A little about the Sangha
Sit Raleigh is a community of people interested in learning and practicing Buddhist meditation and the Buddha's teachings. We study what is known as Theravada Buddhism or "early Buddhism" generally from the Pali Canon. Sit Raleigh began meeting on Saturdays outside during 2020 in Moore Square and then at the NCMA park for meditation. Last year we began meeting in other outdoor locations for meditations and talks including a great park in South Raleigh. Since meeting outdoors can be really unpredictable and sometimes the weather doesn't really cooperate with the help of a Sangha member (thanks!) we found our current home at Ashtanga Yoga of Raleigh (in Cary). We meet currently once a month and occasionally for retreats and other special events. All are welcome regardless of experience. Our regular monthly teachings are offered by dana (donation / generosity).
A little about me
I was first introduced to meditation and Buddhism in my teens by a friend I met at a punk rock show. At that age I was surely searching for something although I had no idea what that was. Something simply did not feel right, I was angry and uncomfortable and had experienced a lot of suffering in many areas of my life.
I felt at home in the hardcore scene, I was with people like me. It was through some friends there that I was first exposed to Krishna consciousness. While the Krishnas were talking about some interesting stuff, quite different from the religion I grew up with, it didn't feel like a good fit. After a Sunday service I was talking with a friend and he invited me to a Zendo in the Village where we went and meditated for a bit. All I recall was a room with barely any furniture and lots of wood, we sat on the floor and in direct opposition to much of my life, things were beautifully quiet.
That short time in the Zendo left a deep imprint on me. While I did not start practicing right away, I felt a strong and consistent pull towards all things Buddhist. Images, books, tattoos and eventually I was given some extremely basic meditation instruction at a Tibetan gift shop when I was 16 or 17, but I still didn't have any real understanding of meditation or what Buddhism was about.
I tried the meditation practice on and off for some years with very limited success. And still the pull was there, whispering in my ear. I just knew deep down something was there for me. At some point I finally realized it was up to me, not the other way around. I had to take the action, Buddhism was not going to come to me.
Eventually I met someone who invited me to sit with him and his teacher each week. Around the same time I found other centers to study and practice at as well - but I was pretty directionless. I did not understand the difference between Buddhist traditions, I didn't really understand much except that I wanted to know more and there was something very important for me within these teachings.
While sitting Zazen with Bob and his teacher on Sunday mornings, I also started attending an old kind of sleepy Tibetan Buddhist center in western NJ. I don't recall much of the teachings except for one - "develop the mind, I must practice Dharma". That line still rings in me all these years later and I really took it to heart.
Now almost fourty years since I first sat in that Zendo, I have a bit better understanding about what Buddhism is and what it means to "practice". I have a daily meditation practice. I have sat on retreat. I have been studying under Dharma teacher Noah Levine for some years now and teach meditation and the Buddha's teachings as well.
This path has lead me places I never would have imagined. In 2020 I began my next journey on this path, Buddhist Chaplaincy. I started my studies and Chaplaincy practice at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, NC and now I am in the second year of my Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training in Cohort 15 with Roshi Joan Halifax at Upaya Zen Center in Sante Fe, NM. This training is part of the Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order, focused on integrating social action with spiritual practice.
My practice history has been spread across three traditions, different Zen traditions, Kadampa Buddhism (Tibetan) and Theravada, what I study with Noah and teach. However I am influenced by these two other traditions so while I do not teach Zen or Kadampa Buddhism they do influence me. Ultimately I believe the Buddha taught his teachings, and while I respect these traditions, the best I can try to do as a teacher is share my understanding of what I have learned. I am continiously studying and my goal is share the Dharma in a way that is accessable and actionable. If we can't use what we learn than what good is it? Siddhartha's teachings were meant to be shared, considered and practiced. He said: "EhiPassiko" which means "Come and see for yourself", Check it out, see if it makes sense to you, ask questions, try it. If practicing his teachings make your life and your mind better than great, if it is not for you - that is okay too.
Last, I have a deep love and respect for the Buddha's teachings, what we call the Dharma (Dhamma in Pali) and know what a profound effect it has had on my life, my heart and my mind. It has made all my relationships much richer. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the good fortune to be introduced and to practice. The fact that I am able to share these most beautiful teachings with others is a gift beyond words. My hope is that these teachings also bring joy and the reduction of suffering to your life as they have mine.
Cary "Keishin" Brief
taking Jukai with Roshi Joan Halifax in chaplaincy training