Articles by " Jan"
18 Oct
2017
Posted in: Poems
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And Yet It Is

It & Co.
by Tracy K. Smith

We are a part of It. Not guests.

Is It us, or what contains us?

How can It be anything but an idea,

Something teetering on the spine

Of the number i? It is elegant

But coy. It avoids the blunt ends

Of our fingers as we point. We

Have gone looking for It everywhere:

In Bibles and bandwidth, blooming

Like a wound from the ocean floor.

Still, It resists the matter of false vs. real.

Unconvinced by our zeal, It is un-

Appeasable. It is like some novels:

Vast and unreadable.

***

(I would add: And yet, It is experienceable.)

17 Oct
2017
Posted in: Classes
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Monthly Mindfulness

*** INTRODUCING: MONTHLY MINDFULNESS ***

Beginning Nov 5, I will be offering Instructions in Mindfulness Meditation on the first Sunday of every month, from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm, at Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112.

The class is suitable for beginners as well as anyone who’d like personalized guidance in mindfulness meditation.

This is a drop-in class. It is offered on a donation (dana) basis. No need to register. 

*** My credentials: I have practiced Mindfulness/Insight meditation since 1998 with many, many teachers including Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg. I have sat more than 400 retreat nights, including one- and two-month retreats in the U.S., South Africa, and Burma. I am also a graduate of the Dedicated Practitioner and Community Dharma Leader training programs at Spirit Rock. My primary teacher is Phillip Moffitt. ***

For more information, email Jan at janrosamond@me.com

16 Oct
2017
Posted in: Books
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All I Can Say is: WOW…

…and: Charles Johnson is a GENIUS. (He did win a MacArthur “Genius” award, after all.)

So, OK, most of you know that I did NOT want to read his award-winning novel, Middle Passage. (I posted about that here.) The book is about a slave ship and its voyage from Africa to America — and I just did not want to have to deal with that.

But the fact that I was avoiding it was the reason I knew I had to read it.

So I am.

And I am SO glad. Because it is FABULOUS.

Here’s an excerpt:
(The narrator is a freed slave from Illinois, who has moved to New Orleans and become a petty thief.)

How I fell into this life of living off others, of being a social parasite, is a long, sordid story best shortened for those who, like the Greeks, prefer to keep their violence offstage. Naturally, I looked for honest work. But arriving in the city, checking the saloons and Negro bars, I found nothing. So I stole–it came as second nature to me. My master, Reverend Peleg Chandler, had noticed this stickiness of my fingers when I was a child, and a tendency I had to tell preposterous lies for the hell of it; he was convinced I was born to be hanged and did his damnedest to reeducate said fingers in finer pursuits such as good penmanship and playing the grand piano in his parlor. A Biblical scholar, he endlessly preached Old Testament virtues to me, and to this very day I remember his tedious disquisitions on Neoplatonism, the evils of nominalism, the genius of Aquinas, the work of such seers as Jakob Bohme. He’d wanted me to become a Negro preacher, perhaps even a black saint like the South American priest Martin de Porres–or, for that matter, my brother Jackson. Yet, for all that theological background, I have always been drawn by nature to extremes. Since the hour of my manumission–a day of such gloom and depression that I must put off its telling for a while, if you’ll be patient with me–since that day, and what I can only call my brother Jackson’s spineless behavior in the face of freedom, I have never been able to do things halfway, and I hungered–literally hungered–for life in all its shades and hues: I was hooked on sensation, you might say, a lecher for perception and the nerve-knocking thrill, like a shot of opium, of new “experiences.” And so, with the hateful, dull Illinois farm behind me, I drifted about New Orleans those first few months, pilfering food and picking money belts off tourists, but don’t be too quick to pass judgement. I may be from southern Illinois, but I’m not stupid. Cityfolks lived by cheating and crime. Everyone knew this, everyone saw this, everyone talked ethics piously, then took payoffs under the table, tampered with the till, or fattened his purse by duping the poor. Shameless, you say? Perhaps so. But had I not been a thief, I would not have met Isadora and shortly thereafter found myself literally at sea. 

***

This is SO great. And SO Buddhist! Stay tuned.

13 Oct
2017
Posted in: Retreat-in-a-Box
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Back by Popular Demand

Now that there are so many more non-residential programs at Spirit Rock, fewer recordings of their daylong retreats are being archived, so the Retreat-in-a-Box program we have been offering over the past 2 years has had to adjust. (impermanence — it’s everywhere!)

So now, instead of streaming a 6-hour video recorded from a single, daylong event, we are offering a revised program that features two recordings from separate events — each a 2-hour meditation and dharma talk from the weekly series: “Monday Nights with Jack and Friends.”

The first run of this new format will be held on Sunday, Dec 10, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, at the Kirkwood home of one of our sangha members. Folks can come for the full day or for just the morning or afternoon session.

Here’s the schedule:

10:00 am to 12:00 noon — Video of Jack Kornfield leading a half-hour meditation session (with instructions), then after a short break, Jack gives an hour-long talk on Buddha Nature. (previously recorded at Spirit Rock on 1/30/17)

12:00 noon to 1:00 pm — Silent lunch.

1:00 pm to 3:00 pm — Video of Jack Kornfield with Frank Ostaseski (from San Francisco Zen Hospice). Jack leads a half-hour meditation session (with instructions), then after a short break, Jack and Frank engage in a discussion on Living and Dying. (previously recorded at Spirit Rock 4/24/17)

***

If you live in or near St. Louis and are interested in attending, email Jan here. The event is offered FREE of charge. (Any donations will go to Spirit Rock to support the continuation of these programs.)

If you live somewhere else and would like to organize something like this for your friends, GO FOR IT! (All you have to do is become a Spirit Rock monthly donor of $25 or more, and you get access to dozens of recordings with more being added at least once a month.)

Enjoy!

12 Oct
2017
Posted in: Food
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Morning Meditation

I made a big batch of chai last night, which got me thinking with great fondness of foggy mornings on long retreats, when I’d drink at least two cups at breakfast, then fill a thermos to take up the hill to the meditation hall with me, which made me feel so warm and happy and ready to sit!

Here’s the Spirit Rock recipe:

2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole star anise
2 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. whole black pepper corns
2 Tbsp. whole cardamon pods
4 freshly sliced ginger coins
4 cups water
2 cups milk
1/4 cup loose black tea
1/4 cup brown sugar

1. Place the first 6 ingredients and the 4 cups of cold water in a pot.

2. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce to a simmer for 20-40 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and add loose black tea.

5. Let sit for 4-5 minutes. (no longer!)

6. Warm milk in a separate pot.

7. Strain water and spices into a bowl.

8. Add milk to strained spice water.

9. Whisk in sugar and adjust to desired sweetness.

10. Drink with pleasure.

11. Meditate!

 

11 Oct
2017

There is Suffering

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin

10 Oct
2017
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Not Me. Not Mine. Not Who I Am.

I listened to another great talk last night by Guy Armstrong. It’s on the teaching of “Not Self,” which as Guy says, “is one of the central teachings of the Buddha and one of the most liberating…but also one of the most difficult to understand.”

He does a beautiful job of explaining this teaching in very accessible language. For example, Guy tells the story of the Buddha instructing his followers by asking: “Is what is impermanent, suffering, and subject to change fit to be regarded thus: This is mine. This I am. This is myself?”

Which Guy paraphrases as the Buddha asking: Do you want to pin your happiness and your identity on what is impermanent, unsatisfying and subject to change? And then he says: Why would we do that?! 

I love the conversational way Guy approaches these teachings. But the part of the talk I like best is when he says:

“This formulation of the Buddha’s… This is mine. This I am. This is myself ….is a very helpful way to notice our experience because we can turn it around as he did himself.

“The Buddha asked, What is the right way to understand it?

“Then he said: All forms should be seen as it really is with proper wisdom thus: This is not mine. This I am not. This is not myself.”

To which Guy adds: “This is a practice pointer. This is not just intellectual speculation.

“When you get caught up as taking some aspect of experience as yourself or as belonging to you, try saying: Not me. Not mine. Not who I am.

“See if you can tune into that with proper wisdom thus: Not me. Not mine. Not who I am.

“Just try it. Just drop those three little phrases in when you feel like you’ve identified with something. And see.

***

(Click here to listen)

9 Oct
2017
Posted in: Poems
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Standing Under

The Buddha taught that suffering is to be understood. We understand suffering by allowing ourselves to feel the truth of it — that is, we “stand under” it — and in doing so, we see its nature, its cause, and perhaps come to a new relationship with the unavoidable fact of it in our lives, one that does not add to that suffering, but instead, leads to its end.

***

At Cafe Sangha on Saturday, Lingli shared with me these two poems written by her professor Rock Cottone, about his son Torre, who was born with muscular dystrophy 17 years ago and who passed away suddenly last week.

Madonna
by Rock Cottone

She held him in her arms.
Thin, frail, weak,
But alive,
Like a sheet draped gently across her arms,
Her Duchenne child,
Dystrophic,
Transformed,
Transfigured,
As the body of Christ
Of Michelangelo’s Pieta,
Yet different,
Because he smiled up at her,
Loved her,
And showed her life.

***

Angle’s Song to Mother
by Rock Cottone

Place your cheek by mine
And look up to the stars that shine,
For you are the mother of an angle child.

Take comfort here.
Relinquish all your fear.
The promise of a healthy child I cannot give.

But know that I have been restyled
To rise up to the brightest start
Against the darkest night.

And as my body fails,
My wings will sprout
To take me on a journey
To a place where spirits soar,
And earthly limits are no more.

I feel your warmth nearby.
Rejoice in knowing I will fly
Unfettered by a corporal cast,
As time relieves me of its grasp.

And though you may feel little solace,
It’s important that you know this:
An eyelash wisp, and angle feather,
We are one, now and forever. 

***

(poems published in “High Romance”, 2012)

6 Oct
2017
Posted in: Books, Racism
By    1 Comment

On Choosing

This month, I suggested the novel Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson, for my CDL White Awake group to read. I chose it because although I’ve read almost every book he’s written — and LOVED all of them — I have avoided reading this one.

Even though it won the National Book Award (1990) and even though it’s his most famous book.

The problem: It’s about SLAVERY. And I’m white. So of course I don’t want to read it.

I’m serious. I really have NOT wanted to read this book. Even though I was mesmerized when he spoke to us at the CDL retreat, and even though he is THE MOST FABULOUS WRITER I’ve come across in a very long time — I have just not been able to get myself to read this book.

But the fact that I haven’t wanted to read it is exactly the reason that I really DO want to read it. Not as some kind of penance. Or because I feel like I “should” read it. Or that it would be “good for me” to read it.

But because I keep feeling drawn to it.

Even as I’m fighting against whatever it is that draws me, I know that there is something in this book that I want. Not something I want to have. Something I want to inhabit.

I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that.

I just know that even though I’m the one who chose this book for us to read — the truth is: this book has chosen me.

5 Oct
2017
Posted in: Poems
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Sound and Silence

Music
by Jane Hirshfield

Why should they please us so,
those impossible runs,

or the knowledge
that the pianist’s hand
has spanned an inhuman distance?

That someone years ago conceived
this might be true
and once again it’s proved?

Light bends in water,
breaks inside cut glass;
I watched this endlessly as a child.

And now do not know which one
I want more
when sometimes I hear the sound,

sometimes the silence,
and they are equally beautiful
and bare.