Does that make me crazy?

When I very first began practicing the dhamma, I knew I wanted to teach it as well. Does that make me crazy?

My reasoning changed over the years, many time, back and forth across various reasons, with two main reasons always being present. I wanted to learn and I learn best by teaching. Having that accountability of knowing I have to say something on Sunday at 6pm means I will study. And, more importantly, I was always worried about adhering to the precept not to cause harm. I wanted to honor that precept not only in the obvious ways of not hurting beings physically…but also, I didn’t want to cause harm by sharing the dharma incorrectly.

I’ve learned a lot since those early days, and while I don’t worry so much any longer, I still think these reasons are worthy. To that end I’ve completed facilitator training through the original Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society under the expert tutelage of JoAnna Hardy and Vinny Ferraro, and I’m honored to say that on June 12th, 2022 I also graduated from the Dharmacharya program at Heartwood Refuge under the incredible teachers Vererable Pannavati and Venerable Pannadipa.

In a beautiful graduation ceremony that only Heartwood Refuge and the Venerable Pannavati could bring into being, one of the many wonderful moments was when they sang the song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley with reimagined Buddhist-appropriate lyrics suited to our graduation. Having now graduated, I earned the official title of Reverend George Beecher, or Acharya Khantu-Abatti, I look forward to continuing to embody and share the dharma in every way, in every place, that I may.

For our graduation we had to write an intention. Mine was “My intention is to always learn and embody the Dhamma with a fresh mind, guided by the question “What’s the most generous thing I can do in this moment?”. That intention wasn’t just a quick thought. It’s the culmination of, and is informed by, the teachings I received from all of the above teachers and I hope I honor that.

You can find me teaching THS on Sunday’s, multiple nights per week in the TRIPP+EvolVR communities in Virtual Reality, and many other places. I’ll launch a page soon to share those offerings.

Photo Credit: Matthew Hahn

The World’s First recoVeRy dharma Meeting in Virtual Reality!

IMG_9507In 2018, I tried my coworker’s Vive VR headset and was utterly floored.  I put it on with NO idea how to use it or how the controllers worked.  I was immediately overwhelmed by the sense of standing on a rampart, looking down over some valley, and besieged by attackers.  Little cartoonish monsters clambering to attack my castle. And I immediately began whipping arrows from my quiver on my back and launching them at the attackers.  I destroyed each of them immediately, finding that I was an excellent marksman with a pixel Bow and Arrow.

While killing little imaginary monsters in VR is not my thing, I was still BLOWN AWAY.  I couldn’t believe how absolutely and completely my brain bought in to this false reality.  If I looked down, I felt like I might fall.  If I wanted an arrow, I instinctively knew they were on my back and when I reached behind myself, made a grabbing motion, I took one and nocked it. When something flew at me, I dodged, ducked and parried. To my mind, it was REAL reality.  This stuck with me and later left me pondering the implications of this on “REAL” reality.  I won’t get in to that in this post, but it’s a DEEP rabbit hole.

A few seeds were planted in my mind that day.  One of them was “If the human mind can SO quickly buy in to the false reality, and accept it as real, I wonder if meditation with a group of people in VR might produce that same sense of I-don’t-have-a-name-for-it that you get when you meditate with a large group in the real world?”

If you’ve done a retreat, you probably know what I mean.  There’s just a certain quality — one which is hard to explain — that you experience in group meditation that you simply don’t when meditating alone.  That’s not to say better…both ways have benefits…but unique to groups. So I finally was able to get an Oculus Quest and begin exploring that question.  There is precious little (though more every day) out there for meditation in VR.  I mean, who would want an expensive gaming headset so they could close their eyes?!  Well, a lot of people it seems.

While I have so far not found that this feeling can indeed be reproduced in VR, what I have found is an amazing community that is trying to seek the same things.  A spiritual connection in VR.  Enter EvolVR.  Jeremy Nickel, a Unitarian Minister by trade, had some similar thoughts a couple of years ago and was ahead of the VR curve.  When I found my way to some of the social media apps in VR I found AltspaceVR.  Altspace is basically a zoom meeting in VR.  You can explore “worlds”, create them, play around in them, mostly to the end purpose of meeting up with people for some reason.  Book clubs, comedy shows, dance parties, business meetings, and much more.

Jeremy launched EvolVR, your spiritual community in VR, and has numerous meditations and other fun events hosted there.  I reached out to see about launching some meditation, Recovery Dharma groups, etc and he responded enthusiastically.  Seems that he no sooner had been discussing having a recovery meeting of some sort, than I appeared and asked about Recovery Dharma!

SO…all of that to say, I am extraordinarily proud and pleased to announce that the world’s very first recoVeRy dharma meeting in Virtual Reality will begin on Sunday April 19th at 3:30pm EST in AltspaceVR (for VR or 2D on Windows 10) hosted by EvolVR!

Once that is up and running I have EVERY intention of hosting other meditation events for our Sangha or the world at large.  But first, I hope to see you in whatever reality you wish to join us in as soon as possible!  Right now, with us deep in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the VR and Livestreaming Sangha are our only options but I look forward to seeing your faces in person as soon as it is safe to do so!

Be well!

IMG_9505

Recovery Dharma Georgia Presents – An Evening of Undefended Dharma with Mary Stancavage!

Two Hands Sangha and Recovery Dharma Georgia are extremely proud and excited to announce that Los Angeles based Teacher, formerly with Against The Stream, will be visiting us for an evening of Dharma November 3rd!

Mary is an old friend and teacher of mine and I’m deeply grateful for her skill to be brought to the Southeast.  We, here in the south, don’t often get L.A. teachers of her caliber and I hope Georgia practitioners will turn out to support this wonderful opportunity!

There’s a link to the Facebook Event page, and the PDF flyer below…please let me know if you have any questions!!

Facebook Event for – An Evening of Undefended Dharma with Mary Stancavage

Recovery Dharma Georgia Presents_-2

Wise Intention, Wise Effort

After a busy few months, we’re starting to look ahead to the end of 2017, and the start of a beautiful new 2018!

2017 saw THS assist in the launch three new Refuge Recovery Groups, bringing the Georgia total to four! Our Sangha grew a little and changed a little as it does every year, with new people discovering the group.  I had the pleasure and honor of speaking in front of a class at GGC about Buddhism, and in front of a group of clinicians about Refuge Recovery.  In my own practice, I focused a lot on the Brahma Viharas, spent my whole year digging deeper and deeper in to the Satipatthana Sutta as I proceeded through the Against The Stream Facilitator program, which wraps up early in 2018.  Another Sangha mate and I attended the Dave Smith Metta-Vipassana Retreat at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center. And so many other things that made 2017 memorable!

As 2018 fast approaches, we look forward to the Cumming GA Refuge Recovery Meeting launching in January.  We expect to see at least a few other groups start as well.  The first (officially) Refuge Recovery Southeast Regional Conference will happen in late January at the Nashville ATS Center. ATS Facilitator Training will wrap up in March.  I’ll be leading meditation for a few other groups to introduce them to the practice.  I’ll be doing another retreat.  The Sangha has been slowly growing a little.  If that trend continues and is maintained, we’ll be adding some more cushions. We’ll have our usual Day of Mindfulness, and might add a second next year.  And hopefully many other wonderful things await us in 2018.

So, in this reflective mood, we invite you to join us on New Years Eve for our 4th annual Intention Setting Ceremony!  We will be open to anyone wishing to join us for an intoxicant free evening of Dharma practice, meditations, Tea Tasting, fellowship, and we will be watching a very special Dharma movie! And, of course, setting intentions for 2018!

Hope to see you there! Sunday, New Years Eve, 6pm until ???

Enjoy the holidays!

RETREAT! RETREAT!

I wish this was a post about us having a retreat, but alas we’ve not reached that milestone yet!  No, this post is to let you know that our Sangha will not be taking place on Sunday November 5th due to all the keyholders being unavailable or away on the Dave Smith Retreat at Southern Dharma Center in Hot Springs NC!

It’s rare (I think this is the third time in 7 years) that we aren’t there on Sunday, even when I’m away for retreat, but this time there’s just too many of us away to open up!  We hope, if you were considering attending, that you will join us the following week when we resume our regular schedule!

Much Metta!

Yoga, Yogi, Yogis

There’s a lot going on with our Sangha and Refuge Recovery lately, so I thought I would post some event information.

I’ll be leading a Yoga class through a Metta Meditation this coming Saturday. Laura Blatterman (Yoga & Dance Teacher, Arts pioneer, Coach, Artist & Advocate) has invited me to lead her Yoga class through a heart practice following a heart opening yoga flow.  It’s open to the public, so if you want some yoga and meditation with this wonderful teacher and person I’m proud to know, please drop in!

  • Saturday Sept 2nd
  • 1-2:30pm
  • Lifetime Fitness, 1823 N Brown Rd, Lawrenceville, GA 30043
  • $10 Member/$15 Guest

The following week, I’ll be attending my second week of Against The Stream Facilitator Training in San Francisco and will, sadly, be missing Sangha on Sunday night.  One of the other peer leaders will lead and Sangha will still take place!

Lastly, I’m extremely honored to have been invited to speak to the Buddhist class at GGC about my experiences around discovering and practicing Buddhism for Dr. Michael Stoltzfus’ class.  I’m very excited about the opportunity to speak to students about the Middle Way.

I look forward to seeing you out there somewhere!

 

Site Maintenance Notice

I am preparing to move the TwoHandsSangha.org domain from one registrar to another.  This should not effect the site much, if at all, but I wanted to post about it in case anyone happens to encounter issues.

This should be completed over the next several days.

Thank you!

Peer Led to Facilitator Led

I’ve recently begun the training through Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society for their Facilitator 1 level training.  My non-attached desire – as opposed to an attached craving! –  🙂  is to one day become a teacher through ATS, but that’s a post for another time.

This post is just to let people who are concerned about attending a peer led group that I have begun the year long training to become a Facilitator.  A Facilitator is still not a fully empowered Buddhist Teacher, but it’s the next step along the way, and provides the trainee with skills and tools to help hold the space for a group with a little more support and training in doing so. See the quote from their site below for specific detail:

This training is designed for people who are now leading or who would like to lead a meditation group in their community. Over the period of one year we will meet as a small group with people from around the country to learn the basic skills of leading these groups.*
The training will include:

• Comprehensive study of the Buddha’s four noble truths and the brahma viharas
• Experiential exercises in leading guided meditations
• How to start and sustain a meditation group
• How to answer commonly-asked meditation questions.

* This group is not meant to empower anyone as a Buddhist teacher. It is only for the role of peer-based facilitation of meditation groups and basic meditation instructor.

Our group draws on teachings from many Buddhist paths, but is primarily led from the Theravada tradition as taught through the Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society.

Please let me know if there are any questions regarding this.  And thank you to our Sangha for supporting me and encouraging me as I proceed with this training!

Day of Mindfulness

img_8605Each February Two Hands Sangha participates in the Sharon Salzburg 28 Day Meditation Challenge to help members establish a daily sitting practice, if they don’t have one, or strengthen it if they do.

As today is the last day of the Challenge, we are looking ahead to our Annual Day of Mindfulness!  Normally we do this on the Sunday immediately following the end of February. This year, due to scheduling conflicts, we have scheduled it for Marche 12th.

As always, this will take place at the UUCG in Lawrenceville GA.  We will begin at 1pm, with a short opening discussion about the day and the Challenge.  We will follow that with alternating Walking and Sitting meditation in Silence for the remainder of the day, except at the end of the day when we will have another discussion about the practice of the day. The plan, currently, is to also have a Mindful Meal together at some point during the afternoon or evening.

No fee is required, but Dana/Donations are ALWAYS welcome and a suggested amount is $15.  No one will be turned away regardless of funds.

This is a great way to enjoy a much more in depth practice that isn’t always easy to achieve in your daily routine, and is often used as a great way to dip your toe in the water of what a retreat is like for people who are considering going to a retreat but are nervous about lengthy meditations. Often, people tell me they really are interested in a retreat, but they fear that they can’t meditate so long.  There is often this idea that a retreat is all day long sitting. This is a great way to both dispel that myth, and see how you do with a single day of a retreat style atmosphere.

We would love to have you join us on March 12th at 1pm!  Oh, and please feel free to attend for whatever portion you wish if you can’t make the day, but try to make the commitment to be there all day if possible.  If you must arrive late, or leave early, then by all means please do, just do so quietly and mindfully to respect the other practitioners and your own mindfulness cultivated during the day.

Thank you, to everyone who has ever attended THS for helping make this Sangha what it is.  We also recently crossed the five year mark as a Sangha! Each person who has ever walked through the doors for our Sangha has helped make it the supportive community that it is today!

Day of Mindfulness | March 12th | 12 Bethesda Church Rd, Lawrenceville GA | 1pm-8pm

_/|\_ ❤

Email is Emptiness, Emptiness is Email

After MONTHS of our TwoHandsSangha.org email being down, I believe I have it functioning again!  It’s a long boring story as to why it was down in the first place, but it was.  And now it’s not.  As of right now, info @ twohandssangha . org should be functioning once more.

In other news, next week is Family Dharma Night and we’ll be discussing the Eight Worldly Winds, those vicissitudes!  If all goes well, we’re going to illustrate how they work via a physical example we will make together with all ages.  Then examine where on that example we want to be.  Should be very fun and educational!

We’ve had a few of our members move away, and they are all reporting that they are doing well.  And as they move on, we welcome the new members that have come recently, and are just working out when they will come visit for the first time!

Lastly, I got clearance from the facility to hold a Day of Mindfulness in 2015, and I’m VERY excited about it.  We’re going to have a 28 Day Meditation Challenge and explore the book Real Happiness to help get your daily practice started or strengthened, then we’ll end it with a Day of Mindfulness which is like a one day retreat.  It will be fun!!

Thanks!

_/\_