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Ramsey Margolis


 

 

 

Offering you support as you explore a secular approach to Buddhism

 

Are any of these of concern to you: calmness, care, community, connection, compassion, creativity, cooperation? These things matter to me, particularly when I reflect on how we as humans are treating the planet, and the state we may be leaving it in for future generations such as young Clara, above.

What I enjoy doing is engaging with individuals and groups in person and online, in New Zealand and elsewhere, who want to:

  • explore a secular approach to Buddhism
  • learn to meditate, or refresh an existing practice
  • let go of habits that are holding you back, and
  • develop a regular meditation habit
  • deepen your creative engagement in your communities
  • flourish as a person in relationship with others, becoming independent of others but not alone in your practice.

Does this general approach resonate with you?

Secular meditation

The approach to meditation that I’ve found to work well is open, secular, and reflective. It’s relevant for today, concerned with the suffering felt in this world, of the life that has emerged through evolution on this planet. At the same time, it acknowledges the contribution made by the man who has come to be known as the Buddha, Gotama, and those who came after him.

 

Learn to meditate, making practice a habit

Meditation instructions look so simple on the pages of a book. Sitting down and practising meditation regularly, though, appears to many to be beyond them. We try, we give up, we try, we give up – many times in my case. But I kept at it, and found an approach that really does work.

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It’s normal to get lost in thought when we meditate, no matter what technique we use. But when the mind does wander, we tell ourselves that we’ve failed, that because we are unable to stop our thoughts we are therefore not able to meditate. So try, instead, an open-minded, open-hearted, thoughtful and secular approach to meditation, a reflective insight meditation practice that enables us to feel the aliveness of each moment.

This approach involved the practice of an open awareness which is followed by a few minutes reflection on what happened during our session, and journalling what happened. To get real benefit from meditation, it’s helpful to talk about our sessions with someone.

 

YOU CANNOT DO IT WRONG

Practising this gentle, secular skill could well reveal fresh perspectives on old habitual patterns and yield profound insights. We become increasingly aware of our thinking patterns as we reflect on our meditation sessions and journal them.

The effects of conditioning and past difficulties can be felt and seen, and with care and compassion allowed to untangle and reveal hidden gems. We can experience a sense of wellbeing and deep tranquility as we learn to tolerate difficult emotional states. What we hold as difficult may in fact be the doorway to transformation and liberation. More often than not, this works a lot better than trying to ‘fix’ what we consider to be ‘wrong’ with us.

All of us have an intelligence within us that can do this work, so long as we listen deeply to ourselves, and follow the impulses and wisdom that emerges.

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Getting here

Before setting up One Mindful Breath, I started a meditation group in 2000 that became Wellington Insight Meditation Community, and during the time I was running it facilitated weekly meditation sessions, ran a Sunday morning spiritual friendship group, and organised retreats, courses and workshops.

In 2009, I set up Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust and continue to chair it, and a year later I launched secularbuddhism.org.nz as a place for people wanting to discuss a contemporary, secular approach to the dharma. I was asked to run a new meditation group at the start of 2014; that group is now called One Mindful Breath. As well as teaching here, I serve on the community’s Care Committee and oversee our communications.

Dharma teachers I’ve had a relationship with and whose work I respect include Linda Modaro, Stephen Batchelor, Winton Higgins, Martine Batchelor and Eric Kolvig. There were others on the way. I am currently being mentored by Linda Modaro in reflective meditation, and working with practitioners and their journals, and I also very much value the connection with dharma buddies around the world through the online group, Re~Collective.

 

Getting real benefit from meditation

If having a meditation practice is important to you, discussing that practice with someone else, I would suggest, is thoroughly worthwhile. As a mentor, a spiritual friend, a teacher, my role would be to support your process of unfolding, and your expression of your process.

What feels more comfortable to you? Meeting in person, or online? One-on-one conversations around your practice, or being part of a group? Here in Wellington, I have use of a meeting room in Willis Street for one-on-one sessions, while to connect at a distance I’ve found Zoom works best.

A session can be between 40 and 90 minutes, and may include:

  • A period during which we meditate together;
  • Four or five minutes to reflect silently on what happened during the session, exploring the sensations, thoughts, and feelings that arose, and journal what you’re able to recall;
  • One-on-one conversations (in groups, with just myself) on what you can recall, examining what can be learnt and how these insights can be integrated into daily life – you need only share what you’re comfortable speaking about, in both one-on-one sessions and groups; and
  • An opportunity to discuss some of the resources I’ll be sharing.
  • Frequency of sessions is based on your time and need, along with my availability.

understanding Secular Buddhism

Just like discussions around your meditation practice, our conversations around a secular dharma can be both one-on-one or in groups, and will be based on student time and need, and my availability. Using resources that you’ll find on this website, on the Secular Buddhism in Aotearoa New Zealand website and elsewhere, we’ll focus on what a 21st century secular dharma may look like.

From time to time, a multi-session group course will be offered on a specific topic, possibly using recordings of talks given by Winton Higgins during retreats, or perhaps Stephen Batchelor’s 10 theses of secular dharma, as well as original material.

 

where to begin?

I suggest we have a 20-minute conversation around your experience of meditation, and you can then decide whether a reflective, secular approach is one you can work with. We’d also consider whether to work together one-on-one or in a group.

So, let’s connect and have a conversation!

 

Commitment

There’s no set period of engagement and no fixed fee. Mentorship is offered for dana, generosity, given as a monthly pledge. This can be offered by PayPal to dana@secularbuddhism.org.nz or by bank transfer in NZ to 02-1246-0675192-52.

 

Connecting

Zoom – https://zoom.us/j/9195272569
Email – click here
Phone – 04 970 3531 (+644 970 3531 from outside New Zealand)
Phone, text or FaceTime – 021 97 3531 (+64 21 97 3531 from outside NZ)

Zoom is my preferred way of connecting for face-to-face conversations with people at a distance. FaceTime and Skype can be used.

 

Keen to find out more?

Start with this: for your free download – Why it’s good to use an open-minded, open-hearted, reflective approach to secular meditation – click the button below:

 

Resources

When you work with me you’ll get full access to a resource library with documents, videos and sound files.

If you have a password to access the resource library click the button below and enter your password. To get a password get in touch.