Articles by " Jan"
2 Mar
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Metta for the Body

Metta for the Body

This morning during my meditation, I practiced sending metta (loving-kindness) to different parts of my body using the instructions from Phillip Moffitt’s “At-Home Retreat” tape, which I posted about yesterday. (The instructions for this begin at about 1 hr 50 min into the tape.)

Here’s what Phillip says about the practice:

“The orientation towards this is the kind of well-being that can come to the body when the body is infused with awareness…

“Part of doing this practice is imagining your body having the well-being. Well-being is relative to what’s possible. I cannot imagine well-being as though I were 25 years old. That isn’t within the realm of possible. But I can image the various parts of my body having well-being within the range of their condition right now. And that works quite beautifully. Because otherwise you’re getting unreal. You’re falling into magical thinking. And it’s not magical thinking.

“There is a feeling of well-being that can develop in the body from doing this, in part just because there’s a kind of deep relaxation going on. And part of it is because energy follows attention, so you’re energizing the parts of the body, and that energizing is very wholesome for the body. Part of it is that you are letting loose of certain tensions that are held and it’s like doing yoga of the mind for the body…

“And then there’s a mysterious aspect. It’s just mysterious as to why this has a certain well-being-ness to it, but it mysteriously does happen.”

For a couple of weeks now I’ve had a bad cold (runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc), and the skin on my elbow is dry and irritated, and my fingers are stiff and tender from arthritis, and my knees are just about shot, etc, etc…so my meditation this morning went like this:

May these sinuses be safe and feel protected.
May these sinuses be happy, just as they are.
May these sinuses be healthy and strong.
May these sinuses be at ease in the world.

May this skin on these elbows be safe and feel protected.
May this skin on these elbows be happy, just as it is.
May this skin on these elbows be healthy and strong.
May this skin on these elbows be at ease in the world.


It was really wonderful!


Find Phillip’s instructions for this and several other meditation practices here.

1 Mar
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Doing a Little Doing

Doing a Little Doing

I listen to a lot of dharma talks, which sometimes can get a bit repetitive, but this week I listened to one that’s quite different.

It’s called: At-Home Retreat with Phillip Moffitt and it’s a selection of instructions and guided meditations from a Day-long for Experienced Students held in 2011.

Here’s the description:
“If you’ve never had the opportunity to study with Phillip in person, here is a way to experience one of his day-long retreats. Explore what inspires you to practice, regain trust in your own knowing, and discover ways to direct you attention.”

I highly recommend it.

The tape begins with very rich instruction on the use of the “Four Elements” practice as a way to establish presence, then moves to an image-based guidance for practicing “Aiming and Sustaining Attention” to develop samadhi, then progresses through several specific practices for working with sleepiness, then on to “Open Awareness Meditation,” then quite a unique practice directing Metta to the body, and more. (The whole tape is 3 hours long, but it’s sequenced so you can listen to it in segments.)

All this could seem like a lot of work. But I love what Phillip has to say about that:

In meditation, we are seeing how things happen… You are looking to have the experience. You are not looking to “get it right.”

This is a huge difference.

There is as little “doing” as possible in our “doing” in meditation. And “getting it right” is a whole lotta doing!

Having the experience and saying: ‘OK, I’m going to use this technique’…that’s a little “doing”. But it’s a light “doing.” But a “getting it right” is very, very heavy as “doing.”

OK. Here we go…. 


Give it a try. Click here, then click on the mp3 link. Enjoy!

28 Feb
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Is This Not Love

Is This Not Love

What’s Not Here (excerpt)
Rumi, translation by Coleman Banks:

I start out on this road,
call it love or emptiness.
I only know what’s not here. 

Resentment seeds, backscratching greed,
worrying about outcome, fear of people.

When a bird gets free,
it does not go back for remnants
left on the bottom of the cage.


“Emptiness” is one of the most important concepts in Buddhism. But this “emptiness” does not mean “nothingness” or some great “void”. It means the fundamental nature of our heart/mind when greed, hatred, resentment, worry, fear, confusion, etc are not present.

It is our fundament nature to be “empty” of these. When we experience this emptiness, we are free. Is this not love?

Guy Armstrong says it much better than I can. Listen to his talk, Emptiness: A Practical Introduction for Meditators

27 Feb
Posted in: Generosity
By    Comments Off on How Beautiful

How Beautiful

Thank you, dear friends.

I am deeply touched by your kindness and generosity. On Friday I posted a request for help in paying the cost of upgrading this Dharma Town site ($658.73) and already I have received $530 in donations and pledges.

Thank you so much. Not only for the financial support, but also for the encouragement and appreciation for the work I have been doing that so many of you have also expressed. And more than that. Several of you expressed gratitude to me for having asked!

This is such a lesson for me. That it can be a gift to ask for help. That asking for what you need can actually give something to the person you are asking — an opportunity to be generous, to express gratitude, and to feel how good it feels to do something helpful for someone else!

What a lovely thing this giving-and-recieving turns out to be.

We are all in this world together. We forget it sometimes, or even try to ignore it, but we are dependent on each other. We “inter-are,” as Thich Nhat Hanh says.

How beautiful.

23 Feb
Posted in: Generosity
By    Comments Off on Asking is Also Practice

Asking is Also Practice

Dear Friends,

I have just had to spend $658.73 to upgrade and secure my Dharma Town site, which includes content migration to a new server, hosting, domain renewal, backup, and cyber security (so as not to repeat the unpleasant surprise I got a few years ago when Dharma Town was hacked by a porn site!). This amount will cover hosting and domain renewal for the next 5 years, plus backup and security for 1 year, but in order to get the lowest possible annual cost, I’ve had to pay it all now.

I created this site 6 years ago (time flies!) and have been writing blog posts almost every weekday since then (except when I’ve been away on retreat). I’ve covered all the costs of the site out of my own pocket so far, but now I need to ask for your help.

There is now a Donate button on the sidebar to the right of each webpage. If Dharma Town has been useful or inspiring or supportive of your practice in any way, or if you have benefited from any of the other dharma programs I’ve offered to the St. Louis community — including Cafe Sangha and Retreat-in-a-Box –please consider making a donation.

Thank you.

May all beings receive the blessings of my life.


If you have any problems using the Donate button, or would like to talk with me about this, or offer support in some other way, please email me here.

22 Feb
Posted in: Chanting, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Including Guardian Spirits!

Including Guardian Spirits!

The highlight of my day — every day — while I was at the Forest Refuge, was at 6:20 in the morning when we chanted the “imaya dhammanu” loving-kindness chant. We did it in Pali, which I just love. But I also love the English translation, which I held in my heart, so that every morning I felt deeply the desire for all beings — including whatever guardian spirits there might be at the Forest Refuge! — that they all be “free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and that they may know the grace of well-being.”

Here’s the full text in English:

By this practice, in accord with the Dharma, I honor the Buddha.
By this practice, in accord with the Dharma, I honor the Dharma.
By this practice, in accord with the Dharma, I honor the Sangha.

May I be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble; may I know the grace of well-being.

May my parents, teachers, family, friends and fellow dharma-travelers,
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May all the practitioners in this place
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May our guardian spirits, in this temple,
in this dwelling, in this place; may the guardian spirits
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May all beings, all living things, all creatures,
all individuals, all personalities,
all women and all female beings, all men and all male beings, all noble ones, all worldly ones,
all spirits and gods, all humans, and all those in misery,
all be free from animosity, free from oppression, free from trouble, and know the grace of well-being.

May all beings be free from suffering, enjoy safety and abundance, owners of their own karma.

We offer the merit of our practice to all beings.

Well said, well said, well said. 


Now that I’m home, I’ve kept up the practice. (Not at 6:20 am. But still.)

21 Feb
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on I’m Thinking About It

I’m Thinking About It

When I arrived at the Forest Refuge last December (I think this photo was taken about a week after I got there), I was delighted to find that someone I knew from the CDL program was already there — someone who I didn’t really know all that well, but who I’d sat several long retreats with, and had developed a very sweet, very heartfelt connection with.

The Forest Refuge is a silent retreat center, so of course we didn’t get a chance to chat — until just before I left, when I found out that my friend had already been there for 3 months before I’d arrived — and that they’d be staying on for another 9!

Meaning: they are at the Forest Refuge — on retreat — for a WHOLE YEAR.

Which is amazing enough. Except that last November, when Spring Washam was here and she was telling me how she had spent a year on retreat in Peru, I found myself saying: Wow, that’s so cool. I’m been thinking about going on retreat for a year at the Forest Refuge.

Which I had! Except that I’d never said that to anyone before. Maybe not even to myself quite that clearly.

So I backtracked right away. Saying: of course I couldn’t really do anything like that. What would I do with my house? My cats? My responsibilities!

And then I forgot about it. Sort of.

Until I saw my sweet friend: RIGHT THERE — DOING IT!!!

So while I was waiting for the van to take me to the airport (I was in the office, where it was OK for us to talk), I told my friend what I’d said to Spring and we talked about it.

They said that the first 3 months had been pretty intense. And that maybe it was a crazy thing to do. But maybe not. They said some people do it in 3-month “chunks.” Meaning: 3 months on retreat, then 1 month back out in the world (to integrate the retreat experiences), then back in again for 3 months, then out for 1, and on like that, for a year.

Which sound surprisingly doable!

Not any time soon, of course. But at some point. Maybe.

Or maybe not.

Let’s just say: I’m thinking about it.

20 Feb
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Do We Dare?

Do We Dare?

I enjoyed the flexible schedule of being on retreat at the Forest Refuge (no bells being rung every 45 minutes) and the intimacy of being at a smaller center (only 30 rooms instead of the usual 100) and a lot of other things too that were very special about that place — but I have to admit, I really missed the nightly dharma talks. (There was one on Tuesday night and another on Friday night, but that was it.)

So, now that I’m back, I’ve hunkered down almost every night listening to dharma talks. Which is kind of like being on a retreat in itself! Especially since I also listen to guided meditations with instructions, like these, at the very end of Phillip Moffitt’s talk from 2013, The Metta of Awareness and the Awareness of Metta:

“Let go. Let go. Let go.

“Let go in terms of experiencing the emptiness. But also let go in terms of opening to the possibility of metta — this love — that in all of our smallness and all of our anxieties and all of our feeling as though we don’t have enough — that we’ve not had enough of ‘our turn’ or ‘oh, we have it so hard’ or ‘we’re at an age when it’s all falling away from us now’… In the midst of all of that, let go of those mind states, as best we are able, such that we can open to the innate sense of wellbeing that the brahma viharas represent…

“We see it as empty, and that is wisdom. And we also see it as love — that we are sufficient the way we are. That we’re not separate. We’re part of some huge unfolding. That it’s all got a kind of perfection. Even though we are actively trying to make it better — and SHOULD be actively trying to make it better. Yet it’s got a kind of perfection in the very knowing of it… The very unfolding of our life as it is, is perfect, when known from that love-space.

“Do we dare? Do we dare let go? Just into the emptiness? To let go into this kind of vulnerability of caring, as though we ARE sufficient. As though we ARE enough. As though we have something to give, and are also worthy of receiving. Just as we are.

“Do we dare? Do we dare? Do we dare to let go in this way?

“…And now dropping our attention into the body, to the belly area, into the Intuitive Body. What would the Intuitive Body have us know? What wants to be heard from that Intuition?

“…Shifting attention to the Heart Space. What needs attending in the heart? What do you know-that-you-know in the Heart Space? What needs to be allowed, received, or let go of, in the Heart Space?

“…Shifting attention to the Head Center, where all our comments are made, all our views and opinions chatter away. But respecting the Head Center. What has the Head Center noticed that it would have you listen to ?

“…And then letting go of all this knowing.

“Just be. Just for a few seconds.

“Trust yourself to let go of everything and just be.

“No doing. No knowing.

“Just be.”

19 Feb
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on Just Opening.

Just Opening.

Frequent readers of this blog will not be surprised that I was delighted when the first dharma talk I heard upon arriving at the Forest Refuge featured part of a poem by Mark Nepo. But it may surprise you as much as it did me that the poem was one I had not heard before.

Maybe that’s why it stayed with me pretty much the whole time I was there. I found myself focusing on one line, each day. Not thinking about it. Just saying it (silently) thought the day. I hadn’t intended to do it. It just happened. And right away it became clear to me that these were practice instructions!

Sacred Tremor (excerpt)
by Mark Nepo

Having loved enough and lost enough,
I am no longer searching
just opening.

No longer trying to make sense of pain
but being a soft and sturdy home
in which real things can land.

These are the irritations
that rub into a pearl.

So we can talk awhile,
but then we must listen
the way rocks listen to the sea.

And we can churn at all the things gone wrong
but then we must lay all distraction
down and water very living seed.

16 Feb
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I was on retreat at the Forest Refuge on New Year’s Day, where (much to my disappointment) there was no acknowledgement that we had passed from 2017 to 2018. I hadn’t expected champagne, but I had thought that there might be some special chanting ceremony, or blessing, or at least that someone would ring the big bells outside the dining hall at midnight. (Maybe 108 times, like they do at the New Year’s Retreats I’ve attended at Spirit Rock.)

Oh well.

Today is the Lunar New Year, celebrated in China with the greeting: Gong Xi Fa Cai! Which I understand translates as: May you be Fortunate and Prosperous!

That will do.

May it be so!