Browsing Category "Books"
13 Sep
Posted in: Books, Webcasts
By    Comments Off on Spirit Rock Live Webcast: Sept 17

Spirit Rock Live Webcast: Sept 17

This coming Sunday, Sept 17, Spirit Rock will webcast (live) an evening with Daniel Goleman from 9:00 to 11:00 pm St. Louis time (7:00 to 9:00 pm Pacific time). Cost begins at $15. Registration is required. Click here for more information.

The claims for the benefits of vipassana and mindfulness range from scientifically sound to pure hype. At this event, Daniel Goleman answers questions about what science actually has found, what’s not known, and what’s simply not true.

His new book with neuroscientist Richard Davidson, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body sifts through the more than 6000 peer-reviewed articles on meditation to pinpoint the strongest one percent.

The news here for long-term vipassana meditators is compelling.


Check it out!!!

7 Sep
Posted in: Books, Racism
By    Comments Off on But Not All of Us

But Not All of Us

Three of my CDL buddies and I are continuing our “Waking Up to Whiteness” study group by assigning ourselves books to read (ones that we most likely would never have read in the past) and then talking about them together once a month. The book we’re reading now is Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life, by David Billings.

Here’s a passage that has really stayed with me:

The dominant culture in the US has always lifted up the nation’s ‘rugged individualism’ as key to understanding ourselves as a people.

But not all of us have been allowed to be individuals. People of color have always been lumped together as part of a group even when the grouping made no sense (Hispanic), was ahistorical (American Indians), or culturally insulting (Asian).

Only white people are allowed to be individuals, first and foremost.

6 Sep
Posted in: Books
By    Comments Off on Both the Motivation and the Destination

Both the Motivation and the Destination

Yesterday I started reading Phillip Moffitt’s new book, Awakening through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners.

This is not a beginner’s book.

In the Introduction Phillip writes: “Inevitably, if students practice meditation with intensity, altered mind states will arise for most of them. These mind states can be extremely pleasant and involve an altered sense of perceptions, or a dazzling sense of well-being or clarity of mind that is so enticing that students obsess about wanting to have more of such an experience. It is easy for these states to distract them from the true purpose of meditation, which is to liberate the mind from greed, hatred, and delusion.”

While I am very much excited about the book’s focus on extraordinary mind states, the passage that really resonates with my deepest experience is this:

“What I have found thus far in my own journey is that love (not romantic, self-referential love, but rather the mysterious, interdependent oneness that is beyond the ego) is both the motivator for the journey and its final destination.”

I can’t wait to read more.

1 Sep
Posted in: Books, Teachers
By    Comments Off on If I’m Going to Die…

If I’m Going to Die…

“If I’m going to die, the best way to prepare is to quiet my mind & open my heart. If I’m going to live, the best way is to quiet my mind & open my heart.” 

News from Mirabai Bush, my beloved dharma teacher, mentor, and deep dear friend:
She and Ram Dass have just finished writing their second book together, this one on love and dying, to be published by Sounds True. (Their first book was Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service, written in 1991.) No release date announced just yet. Stay tuned!

9 Aug
Posted in: Books
By    Comments Off on Just About To….

Just About To….

“What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?”

“‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘what I like best –‘ and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
from The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne


Ajhan Amaro says:
In the process of moving from feeling a pleasant feeling to liking it, to wanting it, to becoming completely absorbed in it, “the moment of maximum thrill is when we’re chasing after a desired object, when we know we’re going to get it, but we haven’t got it quite yet. This is what we call ‘becoming’. This is very useful to understand because, surprisingly, what we get addicted to is not getting what we want but it’s that moment when we know for sure that we are going to get it

“We absorb into that promise, into that becoming. But as soon as we get what we want, we’re already disappointed. The thrill is in that promise…

“It’s important to use our meditation to explore and understand this process; we need to see into its mechanisms, its workings and then through that seeing, to help set the heart free from it.”

3 Aug
Posted in: Books
By    Comments Off on What Do We Value?

What Do We Value?

Sorry for not posting yesterday. I had a doctor’s appointment, then a friend stopped by and we got to talking, and then, after being inspired by an article in the New York Times, I started reading: Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen, by James Suzman. And then I couldn’t stop.

Here are some of the passages that grabbed my attention:

“Ju/’hoansi [bushmen] spend only 15 hours a week securing their nutritional requirements and only a further 15 to 20 hours per week on domestic activities that could be loosely described as ‘work.'”

“A good case can be made that hunters and gatherers work less than we do and that, rather than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep in the daytime per capita per year than in other conditions of society.”

“What was special about the Bushman data was that it showed that they coped easily with relative scarcity and that they had mastered the art of not obsessing about whether the grass was greener on the other side, which–given that they lived in one of the world’s oldest deserts–almost certainly was the case.”

“[The perspective of the Ju/’hoansi as a result of their introduction to modern society] brings the difference between foraging and production cultures–like our own–into vivid if sometimes uncomfortable relief. It reveals how our sense of time shapes and is shaped by our economic thinking; why, despite our obsession with celebrity and leadership, we take such pleasure in seeing the successful stumble and why we object so viscerally to inequality when we feel ourselves to be the victims of it.

“It also invites us to query how, why, and to what we ascribe value; how we understand affluence, satisfaction, and success; and how we define development, growth and progress. Perhaps most importantly it reveals how much of our contemporary economic and culture behavior–including the conviction that work gives structure and meaning to our lives, defines who we are, and ultimately empowers us to master our own destinies–is a legacy from our transformation from hunting and gathering to farming.”

1 Aug
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on Much Easier!

Much Easier!

Ajahn Amaro writes: I once met a Wall Street lawyer who had started practicing meditation some half a dozen years previously. She said: “Until I started to meditate it was one conflict after another, and life was one ongoing struggle. But since I began meditating, my relationships have become much more easeful and my working situation is more relaxed, though I’m still working with the same company and I live with the same people.”

It was if she thought: “This magical visitation has come into my life and taken all my troubles away!”

I said: “This isn’t really very magical. It’s more like: you used to get from one room to another by smashing yourself against the wall until you broke through it, and then suddenly you noticed that it’s much easier to go through the doorway. It’s not magic, it’s noticing where the gaps are and aiming for them, rather than just putting your head down and pounding with it until the wall breaks or you fall down unconscious.”

I think she was a little startled, perhaps because she had some internal story about how the devas were helping her and how magical things were. 

But often when we apply plain ol’ mindfulness and activate this capacity to be spacious, to see things in context, they open up. Life becomes a lot more easeful and we can find ways to deal with the conflicts, difficulties and apparently intractable situations that we face. We find ways to work with them that surprise us. 

It can seem miraculous, but it’s often merely a matter of allowing more spaciousness, a radical acceptance based upon a quality of listening, into the mixture. 

31 Jul
Posted in: Books, Study, Suttas
By    Comments Off on So Now I’m Totally into Pali!

So Now I’m Totally into Pali!

I’m still feeling the effects of taking that course on Vedana, at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, where Akincano really opened my eyes to the benefits of comparing several different translations of the same sutta — including jumping in and looking at the original Pali!

I’ve even started working my way through a surprisingly readable — and enjoyable! — little book: Pali–Buddha’s Language: A Complete Teach Yourself Course for Beginners in 10 Simple Lessons, by Kurt Schmidt, which includes a website with audio recordings of the Pail lessons that students are encouraged to (STRONGLY encouraged to) memorize.

So I’m doing it!

Starting with this very famous verse from the Dhammapada (Dhp. 5), which Gil Fronsdal translates as:
Hatred never ends through hatred.
By non-hate alone does it end.
This is an ancient truth.

Which Kevin Trainor translates as:
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time:
hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.

And Ajahn Sujato translates as:
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

Here’s the original Pali, with word-for-word translation from the book by Kurt Schmidt:

Na hi verena verani
Not namely through-enmity enmities

sammat’ idha kudacanam
stop here ever

a-verena ca sammanti
through-non-enmity and they stop

esa dhammo sanantano.
this Law (is) eternal. 


I think this is really cool. So OK. I confess. I’m a total sutta geek!

28 Jul
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on Are You Comfortable and Alert?

Are You Comfortable and Alert?

When I was in Burma a few years ago, I stayed at ShweOoMin monastery and met with the meditation master there, Sayadaw U Tejaniya (pictured), who impressed me in many ways, not the least of which was the deep tenderness I could hear in his voice every morning in the meditation hall. He spoke in Burmese, so I have no idea what he was actually saying, but he seemed to be soothing us — caressing us, even — the way a mother would sooth and caress a small child. (There, there sweetheart. It’s OK. Don’t worry. I’m here.)

So I was delighted when I saw he has a new book out, titled When Awareness Becomes Natural. I’ve just started reading it and I love it already. I can “hear” the tenderness I remember so well, but also the very direct, down-to-earth instructions he gave, when he spoke in English to our little Spirit Rock group.

Here’s a sample from the book:
“The first instruction I will give a yogi who is new to this practice is to relax and be aware, to not have any expectations or to control the experience, and to not focus, concentrate or penetrate. Instead what I encourage him or her to do is observe, watch, and be aware, or pay attention. 

“In this practice it is important to conserve energy, so you can practice continually. If the mind and body are getting tired and tense, then you are putting too much energy into the practice. Check your posture; check the way you are meditating. Are you comfortable and alert? 

“You may not have the right attitude. Do you want something out of the practice? If you are looking for a result or want something to happen, you will only tire yourself. It is so important to know whether you are feeling tense or relaxed; check in repeatedly throughout the day; this also applies to daily practice at home or at work.

“If you don’t do this, tension will grow. Whether you are tense or relaxed, observe how you are feeling; observe the reactions. When you are relaxed, it is much easier to be aware; not so much effort is required, and it become an enjoyable, pleasant, and interesting experience.”


Check it out for yourself!

26 Jul
Posted in: Books, Practice, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on I Hereby Pledge Myself

I Hereby Pledge Myself


I’ve recently finished reading The Words & Wisdom of Charles Johnson, which I have been savoring since taking it up after Charles Johnson himself met with us as part of the CDL (Community Dharma Leader) program (where I was wowed by his brilliance, his ease, and the dignity of his presence.)

The book is a collection of essays, the last of which is a reflection on the “Commitment Form” that was used during the Civil Rights Movement. Johnson writes:

“…Martin Luther King Jr. said that in the black liberation struggle we always have to work on two fronts, one public and the other private, one external and one internal. One effort is to constantly improve the social world; the other is to constantly improve ourselves. Both efforts are necessary; they reinforce and strengthen each other

“The men and women of the Civil Rights Movement worked out the Commitment Form, which nicely complements Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of satyagraha, in practice as they moved from one campaign to another in the south. This form(ula), this insight, was fully developed by the time of the electrifying Birmingham campaign in 1963. Men and women, and their children filled the jails of “Bull” Conner in a massive act of civil disobedience. They–and all volunteers–were asked to sign this document, which is as follows:

Commandments for Volunteers
I hereby pledge myself–my person and body–to the nonviolent movement. Therefore, I will keep the following commandments:

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus. [my edit: Meditate daily.]
  2. Remember always that the non-violent movement seeks justice and reconciliation–not victory.
  3. Walk and Talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free. [my edit: Set the intention daily that my efforts be directed to the liberation of all beings.] 
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free. [my edit: that all beings might be free.]
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world.
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  9. Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration. [my edit: Follow wise counsel.]

“I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.  Name:_____________________

“…This was not simply a pledge for civil disobedience. This was a grand vision in which the personal and the political were one, a blueprint for how to live… I say all this as a Buddhist who has taken formal vows, the Precepts, as a lay person. (My very Christian wife of 41 years once said that she saw me as being like a Unitarian, someone always looking for the beauty and best in the world’s religions and science, and I guess she was right about that.)…

“Why don’t you, dear reader, print this off right now, and sign it. You’ll feel good, if you do. And M.L.King, wherever he is, will thank you for doing that.”


I have printed it off (with my edits) and signed it. And I do feel good! (I also hope M.L.King, wherever he is, will not take offense.)