Why Meditate?

Why would you Meditate?

People who are interested in learning meditation for a variety of reasons, such as “I just want improved relationships,” to “I want to witness a kaleidoscope of amazing colors,” or “I have been told that experienced meditators can read minds!” The problem could be a boatload of suffering, such as gut fluttering anxiety, bottomless drinking or explosive tirades, Some folks want to continue accelerating to being that saintly person they destined to be.

There are no bad reasons to learn to meditate, however one’s expectations of interstellar flight will be quickly dashed. For most, meditation does not come easy, but liberation from suffering and an incredible life is worth it. A lot of folks come to meditation practice because they feel as if they are missing something. These folks may say things like “it is never enough,” or “I just don’t seem to fit in.” They can sense the lack of meaning in day to day activities. I call this a lacking pattern. A chronic persistent feeling of something not quite right. Meditation helps us to accept this condition, and the path is includes seeing that everything that we need is within. Love, connection and good will are in reach and there is a such thing as supportive loving community.

So here is a metaphor from the prolific teacher S.N. Goenka. Meditation practice is like surgery. You are given the tools to perform the surgery. Surgery for what? The surgery is to remove the tumors, the defilements. And what is the defilement? In Buddhist psychology it would be the seeds and development of greed, hatred and delusion. In Christian teachings that would be called the seven deadly sins. And what are the tools, the scalpels? Meditation is a very important scalpel, of which there are numerous techniques. For this discussion, we focus on a non sectarian technique called mindfulness meditation. It is important to note there are many meditative techniques, such as Christian based centering prayer, that lead to similar results.

Rosalie Creek, Polk County, Florida

So one benefit is mental purification. Among the long list of other benefits is improved relations with others. When I was a new student of meditation my teacher would say “just observe, just watch, just notice.” Another teacher taught me the value of non reactivity. As we begin to watch, perform the surgery, we see our own challenges, our own mental formations. Meditation trains the mind to be dispassionate towards our mental shenanigans. When we see these mental formations like clouds across the sky, we just don’t take our mental state or narrative as personal. We are less apt to be harsh with ourselves, substituting self denigration with softness. We start to cut ourselves some slack. This training in gentleness gets reflected to others, and life in community becomes more harmonious.

And about reactivity. We cause so much misery to ourselves and others by a lack of awareness and not knowing our motives. Most of us are clueless about what or whom is directing our choices. Modern neurology continues to confirm that our reactions are based on a perception and feeling grounded in previous experience. The surgery has to do with awareness of our particular bearings, which we most often do not question or investigate. Just because we feel a particular way does not mean that I should behave or think a particular way. Meditation helps us to become aware of these inclinations of the mind and make kind well informed decisions. One of the fascinating things that occur is that our choices are much more likely to benefit others and community. More thoughtfulness and love!

Another incredible benefit is intimacy. This intimacy is an interesting expression, leading most of us think of romantic relationships including sexuality. In meditation practice we expand the meaning to include closeness and richness in our daily experience . With training we find richness in even the most mundane of our experiences……such as walking or scrubbing the toilet (am I going too far here?) We experience how this mind of ours is often in the default, checked out mode. Every moment is so rich, every ounce of life is to be cherished. Meditation sharpens the mind to see the subtleties, the nuances, the microscopic movements and tendencies of the mind body system.There are so many amazing things occurring in this mind and body when we walk or scrub. In the beginning of practice, the mind is just too dull or preoccupied to see this. The training is about intimate non reactive awareness. Continuing to bring oneself back to this rich space leads to a natural inquiry to the depth of experience.


Chassahowitzka River,  Citrus County

One of the most common reasons people come to meditation is for tranquility, peace of mind. This society is filled with distractions that are seem engaging, attractive and fun. Three of the distractions are electronics, entertainment and media.These entities can also feel comforting, familiar, and exciting. Most of us are aware that they are insubstantial. They often keep us checked out and dissatisfied. What these activities do is to keep our nervous system in a state of hyperarousal. This hyperarousal so epidemic in western countries, it affects lot of people’s sleep and contributes to anxiety.This state of hyperarousal makes it difficult, if not impossible to accomplish the mental training necessary to remove defilements.

For the last few years I did not attend to the news.My intention was a commitment to cultivate tranquility Those years I can recollect a warm sense of peace. Since this recent presidential election, I got hooked on the drama. I noticed more anger, more sense of separation from others. Recently I recommitted to no news. I feel cleaner, lighter, more concentrated. Despite not attending to the news, I still discvoered the flooding in Houston. Compassion for my brothers and sisters in Houston feels a lot better and less deluded than anger and resentment because of political beliefs.

There are many more reasons to meditate. Meditation training is about mental purification. Making a commitment to a code of ethics and morals stabilize the mind allowing for an intimate awareness and a gentle peacefulness. From there we can further purify the mind through become dispassionate about mental contents, which naturally allow for our essence, love, compassion and good will to express itself.

Developing Inner Peace: Meditation Retreat, Bok Tower Gardens, Saturday, April 15, 2017

We return to Bok Tower Gardens this Spring, to provide a peaceful setting to develop inner peace and grow in love. Participants will enjoy:

  • Introduction and meditation instruction with time for questions and discussion
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators
  • Easy access to outside garden space for periods of walking meditation
  • Covered dish vegetarian lunch coordinated by members of the Heartland Insight Meditation Group
  • Admission to Bok Tower Gardens, usable on our long lunch break, or before or after the retreat


Course Taught by Peter Carlson

Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida.

When: Saturday, April 15, 2017 | 9 AM – 5 PM

Where: The new Discovery Classroom, Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853

Please bring: Experienced participants can bring a small vegetarian dish to share with the group. Please contact Darek Smith, 863-537-0133 or by email, if you would like to bring a small vegetarian dish. Bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor. The floor is made of hard tile so you may consider a small carpet square or rug.

To register or more information: Contact Jeanette Johnson 321-303-7607 or by email. To reserve your spot, send a $30 check or money order made to:  “Jeanette Johnson” 10465 Montpelier Circle, Orlando, Florida 32821. To confirm your payment, use email to correspond with Jeanette.

Looks are Deceiving…..the Many Faces of Love

Loook at all these happy faces....a backpack trip I led on Cumberland Island

Look at all these lovely faces….a backpack trip I led on Cumberland Island

Facing our Truth?

Years ago I remember finishing an incredible backpacking trip in the Slickrock Creek Wilderness in North Carolina. Stopping at the first available convenience store so the group of us could stuff our faces with junk, I felt rather greedy and ashamed of our wealth in this sparse country.  As I was making my way back to our van, I was struck by the unsightliness of a woman entering the store. It was as if 1/2 of her face had been blown off. The sight of her face stayed with me, and for a few moments I was dumbfounded, and needed to gather myself. Part of me that was grateful that I did not have to deal with her directly. Now I know that in practicing mindfulness I would have been better equip to understand my feelings at the end of this trip.

In Buddhist psychology we are taught to face the truth of our own experience and be honest with ourselves……what this mind of ours is truly up to. I judge. We judge. And I am skeptical about those who say they do not. I wonder if they lack insight. As human beings we have a tendency to judge others often based on superficial information. We are superimposing our narratives upon the circumstances. Telling a story like that to others would have left me feeling all the more shamed and flawed. One story I sometimes share is about how much of a phony I feel to be sometimes. But being mindful-reflecting on my self- has helped me accept and begin to change those unwholesome parts of myself.

We identify with our face and others faces. I do not recognize my friend Bill as his legs, or introduce myself as my arms. We connect or disconnect with our faces. So when I see Bill, I already have my story of what Bill is about. Although the amount that I truly know about him is minuscule, I have filled in the blanks about who he is. An interesting way to practice is to be mindful of faces…take them all in.

We recognize something in every face that we see. People that we love, family friends, lovers this is a very pleasant feeling. We have very pleasant stories about the ones that we love. This is where we have imposed a perception upon the sensory data. When I see our child Lenora a pleasant sensation arises. A warm, agreeable, and heart felt connection. If I see a child that has caused my daughter some pain an unpleasant sensation arises. This perceptual process can lead to dissonance, a non attractive, not safe feeling. Disconnected, averse, distant, unfriendly. And there are those that we find neither pleasant nor unpleasant, invisible, non remarkable, and we may become indifferent, and the mind will become slothful, lazy. In some of these situations, we may try make some sense of the situation, and we fit some dialogue on top of that.  Age, culture, class, and gender has a lot to do with it. The problem is that the mind is deluded when it is becomes indifferent.  Recent research finds that neglect is worse that sexual abuse. Sometimes it seems as though the more unaware we are, the more checked out we are, and the more indifferent we become.

However all three perceptions are lacking….pleasant towards my daughter, unpleasant towards the alleged enemy, indifference towards the  non remarkable person. We sense that we are jumping to conclusions based on incomplete information, and that we really don’t want to make judgements, or assumptions- we really want to give all a fair shot. But sometimes in this frenetic, grasping society we often go to the default mode which has to do with aversion or checking out entirely.

These relationship impairments often lead to dissatisfaction, angst, and emptiness. We are coming to find in the interpersonal neurobiology of Daniel Siegel, and beginning with the attachment therapy of John Bowlby, that our sense of self is created in relationships.

Attachment research is now holding out that our entire concept of self is formulated through relationships. Those who did not have stable warm attached relationships as infants and toddlers, or were subject to trauma at some point in their life,  are likely to have a non attached worldview. Also subject to attachment issues are folks that have addictions, depression or anxiety. Their brains are not integrated; different parts of the brain, particularly the middle prefrontal cortex,  are not entirely wired together.

Mindfulness practice has been shown to lead to integration, wiring the brains’ different sections back together. This gives validation to the notion that spiritual communities and fellowship aid in developing a more healthy; and complete; mind and body.

“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

Mother Teresa

As spiritual or psychological practitioners we need to have some faith and confidence that we are full of love. And that others are full of love also. What gets in the way is our own sense of woundedness, in other words non integration. This is truth for me. I see this when I am consciously connective, warm, intimate, loving. When I feel closed, cold, disconnected, I feel a lack of love, aversion, disgust and there could be a host of other unpleasant descriptors. So when we interact with others, we recognize the disconnect and accept the disconnect with mindfulness. The best place is to accept this within the body. Can I notice the sensations? What are the sensations like? Hard versus soft, hot versus cold, moving versus still etc. Then can I hold this in a space of mindfulness and equanimity? One of the most important tenets of parents who are securely attached is that they are comfortable in their own skin. So what we do is to notice and accept the unpleasant phenomena and create a loving response.

Several years ago I was counseling a young man from a local high school. As is so often the case, I would walk this person to the park and do our session there. My client was aghast when I would freely and happily say hello to anyone who happened in our path. His question was “Why are you doing that”  My response was “to not do that makes no sense!”.

So there is a responsibility with this truth (Dhamma.) How fortunate one is to be exposed to this incredible truth, and have the energy to continue to practice living in this truth. We have the opportunity to have a huge impact on our friends and families, the community and the world through this precious truth.  We can recondition our habitual responses to self and others, and create a more loving world for all.

“Reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude and hearing the good Dhamma, this is the best good luck”

The Buddha

Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation Workshop, 8AM-Noon, December 5, 2015

Where: 215 E. Bay Street, Lakeland, FL 33801

Meditation Graphic LogoLargeWhat: Simple Instruction, followed by practice and discussion.
We will have coffee, tea and simple refreshments

Who: Experienced and Inexperienced Students

Cost: Donation to the teacher, Andy Quinn

Please contact Bill Tenpenny 863-604-6191, tenpenny2k@msn.com for RSVP and other questions

Please bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor.

Course Taught by Andy Quinn

Andy Quinn has been practicing Insight Meditation for 22 years. He was taught by Peter Carlson, the founding teacher of Orlando Insight Meditation Group. Andy then was an active member of the Vipassana Meditation Community of S.N Goenka for 10 years. There he meditated and served numerous 10 day retreats. Andy has also sat two retreats at Insight Meditation Society in Barre Massachusetts. Andy has recently been under the guidance of Peter for teacher training for the last two years. Andy is one of the founding members of the Heartland Insight Meditation Group. Andy and Heartland Insight have organized one day Meditation Retreats for 10 years, for the last five at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales.

Please bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor.

One Day Lovingkindness Meditation Retreat, Saturday October 10, 2015

When: October 10, 2015 9 AM—5 PM

Where: Olmsted House, Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853


Who: Experienced and Inexperienced Students.

Course Taught by Peter Carlson
Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida. He is  the founding teacher of Orlando Insight Meditation Group.

To Register: RSVP. Contact Andy Quinn, abquinn2010@gmail.com, 863-683-9600

Fees: $25 includes admission to  the Tower, Meditation Instruction, and lunch provided by experience students. Refreshments provided prior to the start of the course. Please send fees to Andy Quinn, 215 E.Bay St. Suite 5, Lakeland, FL 33801.

What: If you prefer to meditate on the floor bring your own cushions.


One-Day Mindfulness Meditation Retreat – Bok Tower

Bok Tower Gardens provides a peaceful setting for a day of meditation. Participants will enjoy:


  • Introduction and Dharma talks with time for questions and discussion
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators
  • Easy access to outside garden space as an alternative for walking meditation
  • Covered dish vegetarian lunch coordinated by members of the Central Florida Insight Meditation Society. Drinks and paper goods provided.

Course Taught by Peter Carlson
Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA. Peter is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Winter Park, Florida. See Mindfulness of Breathing for a guided meditation of this technique.

When: Saturday April 18, 2015 | 9 AM – 5 PM

Olmsted House, Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853

Fee: $25 includes entrance into Bok Tower Gardens

Please bring:  Bring cushions if you prefer to meditate sitting on the floor. The floor is made of hard tile so you may consider a small carpet square or rug. Experienced students may bring a veggie dish. Contact Sharon Hodges at sharonphodges@gmail.com if you are interested.

To Register: Contact Andy Quinn at 863-683-9600 or abquinn2010@gmail.  To reserve your spot, send a $25 check or money order  made out to “Andy Quinn” to 215 E.Bay St., Suite 1, Lakeland FL 33801. Cancellations less one week prior are non refundable.


Why we meditate…

S.N. Goenka, Master Teacher of meditation, India teaches:

“A sensation appears, and liking or disliking begins. This fleeting moment, if we are unaware of it, is repeated and intensified into craving and aversion, becoming a strong emotion that eventually overpowers the conscious mind. We become caught up in the emotion, and all our better judgment is swept aside. The result is that we find ourselves engaged in unwholesome speech and action, harming ourselves and others. We create misery for ourselves, suffering now and in the future, because of one moment of blind reaction.

But if we are aware at the point where the process of reaction begins–that is, if we are aware of the sensation–we can choose not to allow any reaction to occur or to intensify… in those moments the mind is free. Perhaps at first these may be only a few moments in a meditation period, and the rest of the time the mind remains submerged in the old habit of reaction to sensations, the old round of craving, aversion, and misery. But with repeated practice those few brief moments will become seconds, will become minutes, until finally the old habit of reaction is broken, and the mind remains continuously at peace. This is how suffering can be stopped.”

This is why we meditate.