Articles by " Jan"
7 Jul
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Comfortable. Enjoyable. Grounded.

Comfortable. Enjoyable. Grounded.

walking-buddhaInstructions for Walking Meditation usually include something about making a mental note of “Lifting, Moving, Placing” or maybe something about “Contact” or “Pressure,” but I recently listened to a very different set of instructions given by Ajahn Sucitto, in which he talks about moving “simply, gracefully, flowing,” about how “nothing moves like the body…the mind jumps…but the body flows” and how “the joy of embodiment is the heart/mind picking up this lovely quality of flow….beginning to come home because it’s comfortable, it’s enjoyable, it’s grounded.”

What a beautiful set of instructions (and only 13 minutes long)! Listen here.


6 Jul
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on In Some Lovely Wild Place

In Some Lovely Wild Place

tumblr_m3tsw8EmB51qz6yd1o1_1280A Lesson from James Wright
by Mary Oliver

If James Wright
could put in his book of poems

a blank page

dedicated to “the Horse David
Who Ate One of My Poems,” I am ready
to follow him along

the sweet path he cut
through the dryness
and suggest that you sit now

very quietly
in some lovely wild place, and listen
to the silence

And I say that this, too,
is a poem.

5 Jul
Posted in: Groups
By    Comments Off on Let’s Talk Dharma

Let’s Talk Dharma

KAMPONG THOM, CAMBODIA - JANUARY 13: A statue of Buddha is seen at a temple in Kampong Thom province on January 5, 2016 in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Kampong Thom is Cambodia's second largest province by area. There are a number of significant Angkorian sites in the area, including Prasat Sambor Prei Kuk and Prasat Andet temples. (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images)

For those of you who haven’t already heard, I’m starting a new “Let’s Talk Dharma” Discussion Group. Here’s the email announcement I sent out yesterday:

*** As many of you know, I am in the middle of a 2-year Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program led by Spirit Rock. The focus of the program right now is on learning to develop/organize/teach day-long events and multi-week series of classes. We are encouraged to take a creative approach to this, so instead of offering a standard introductory course on basic Buddhist teachings, I’ve decided to try a series of once-a-month Dharma discussion “classes”, each focusing on a single topic of interest. Thus:


When: 3rd Thursday of each month, beginning July 21, 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Where: My house (in Dogtown)
Format: 20-minute sit, teaching on a selected topic, Q&A, discussion
Cost: Dana (This means the teachings are offered freely. Donations to support these teachings will be freely accepted.)
July 21: The Buddha’s Teaching on KARMA
August 18: The Buddha’s Teaching on RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
September 15: The Buddha’s Teaching on ENLIGHTENMENT
October 20: To be determined
November 17: To be determined
December 15: To be determined
Note: SPACE IS VERY LIMITED. You do NOT need to attend every session, but for each session you do attend, you WILL NEED to RESERVE YOUR PLACE.

For more information and/or to sign up, email Jan here.

1 Jul
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Head to Heart to Body to Ground

Head to Heart to Body to Ground

5651713-Buddha_with_hand_touching_ground-1I’ve been listening to a lot of talks by Ajahn Sucitto and I’ve noticed that recently he’s been describing meditation in a way that really “grabs” me.

He calls it: Head to Heart to Body to Ground. It’s a way of summing up the practice of releasing afflictive mental states (anger, sadness, guilt, anxiety, etc) by transferring these concepts (in the head as thoughts: That person is such an idiot!) into emotional senses (in the heart as feelings: I’m really angryinto somatic experiences (in the body as sensations: My jaw is tightand then on through to the ground of awareness and acceptance (a sense that: I can let this flow through me into something bigger, more spacious, which can hold it while it plays itself out.)

It’s a great talk. Listen to it here.

30 Jun
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on W.A.I.T.


72ce8b5c6362c4bd01b1a96ca460ad67I’ve finished my jury duty! It wasn’t too bad. I spent of lot of time listening to dharma talks on my iPhone.

Here’s a little gem I picked up from a recent talk by Joseph Goldstein on Right Speech: Because so much of our speech is really pretty useless…. we’re not saying anything important, or helpful, or even anything particularly interesting… maybe whenever we find ourself going on and on about something, we could think of the acronym W.A.I.T. Which stands for: Why Am I Talking?

24 Jun
Posted in: Writing
By    Comments Off on It’s Wild

It’s Wild

160607_cary_writing_retreat_1-29NOTE: I’m scheduled for jury duty every day next week. Last time they let me go home after the first day, which I am hoping they will do this time too. If they do, I’ll post again on Tuesday. If not, I’ll post as soon as I can. Stay tuned.


For today, one last prompt from the writing workshop: “Let the creative process speak.” Here’s what I wrote:

Me: I love you.

Creative Process: Thanks! I love you too.

Me: OK. Good. Now what?

Creative Process: I don’t know. I guess we move in together or something.

Me: Wait. This is too easy.

Creative Process: Sweetheart, don’t worry. We’ve done the hard stuff. We saw the bear. We let him off the chain and yeah, he broke a few chairs and tore up the wallpaper, but he settled down, didn’t he?

Me: He’s still wild.

Creative Process: Yeah. I know. I threw the chain away. I let him run off into the hills and I said it was OK if he never came back–I’d miss him, of course, but it was no good to try to keep him–and that was all he needed because he hasn’t stayed away. He doesn’t come into the house anymore, but that’s because he’s too big, the furniture doesn’t fit him, and the rug makes him itch.

So he stays in the woods with the other wild things–and he marks a trail with his claws–so I can follow him. He draws me out of the house when the moon is dark and I follow the path that’s not really a path, more of a whisper that runs through the bushes. I follow the sound like a scent, which recedes, taking me deeper and deeper into silence. Sometimes I hear a snort, or the crash when he lumbers, rears up, then drops back down to earth.

But sometimes I hear nothing. That’s when the stillness condenses, turns liquid, forms a pool that deepens and darkens until creatures who never before existed begin to rise up, shining from within, luminous, phosphorescent, shimmering and trembling with awareness.


(photo by Kyoko Ide)         

23 Jun
Posted in: Travel, Writing
By    Comments Off on Arriving


arrivingOne more prompt from the workshop: “Write about arriving.”

Here’s what I wrote:
It’s colder here than I had expected and I’m worried that I brought all the wrong clothes. I should have brought that sweater I almost packed at the last minute, it would have been perfect, not too warm, but cozy, and it was loose, a little over-sized, so I could have worn it over anything. Even that stupid t-shirt with the Nietzsche quote in Italian — geez, that’s so pretentious, what was I thinking! I’m always buying stuff like that. I see it and I think it’s so cool and I’ve got to have it, and then I get it home and it looks so stupid. Plus it doesn’t even fit! The sleeves are too tight and the neck kind of sags. Why can’t they make t-shirts that fit? They’re always bunching up, and the hems–why do the hems always roll up at the bottom like that?

“Come back the the present moment,” the instructor says.

And then I’m back. 

22 Jun
Posted in: Travel, Writing
By    Comments Off on Where is the Border?

Where is the Border?

in-the-streetAnother of the workshop prompts: “Take a walk; look around; write what you see.”

Here’s what I wrote:
The wall in the sun is warm, but the stone of the steps where I sit in the shade is cool and not exactly wet but not exactly dry either, so my thighs and my buttocks–where they rest on the stone–are becoming chilled…the warmth of my skin, of the blood rushing just below the surface, is giving itself over to the stone, is taking on the cold and the damp, an exchange no less intimate than a lingering kiss.

Is there really an “outside” and an “in”?

I don’t think so.

Where is the border between the heat of my body and the cool of the stone? Skin is porous. So is stone.

Everything is. 

My pulse quickens as a car comes too close. The hairs on my arms stand erect. That car has not touched me–or maybe it has. I am changed as a result of the encounter. There are diesel fumes now in my lungs. The out-breath of combustion leaves grit on lips.

That car, too, and its driver have been touched by my presence. By the milky exhaust of my exhalation. By the dust of my skin cells I am constantly shedding. By the bite of my sweat tinged with garlic and salt.

Where is the line that marks the boundary between us? Where are the guards with their crossbars and fences?

There is no me that is not touched by you. There is no you that does not bleed into me.    


(photo by me!)

21 Jun
Posted in: Travel, Writing
By    Comments Off on What I’m Talking About

What I’m Talking About

160607_cary_writing_retreat_1-23At the writing workshop there were lots of different “prompts” that we wrote from. Prompts like: “Start with the word Consequently” or “Write a dialogue between you and your ‘Muse'” or “Write a ‘Dear John’ letter using only one-syllable words.” Some of the prompts were more inspiring than others, but they were all fun.

After a while I noticed that no matter what the prompt was, what I wrote almost always came out as some kind of Dharma talk! I’m not sure if that’s a “good” thing, but I think it says a lot about what’s on my mind…what I give my attention to…these days.

One of the prompts was: “What matters?”

Here’s what I wrote:
What matters is not the weather. Not the food. Not the language you speak. What accent. What vocabulary.

Well, OK, all of that matters in some sense. In terms of what you can or can not do. In terms of pleasant or unpleasant. Comfort. Physical ease.

But that doesn’t matter. Not really.

What matters is peace of mind.

What matters is the ability to be in any situation, any circumstances, any country or location or station in life and still be at ease.

How is this possible, you ask? Isn’t there some level of safety, of connection, of satisfaction that’s required for the mind to be at ease?


Ultimately there is no security. No safety. Everything changes. There is always the unpleasant. There is always aging and sickness. And death. It is only the wanting of things to be different than they are that interferes with the peace and ease of mind I am talking about.

Pain is unpleasant. Loss is unpleasant. Disappointment is unpleasant. But it is possible to be at ease with that which is unpleasant.

It is possible.

In fact, it is necessary.

The only alternative is to always be reacting against the existence–or the possible arrival–of something unpleasant. To always be trying to hold onto whatever is pleasant–and, oh yes!, there is so much that is pleasant–but it is useless to hold on. Useless to try to have only the things that are pleasant. Useless to try to protect or defend against the loss of the pleasant.

What matters is the delight and enjoyment of whatever is pleasant, and the ability to acknowledge–to allow for the existence of–whatever is unpleasant. To respond, of course, with whatever is needed. But then to allow it all…both the pleasant and the unpleasant…to arise and pass away. As it will. As it must.

It’s only natural.

No need to fight it.

Is it not more easeful to live in accordance with that which is natural? Is there ever any use in raging against nature? Does it help to fight gravity?  

So it is with the natural experience of pleasant and unpleasant. Both arise. Both pass away.

In the presence of this, there is peace.


(photo by Kyoko Ide)

20 Jun
Posted in: Travel, Writing
By    Comments Off on I Come From….

I Come From….

160607_cary_writing_retreat_1-2As most of you know, I’ve been at this little writing workshop in Italy, taught by a friend of mine — Cary Tennis — who now lives there. (The photo is of us at the workshop… Cary’s the one with the blue hat and I’m the one with the purple hair.)

The workshop is really just a chance to practice writing, in a group, in a beautiful location. The way it works is the leader gives a “prompt” and then we all write whatever comes into our mind in response to that prompt…for about 20 minutes, usually…then we read what we’re written aloud to the group (or not). Then there’s another prompt and we do it all over again.

The first prompt was: Begin with “I come from….”

Here’s what I wrote:
I come from happiness. Where else could I come from and still be alive? But why did I leave? Maybe I left happiness thinking — foolishly — that happiness was too simple, too tranquil, too uninteresting to give flavor and excitement to a life.

Maybe I went looking for conflict, to try to prove myself worthy of this happiness that had been given to me, this aliveness, this thing that I had not asked for, had not worked for, had not suffered for….and so thought it was not precious enough to honor by simply receiving, simply accepting, simply enjoying!

Maybe I went looking for happiness, not recognizing that happiness was the very air I was breathing, thinking instead that I needed something denser, more substantial, something I could hold in my hand or bite down on, something I could drink or swallow, or maybe drown in.

Maybe I couldn’t taste this happiness, this birthright, because its sweetness was too subtle. Maybe sourness called out to me. Maybe bitterness, saltiness, while the sweetness waited patiently, knowingly — lovingly — for the hunger to subside.

For some, I know, there is always the hunger.

That is what sadness is. That hunger. That thirsting. That longing for a taste of something…but never knowing what that something is.

Happiness is knowing. It is breathing. It is tasting whatever there is to taste. Letting the flavor arise. Then letting it pass. As it will. As it must. And then breathing again. Living. And knowing. And breathing again.


(photo by Kyoko Ide)