Articles by " Jan"
27 Jul
Posted in: Talks, Teachers
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Mirabai: On Being

My very first Dharma teacher (and my very, VERY dear friend and mentor), Mirabai Bush, was featured on Krista Tippett’s radio program: On Being, a week ago Sunday (7/19).

I hesitate to say anything about Mirabai because whenever I do, I always end up saying something that sounds so way over the top..and yet, it doesn’t even begin to come close to what an extraordinary human being she is…and what an amazing effect she has had on my life. Let me just say that I love her. And I am loved by her. But in a very unusual, non-personal kind of way. (I told you…it’s hard to explain.)

Anyway. When you get a chance, listen to her interview here.


24 Jul
Posted in: Movies
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10 Questions


We’ll be showing 10 Questions for the Dalai Lamaa 2006 documentary that asks: How do you reconcile a commitment to non-violence when faced with violence? Why do the poor often seem happier than the rich? Must a society lose its traditions in order to move into the future?

The film includes a look back at the spiritual leader’s history and an exploration of the city of Dharamsala, India, where he now lives in exile. Watch trailer here.

Show starts tonight at 7:00pm at a private home inKirkwood. If you want to join us, contact me by email here.




23 Jul
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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5 Ways

I listened to another excellent talk last night, this one by Akincano Marc Weber, in which he outlined five ways the Buddha offered to deal with distracting or obsessive thoughts….the ones that come either while we’re meditating or while we’re just trying to live a good and peaceful life! (Listen to the talk here)

5 Ways to Deal with Obsessive Thoughts: 

#1. If it’s possible, just ignore them.

#2. “Fight fire with fire”…by replacing intrusive thoughts with more useful/helpful/wholesome thoughts.

#3. Remind yourself that you’ve “been to this movie…and know how it ends.” 

4. Undermine the power of the thought (or emotion) by making fun of it or exaggerating it or giving it some kind of ridiculous persona.

#5. As a last resort, apply “brute force.” (Sometimes you just have to tell your mind to SHUT THE F@%K UP!)

22 Jul
Posted in: Talks
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Not Who You Are

Last night I listened to a great talk by Phillip Moffitt, in which he pointed out the difference between being identified with an emotion (or thought, feeling, or mind state) and being characterized by it. It’s one thing to feel sad, for example, and quite another to feel that you ARE sad.

It’s not just a trick of semantics. It’s the difference between being able to experience sadness (or rage, anxiety, confusion, etc.) and being overwhelmed by it.

Phillip explains this much better than I can. Listen to him here.

21 Jul
Posted in: Poems
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I’m feeling prickly today. Poetry, I think, is what’s called for.

My Species
by Jane Hirschfield

a small purple artichoke
in its own bittered
and darkening
grows tender,
grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,
my species

keep testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart 

20 Jul
Posted in: Books, Groups
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It’s Better to Know

This from Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, by Joseph Goldstein, which our KM Book Group will be discussing tonight:

“Without an understanding of what is skillful and what is unskillful, we end up doing a lot of things that either don’t bring their promised results or actually bring harm to others and ourselves. This, in turn, leads to doubt and confusion about what we’re doing in our practice and our lives.

“For this reason, there is the counterintuitive teaching that it is better to do an unskillful act knowing that it is unskillful than to do it without that knowledge. If we go ahead and do that act, even as we know that it’s unskillful, there are still the seeds of wisdom that can lead to future restraint.” (p. 168)

Should be a lively discussion!

17 Jul
Posted in: Suttas, Travel
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Maybe Just One More

One more photo from Italy. This one I would have missed if not for a fellow traveler, who stopped and pointed, and so I looked up.

What other delights, I wonder, have I missed?

The Awakened

How joyful to look upon the awakened
And to keep company with the wise.

Follow then the shining ones,
The wise, the awakened, the loving,
For they know how to work and forbear.

But if you cannot find
Friend or master to go with you,
Travel on alone–
Like a king who has given away his kingdom,
Like an elephant in the forest.

If the traveler can find
A virtuous and wise companion
Let her go with them joyfully
And overcome the dangers of the way.
Follow them
As the moon follows the path of the stars. 

— from the Dhammapada, translated by Thomas Byron (pronoun edits by me)

16 Jul
Posted in: Poems, Travel
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One More

One more poem from Mary Oliver…this one titled: Wild, Wild.

And one more photo from Italy…this one of me and Alfeo, the owner of Le Santucce, who spoke to me always in Italian, and always with kindness, humor, and joyful affection.

Wild, Wild

This is what love is:
the dry rose bush the gardener, in his pruning, missed
suddenly bursts into bloom.
A madness of delight; and obsession.
A holy gift, certainly.
But often, alas, improbable.

Why couldn’t Romeo have settled for someone else?
Why couldn’t Tristan and Isolde have refuse
the shining cup
which would have left peaceful the whole kingdom?

Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests
of our lives.

Over and over Faust, standing in the garden, doesn’t know
anything that’s going to happen, he only sees
the face of Marguerite, which is irresistible.

And wild, wild sings the bird. 


I love Alfeo! (Love is always wild. Even when it’s not romantic.)

15 Jul
Posted in: Books, Groups, Practice
By    Comments Off on It Works Even When It Doesn’t

It Works Even When It Doesn’t

For today, I’d like to share a bit of practice reassurance by Gil Fronsdal, from his sweet little collection of essays titled, The Issue at Hand. (Download a free copy here.)

“In practicing mindfulness, it can be helpful to remember that the practice works even when it doesn’t seem to work. Perhaps this is explained best through an analogy.

“Consider a mountain stream where the water is quite clear, and seems placid and still. But if you place a stick into the water, a small wake around the stick shows that in fact the water is flowing. The stick becomes a reference point that helps us notice the movement of the water.

“Similarly, the practice of mindfulness is a reference point for noticing aspects of our lives that we may have missed. This is especially true for mindfulness of breathing. In trying to stay present for the breath, you may become aware of the concerns and momentum of the mind that pull the attention away from the breath. If you can remain with the breath, then obviously mindfulness of breathing is working. However, if your attempt to stay with the breath results in increased awareness of what pulls you way from the breath, then the practice is also working.

“Without the reference of mindfulness practice, it is quite easy to remain unaware of the preoccupations, tensions, and momentum operating in your life. For example, if you are busily doing many things, the concern for getting things done can blind you to the tension building in the body and mind. Only stopping to be mindful may you become aware of the tensions and feelings that are present….

“Remember, if we learn from what is going on, regardless of what is happening, the practice is working, even when it seems not to be working, when we aren’t able to stay with the breath….

“And when we ARE settled on the breath, then the heart becomes clear, peaceful, and still like a mountain pool. Then we can see all the way to the bottom.”

14 Jul
Posted in: Books, Groups
By    Comments Off on We All Want to Be Happy

We All Want to Be Happy

I’m thinking about what I want to talk about at the next Sunday Sangha. There have been a lot of new people coming — many brand new to meditation — so I thought I might start with this passage from Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana:

“Happiness and peace are really the prime issues in human existence…

“So what is this happiness? For most of us, the idea of perfect happiness would be to have everything we wanted and be in control of everything, playing Caesar, making the whole world dance a jig according to our every whim. Once again, it does not work that way.

“Take a look at the people in history who have actually held this type of power. They were not happy people. Certainly, they were not at peace with themselves. Why not? Because they were driven to control the world totally and absolutely and they could not…. These powerful people could not control the stars. They still got sick. They still had to die.

“You can’t ever get everything you want. It is impossible. Luckily, there is another option. You can learn to control your mind, to step outside of the endless cycle of desire and aversion.”


And how do you do that?

By meditating.

And how does that work?

Stop in at Sunday Sangha and find out!

(“Sunday Sangha” is a Mindfulness Meditation Sitting Group that meets every Sunday, 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, at 7700 Clayton Road, Suite 319.)