About Friends of the Heart
Friends of the Heart is a group of lay people who actively pursue the deep philosophic and ethical teachings of East and West while maintaining an active, ordinary life within the community. We practice meditation from the Buddhist, Christian and Sufi traditions: we study these systems intellectually as well as engaging our creative talents in movement studies, hatha yoga and the creative arts.
Our aim is to help people develop ways to live with a compassionate heart and a clear mind while remaining engaged with the ordinary world. We work in a variety of ways: through meditation, creative movement and yoga, through intellectual study and discussion, through visual art, story telling and sound.
As householders, parents, and people leading ordinary lives in the city, we believe it is possible to live within society and bring compassion and awareness into our lives. We believe that our society urgently needs to develop a thoughtful and ethical way to live. Meditation studies can help us develop wholesome and happy lives.
Training the mind
Training the mind is not just a matter of meditating every day. At Friends of the Heart we recommend a holistic approach that encourages students to find ways to engage their whole selves in their practice, and to integrate their practice into their daily lives. This is done through three "supports". You need to develop all three supports for your practice to become stable.
1. Come to Class
If you want to progress quickly, come to class at least once a week to practice. In class you'll acquire knowledge, have a chance to meditate in a group, and strengthen your exposure to the instructors and teachers who serve as your guides along the path. It is much harder to progress with occasional attendance. Treat the class seriously: bring a notebook to note down interesting points, questions, or observations, and study your notebook from time to time.
2. Study and Practice
Attending once a week alone is not enough; you must also begin to accumulate "mat time", that is, by actually practising meditation on your own. Try to practice every day without fail, even for a very short time: it is better to sit for five minutes a day than to sit for an hour "once in a while". Also, we encourage you to invest time in your own studies: reading and studying on your own.
3. Commit to Serving and Supporting Others
You will receive a lot of quiet support from the other members of Friends of the Heart, in ways both obvious and subtle. Everybody contributes their energy and supports the membership in some way, such as by helping out or donating funds to the maintenance of the centre. Part of your practice will be to find ways of helping others, whether at Friends of the Heart, at home, in your workplace, or in the community. You are encouraged to develop these activities and to begin to see this type of supportive engagement as part of your practice.
Code of Conduct
The path of meditation requires that practitioners cultivate harmony and peace in their own lives. As certain actions or motivations inevitably cause anxiety and turmoil, one of the conditions of membership at Friends of the Heart is that members abide by our Code of Conduct, basic ethical precepts that, if followed, will help them develop harmony in their lives. These precepts are based on the traditional Five Precepts of Buddhism, however they are virtually identical to the ethical precepts expressed in most of the other great religions of the world.
1. I undertake to train myself to refrain from killing. I will endeavour to promote life, to encourage good and wholesome activities of body, speech and mind in myself and others. I will strive to practise non-harming, to be compassionate in intention and aware in action, so that I may come to exhibit wisdom in this very life.
2. I undertake to train myself to refrain from stealing. I will endeavour to give positive energy and honest encouragement to myself and others. I aspire to give freely to all those who ask for my help.
3. I undertake to train myself not to tell lies. I will strive to promote the path of truth in my speech, my actions and my reflections.
4. I undertake to train myself to refrain from misuse of sexual energy. I will strive to promote wholesome exploration with the senses. I will respect the vows that I and others have taken.
5. I undertake to train myself to refrain from abusing substances that cloud the mind. I understand that these are ultimately impediments to clear awareness and can cause obstruction on the path of Awakened Compassion, the path to which I aspire.
6. I agree that I will abide by these precepts and by the by-laws of Friends of the Heart and that if my conduct, my fellow students' conduct or the conduct of any teachers for Friends of the Heart becomes a cause for concern that I or others may ask for a hearing before the Board in order to address these matters.