to clarify their spiritual intentions, to deepen their understanding of the Buddhist path and to more fully integrate their practice into their daily life. We do this as a Sangha to support and energize each other in our individual practices.

It is important to be realistic about our responsibilities and maintain balance in home, work and spiritual life. From that understanding, participants in a practice period are encouraged to identify a practice intention that will open them up to opportunities and activities beyond their current level of commitment, while keeping in mind what is doable and respects their family, health and work.

You may want to pair with a dharma buddy to connect with and to check in with.

Your commitment could include, but is not limited to...

  • beginning a daily practice
  • increasing the time that you give to a daily practice
  • attending the weekday morning meditations and/or Tuesday and Thursday evening meditations
  • working with the Tuesday Dharma talk subjects during the following week
  • attending the Saturday Sit-In
  • individual (or small group) Dharma study on a topic of your choice
  • bringing your spiritual values (such as the 4 Brahma Viharas) into your family or work life
  • beginning or continuing a generosity practice

Another idea you could consider: Ajahn Geoff reports that in Southeast Asian communities, lay followers observe eight precepts on the four moon cycle days--new, full, first and last quarter. This site can show you the moon phases.

We are most familiar with the 5 precepts:

  1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
  2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
  3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
  5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.

To these can be added these three on the significant moon days ('called Uposatha days):

  1. I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is after sunrise, before noon).
  2. I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
  3. I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and overindulging in sleep. (This generally includes not sleeping on a high or soft bed.)

We look forward to practicing with you.

April/May 2017 Practice Period Notes and Recordings

This year the Practice Period runs from April 4th through May 2nd. The theme is "Renunciation". Some resources supporting study of the the practices found in the relevant suttas, and recordings of talks introducing those practices by members of BIMS teaching corps are listed below.

Recordings and notes by the teaching corps:

April 4th
Jean LaValley introduced the subject of renunciation , and led a discussion investigating our attitudes surrounding it.
Resources:
  1. Tapussa Sutta: To Tapussa (AN 9.41) - The Buddha addressing householders on renunciation.
  2. The Non-Pursuit of Happiness, by Andrew Olendzki - A reflection on what is happiness and how we might cultivate it.
  3. The best ways to teach you little kids about money - This 9 minute video is from a series on the PBS Newshour called Making Sense. The subject is teaching kids about money. But what I find interesting is that it has a lot to do with the concept of renunciation - results of instant gratification, benefits of delayed gratification.
April 11th
Mary Stone discussed renunciation as 'Untangling' - Untangling from the mind state of craving, which the Buddha says is the origin of suffering, by cultivating mind states of gratitude, generosity, kindness, and contentment.
April 18th
In this first of two talks, John Fries spoke on renunciation from the perspective of Right Intention, the second practice in the eight-fold path. The focus was on the drawbacks of sense pleasures.
April 25th
The second talk by John Fries on renunciation and Right Intention looked at the rewards of renouncing sense pleasures.

Other References:

February/March 2016 Practice Period Notes and Recordings

The 2016 Practice Period began on February 2nd and ran through March 8th. This year's theme is "The First Foundation of Mindfulness", the first of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness that were expounded in the Buddha's Satipatthana Sutta. Some resources supporting study of the the practices found in this sutta, and recordings of talks introducing those practices by members of BIMS teaching corps are listed below.

Recordings and notes by the teaching corps:

References - Translations of the Satipatthana Sutta:

Additional references:

  • Recordings from a Gil Fronsdal 13 week course on the Four Foundations, from 2003
  • A Joseph Goldstein 46 part audio series on the Four Foundations, from 2004
  • Recordings from a Rodney Smith series on the Four Foundations, from 2010
  • "The Way of Mindfulness: The Satipatthana Sutta and Its Commentary", by Soma Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013. This includes the sutta along with material from the Vissuddhimagga commentary.
  • October/November 2014 Practice Period Notes and Recordings

    The 2014 Practice Period began on October 7th and concluded November 25th. The theme of this period was "Gladdening the Heart: Freeing the Mind from the Hindrances". Materials from some of the eight weeks of this practice period are available through the links below.


    January/February 2013 Practice Period Notes and Recordings

    Audio and notes from the five Practice Period Tuesday night programs in January and February 2013 can be found here.

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