Rocky Mountain Insight offers an orientation for those new to attending the regularly scheduled RMI practice sessions. If you are new to RMI, Buddhism, or meditation, we strongly encourage you to attend an orientation session before attending a practice session. Orientations are held in-person on the first Wednesday of every month at 5:15 PM and require pre-registration. Contact Pat Byrne at [email protected] to register for an in-person orientation. Please read the rest of this page in its entirety before attending the in-person portion of the orientation.
The purpose of orientation is to expose you to how we conduct a practice, so you aren’t walking in cold, not knowing what is going on and why. Certain practices that occur, such as the ringing of bells, bowing, and chanting, may seem foreign to many Westerners. Since formal meditation practice features prominently in our regular sessions, orientation includes basic Buddhist meditation instruction so those unfamiliar with the practices aren’t left not knowing what to do during those periods.
About Rocky Mountain Insight
Regular practice sessions are currently conducted in a hybrid format, i.e., both in-person and online via Zoom. When joining us via Zoom, to minimize disruptions, we ask that you observe the following etiquette practices:
- Please arrive on time. Often, the practice lead is also acting as the Zoom coordinator and may not notice to let you in if you arrive late. Also, if your connection is dropped for some reason, please be patient with the Zoom coordinator to let you back in. During formal meditation practice periods, you may need to wait until the practice is over as the Zoom coordinator may be practicing as well.
- Please stay on mute until you are about to speak. Return to mute promptly after finishing speaking.
- Please refrain from speaking aloud except when the practice lead has indicated otherwise. Offering greetings before practice and goodbyes/thank you’s after practice, are welcome. If you are experiencing a technical problem that may be on the lead’s end, please use the messaging system first before speaking aloud.
- If you need to move to another room, manage children/pets/other household members, or otherwise leave your computer, please turn your video off until you have settled back in.
- Please refrain from using the messaging system while the lead is talking, except if you are experiencing technical problems hearing or seeing the lead that may be occurring on the lead’s end. Like with rule #2, greetings/goodbyes/thank you’s via the messaging system are welcome before and after the practice session.
Ringing of Bells
A bell is rung at various points in a practice to demarcate different phase of a session. The bell is an invitation to come into this present moment, it is a call to awakening, and a signal of the transition from one state to another. A single bell is rung at the very beginning of a practice session, to indicate that the formal practice period has begun, that idle conversation should end, and attention be directed to the practice lead.
Two bells are rung at the beginning and end of each formal meditation practice. The first bell indicates bringing to closure that which has gone before, and the second bell indicates the next phase of practice. In the case of walking meditation, the first of the closing bells indicates coming to stillness, and the second bell indicates the end of the walking period. In the case of sitting practice, the first bell signals the end of the meditation and the need to come to closure with where your attention has been residing, while the second bell is the signal to come out of the meditation, open the eyes, and orient oneself in the room.
Finally, three bells are rung to close the formal practice session.
Bowing occurs at various times in a practice as a gesture or respect or reverence. It is never a gesture of worship or subservience and is completely optional. Bowing is performed in the Japanese traditional style called gassho, where the palms are held together in the “prayer” mudra at the heart, bending at the waist. Bowing will be demonstrated at the in-person portion of orientation. The practice lead initiates the bow and then everyone bows in unison.
By bringing the palms together we join what we experience as polar opposites—good/bad, yes/no, attraction/aversion, hold on/let go, etc.—together in a moment of unity, as an expression of the Buddhist concept of Upekkha, equanimity. We may bow to honor the gift of teaching, or to honor the fact that each one of us contains the seeds of Buddha nature—the inherent potential to come to full awakening.
A single bow is performed after formal walking practice, often with an intention offered by the practice lead.
After each formal sitting practice, we bow three times, in honor of the Triple Gem: the Buddha, or the fact that we have the seed of enlightenment within us; the Dhamma, the body of Buddhist teachings; and lastly the Sangha, the enlightened nuns and monks that have come before us, and the community of mindful practitioners that have gathered to practice together.
Finally, after the three bells have been sounded to end the formal practice session, a single bow is performed, often with an intention offered by the practice lead.
Overview of a Practice Session
RMI offers two regularly scheduled practice sessions: All Sangha Night, every Wednesday evening at 6pm, and Sunday Morning Vipassana, every Sunday at 9am. The organization of a practice session may vary depending on the specific session (e.g., All Sangha Nights vs. Sunday Morning Vipassana), the subject being addressed, and the practice lead’s presentational preferences.
Generally, the All Sangha Night session begins with a brief walking meditation; followed by a 20- to 30-minute sitting meditation; a Dhamma Talk (a teaching on a Buddhist subject); a Q & A period; then wrapped up with announcements and a talk on Dana. The Dhamma talk may be given before the formal sit, especially when the talk is relevant to the meditation practice. The session is formally ended by chanting sadhu three times, followed by the closing bells and bow.
Sadhu is a Pali and Sanskrit word that literally translates to “good.” As an exclamation, the chant proclaims that all that was transpired in the session is good, that it will come to good ends, and that it is well done, well made.
On the first Wednesday of the month, the formal sit will entail a guided metta meditation, and on the Wednesday of the month closest to the full moon, we chant the refuges and the five precepts for lay persons.
The Sunday Morning Vipassana session is somewhat more uniform, beginning with a brief walking meditation; followed by a short reading, audio clip, or video; an extended, 40- to 45-minute sitting meditation; then wrapped up with announcements and Dana talk.
The importance of Intention comes up frequently in Buddhist teachings, as every act of body, speech, and mind begins with an intention. Our intentions condition our next action. If we intend to be helpful, we will tend to be more helpful. Each action, each moment, conditions the next. Intentions plant a seed, that when nurtured properly, flower into the goal of the intention.
The essential intention of Buddhist practice is to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. You likely have your own intentions or motivations for engaging in meditation and/or Buddhist practice. Being clear on our intentions, reiterating them habitually, and testing whether our practice is in line with those intentions, or whether our practice is revealing that our intentions are themselves off track, will lead to a more skillful approach to the practice as well as our lives and the reduction of our own suffering. It may be especially useful to reiterate our intention for meditation practice before each sit, as it will help to motivate us towards practice, especially if we aren’t feeling terribly motivated.
If you haven’t given much thought to your intentions for practice, spend a moment now to reflect on your intentions and become clear about them.
An introduction to the foundational practice called anapanasati, literally “mindfulness upon the breath,” will be offered in the in-person portion of the orientation. Although emphasizing concentration, anapanasati is a form of Vipassana practice. Vipassana is most often translated as “insight” – Insight into the true nature of all phenomena. All the practices of Vipassana facilitate mindfulness, bringing our attention into the present moment.
This practice teaches us to become the witness, the observer of all phenomena. By so doing we are more able to identify and let go of our knee jerk reactions to life. We suffer needlessly by constantly reacting unconsciously to life. In fact, we literally miss(!) most of our lives because we are so busy reacting. We replay the past and worry about the future. Frequently we are so tied up in knots or are so ahead of ourselves we couldn’t describe what is occurring in the here and now. Through the practice of mindfulness, we learn to take each moment as it comes.
Through mindfulness we recognize habitual behaviors, responses, and patterns of mind. Once we recognize these “oldy moldy” reactions and see the pain that accompanies them, we have the possibility of being free from them. Awareness gives us the means for freedom.
You can refer to our Meditation Basics page for a brief introduction to the practice, although the in-person session will provide more detail. To learn more about Vipassana practice, you can refer to our Vipassana Practice page.
Staying in Touch
The best way to stay on top of RMI news and events is to subscribe to our email newsletter. The newsletter is sent weekly, recapping that week’s regular sessions, and announcing any upcoming events and classes. Additionally, a reminder email is sent the night before the regular Sunday and Wednesday sessions.
You may also return to our web site periodically to see what is new. Special events and announcements are often posted on the home page, and on the pages under the “Classes and Retreats” section
RMI maintains a lending library of books on various Buddhist and meditation-related subjects. All visitors are free to borrow books in the lending library. There is no cost, and all that we ask is that you return borrowed books promptly after you are done with them, and in the condition that you found them in. The in-person portion of the orientation will go over the sign-out process for books, and which books are not lent out.
Thank you for your attention and diligence with the reading portion of our orientation. We look forward to see you in person!