In addition to the many supportive group programs offered by the Florida Community of Mindfulness, a number of very individualized, personal opportunities are available to members of FCM who aspire to deepen their spiritual practice. Among these opportunities are personal mentoring; taking refuge in the Three Jewels and transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings; personal interviews with our teacher, Fred; and solo retreats at Empty Cloud Cottage.
Private interviews with a senior practitioner experienced in mindfulness meditation practice are available to all new members of FCM. The purpose of the mentoring program is to provide guidance and support to new FCM members in developing a structured and focused approach to meditative practice, mindful living, and dharma study. Through regularly scheduled phone calls and/or in-person meetings, the mentor provides guidance and support in establishing a regular and stable dharma practice and becoming a part of the FCM community. Mentors first help participants set personal practice goals, which often focus on establishing a daily meditation practice, learning how to live a mindful life, and healing emotional wounds from the past. In subsequent sessions, which typically last twenty minutes or so, mentors focus on helping mentees achieve their goals. New member mentorship generally lasts for about six months.
While mentoring is specifically meant for new members who are also new to dharma practice, it is offered to all new members regardless of their past experience and to longer term members who request support for their practice. In addition, senior FCM members have typically served as mentors during the eight-week Intensives offered during the summer month
Taking Refuge and the Five Mindfulness Trainings
People who are committed to this mindfulness practice and wish to join the Buddhist path may receive the formal transmission of the Three Refuges and Five Mindfulness Trainings, the basic Buddhist precepts for laypeople as developed by Thich Nhat Hanh. These transmission ceremonies customarily happen on the last day of a scheduled retreat. People who wish to receive transmission are asked to submit some basic information about their goals of practice beforehand.
The Three Refuges, often called the Three Jewels, are as follows:
- To say “I take refuge in the Buddha”, means that I strongly believe in my ability to transform my difficulties and be free from suffering so I can be a source of joy and peace for myself and others. To take refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in the Buddha nature in myself, the innate potential for awakening. I take refuge in Buddha as a teacher of the way out of suffering, not as a god.
- To say “I take refuge in the Dharma” means I practice mindfulness, which brings understanding and love. I believe in the method that Shakyamuni Buddha offered from his own experience to me so that I can realize the path that leads to freedom from suffering.
- To say “I take refuge in the Sangha” means I believe in the collective wisdom of a group of friends who vow to practice as I do on our path of liberation. We need each other for support in this wonderful practice so our collective efforts will benefit ourselves and all beings.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings, traditionally called “The Five Precepts” are guidelines offered by the Buddha to help us live in mindfulness and practice understanding and compassion, so that we can protect ourselves, our families, society and the whole planet. They are non-sectarian in nature.
- The First Mindfulness Training is about protecting the lives of human beings, animals, vegetables and minerals. To protect other beings is to protect ourselves.
- The Second Mindfulness Training guides us to prevent the exploitation of other living beings and of nature. It is also the practice of generosity.
- The Third Mindfulness training guides us to protect children and adults from sexual abuse and misconduct in order to preserve the happiness of individuals and families.
- The Fourth Mindfulness training is about practicing deep listening, loving and truthful speech.
- The Fifth Mindfulness Training is about mindful consumption. We become what we take in, so consuming mindfully is the intelligent way to stop ingesting toxins into our consciousness, not only for ourselves but also for our children and future generations.
Frequently Asked Questions before transmission of the trainings:
“Do I have to give up my root faith in order to receive the trainings”?
The answer is no, you should not abandon your root religion. Buddhism is not a religion, it is a way, a path that leads out of suffering and into joy and peace. So, in practicing the trainings with mindfulness you may come to appreciate your root faith even more.
“Do I have to take all five trainings?”
No, you can choose to take one, two, three or even four of the trainings. If you practice even one mindfulness training deeply, you may find that you are also keeping the other four even though you did not take a vow to do so.
“If I take the trainings do I have to become a vegetarian and/or give up drinking alcohol?”
No. The trainings guide us to practice mindfulness deeply every time we eat or drink. The important thing is to become aware of what we consume and the effect that consumption has on ourselves and others.
“What if my practice of the trainings is not perfect?”
The Five Mindfulness Trainings guide us in the direction of understanding, compassion and liberation for ourselves and others. So we practice as best we can moment-by-moment, from where we are now, knowing that even though we cannot practice perfectly we are sincerely doing the best we can, moving steadily, confidently in the direction we want to go. Hopefully, we practice with a Sangha, a group of friends, reciting the trainings and inspiring each other to find compassionate ways out of difficult situations.
“How often should I recite the trainings?”
The ordination ceremony is nullified if the ordinee does not recite the mindfulness trainings at least once every three months. However, when conditions for practice and recitation improve, one may receive the transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings again.
Personal Interviews With Our Teacher
Members of the Florida Community of Mindfulness may schedule private interviews with Dharma Teacher, Fred Eppsteiner who designates when and where times for such discussions are available. During these private interviews, a practitioner may ask him questions concerning practice issues encountered both on and off the cushion.
Members of FCM have the extraordinary opportunity to experience a solitary retreat at beautiful Empty Cloud Cottage, a truly sacred, tranquil space in which to meditate and study at a deeper level under the skillful guidance of Dharma Teacher, Fred Eppsteiner.
A private retreat differs from a group meditative setting. In a solo retreat student and teacher set the meditation schedule and choose the focus of the practice. Since solo practitioners have to rely on their own inspiration and self-discipline to practice, there is more opportunity for touching deeper reservoirs within themselves, strengths and abilities that they might have doubted lay within. Also in solitary retreat the students have a unique experience in modern America...an opportunity to spend time away from the myriad distractions of daily life that they conspire with to keep from looking deeply within. In solitary retreat, you as a student can learn how to dwell alone in happiness and well-being. There is also the opportunity to meet daily with the teacher and receive the relentless energy of that individual to prod you out of the familiar and comfortable, to help you wake up.
Solo retreats lasting from three to seven days are available to members of FCM who have attended residential retreats and who have an established relationship with the teacher, Fred Eppsteiner. FCM members can find more information about solitary retreats at Empty Cloud through this link
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