Browsing Category "Practice"
18 Jul
Posted in: Practice, Retreat-in-a-Box
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Walking the Question

walking-the-questionPhillip Moffitt gave a unique twist to one of the periods of Walking Meditation we did at the Retreat-in-a-Box for Care Providers last Sunday. He started with the regular instructions: walk about 10 to 20 paces, back and forth, at whatever speed feels comfortable, paying mindful attention to the lower part of your body and perhaps lightly noting “step, step” or “lifting, moving, placing” to help keep your attention on your body. But then he added:

Before you start the actual walking practice, stand for a minute and silently ask yourself this question: What would be most nourishing for me as I perform my role as a care provider? (Or: What do I need to do to take care of myself? Or whatever question comes into your mind.)

Ask the question silently 3 times, then drop it (as best you can). Start your walking meditation, as instructed. Don’t try to come up with an answer. If the question comes back into your mind, try to let it go. Turn your attention to the noting: “step, step,” or “lifting, moving, placing” etc. Do the same if you find yourself trying to answer the question. Just do the normal practice. Then, when the walking period is over, stop and silently ask yourself the question again. Wait for a moment and see what happens.

He said that he has used this practice on several occasions, particularly when he needed to make a decision and couldn’t find any practical/rational basis on which to make it. Sometimes, nothing happens. But often it does. Sometimes the answer presents itself immediately and it’s not what you would have expected, but you recognize it and you know the truth of it. Sometimes nothing comes right away, but you feel like something in you has shifted. And sometimes, you realize you were asking the wrong question!      

9 May
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Beginning and Ending

begin-and-endHere’s a very interesting practice I’ve decided to try…which I heard Norm Fischer suggest on a talk I listened to on Dharma Seed. The practice is a variation on one of the trainings he outlines in his book, Training in Compassion: Zen Teaching on the Practice of Lojongand it’s a way to work with the slogan: “Begin at the Beginning; End at the End.”

Here’s the practice:

Train yourself, so that at the beginning of the day, as soon as your feet first strike the floor as you get out of bed, stop for a moment, take one breath….and remind yourself of your deepest intention…whatever it may appear to be, in that moment. Say to yourself, “What do I want to do with this day of my life.” 

And then go forth.

At the end of the day, just as you’re getting into bed, while your feet are still on the floor, stop for a moment, and say one word to yourself: “Grateful.” Just see what comes into your mind.

And then be open to it.


You can listen to Norm’s full talk here, or go to the last 3 minutes to hear him talk about these instructions.


13 Apr
Posted in: Books, Practice, Retreats
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Wanting, Getting, Not Wanting to Let Go

wanting-itIt will be my turn to lead the Sunday Sangha this weekend and I think I want to talk about wanting and getting…and not wanting to let go. And I think I want to read something of what Bhikkhu Bodhi has to say about this, from his wonderful little book: The Noble Eightfold Path. (free download)

“It is just at this point, when one tries to let go of attachment, that one encounters a powerful inner resistance. The mind does not want to relinquish its hold on the objects to which is has become attached. For such a long time it has been accustomed to gaining, grasping, and holding, that it seems impossible to break these habits by an act of will.

“One might agree to the need for renunciation, might want to leave attachment behind, but when the call is actually sounded the mind recoils and continues to move in the grip of its desires.

“So the problem arises of how to break the shackles of desire. The Buddha does not offer as a solution the method of repression–the attempt to drive desire away with a mind full of fear and loathing. This approach does not resolve the problem but only pushes it below the surface, where it continues to thrive.

The tool the Buddha holds out to free the mind from desire is understanding. Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind us.

“When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself, without need for struggle.”  

8 Apr
Posted in: Books, Practice
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Pure Enjoyment

floating-umbrella-4Just before going on retreat, one of my Dharma Buddies (thanks Carolyn!) turned me on to Ajahn Sucitto’s lovely new little book: Samadhi is Pure Enjoyment (available as a free download here.)

Samadhi is the Pali word often translated as “concentration,” but better understood as “unification” or “collectedness of mind”. Or in Sucitto’s words: “pure enjoyment!”

I read the whole book in the plane on my way to Spirit Rock (it’s a small book) and Sucitto’s words tied in perfectly with the instructions we were given: to relax, to be curious and kind, and to enjoy the process.

Here’s how Sucitto’s puts it: “When [mindfulness] is fully established, awareness can settle into the experience of the peaceful heart. This is the enjoyment of samādhi.

“I think of ‘enjoyment’ as ‘receiving joy’; and samādhi as the art of refined enjoyment. It is the careful collecting of oneself to the joy of the present moment. Joyfulness means there’s no fear, no tension, no ought to. There isn’t anything we have to do about it. So there is stillness. It’s just this.”

That has been my experience.

But don’t believe me. Try it and see for yourself!

9 Feb
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on Yay Bliss! Yay Rapture!

Yay Bliss! Yay Rapture!

its-so-sparkelyNext week the Monday night KM Book Group will be talking about Rapture. (It’s chapter 28 in Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein). “Rapture” is the traditional translation of the Pali word “piti,” which can also be translated as “happiness,” “joy,” “delight,” and “pleasurable or rapt interest.” It’s one of the mental factors that lead to awakening (along with mindfulness, investigation, energy, calm, concentration, and equanimity.)

Joseph writes that one of the ways we can strengthen this quality of mind is to reflect on our commitment to not cause harm (“sila” in Pali). This is often referred to as the Bliss of Blamelessness and it usually means following the Five Precepts, which are traditionally translated as:

(1) I undertake the training to avoid the killing of beings
(2) I undertake the training to avoid taking things that are not given
(3) I undertake the training to avoid sexual misconduct
(4) I undertake the training to refrain from false speech
(5) I undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness

When I was in the Dedicated Practitioner Program, we were asked to re-write these precepts in our own words. Here’s my version:

(1) For my own peace of mind and for the peace of others, I will practice compassion by not killing or intentionally harming any living being
(2) For my own contentment and for the contentment of others, I will practice generosity by not taking what is not freely given
(3) For my own well-being and for the well-being of others, I will practice lovingkindness by not engaging in sexuality that is harmful
(4) For my own happiness and for the happiness of others, I will practice honesty and goodwill by not speaking in ways that are false, harsh, divisive or mindless
(5) For my own safety and for the safety of others, I will practice restraint by not clouding my mind with intoxicants


I take these precepts every morning. Sometimes I just say them without thinking. But mostly I really mean what I’m saying and I’ve found that it’s had a much bigger-than-expected effect on how I live in the world. And I have to admit…reflecting on that change in my life is kind of blissful.

2 Feb
Posted in: Practice
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Might As Well Celebrate

might-as-well-celebrateEvery morning I recite these Five Reflections:

I am of the nature to grow old; there’s no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health; there’s no way to escape having ill health.

I am of the nature to die; there’s no way to escape death.

All that I have and everyone I love are of the nature to change; there’s no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings; I can not escape the consequences of my actions; my actions are the womb from which I am born; whatever I may do, for good or for ill, of that I will fall heir. 


I won’t be posting tomorrow because I’ll be taking my mom to have cataract surgery. That’s us in the photo above, taken in 2008, at Fitz’s, where we went to celebrate my birthday. I was 58 and had orange hair back then; she was 79 and remembered birthdays. Things change.

29 Jan
Posted in: Practice, Sunday Sangha
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Who Makes You Smile?

start-with-smileI’m thinking about leading a guided Metta meditation at Sunday Sangha this coming weekend. Metta is often translated as “lovingkindness,” but I prefer “goodwill” or “friendliness” because it’s really about developing the habit of responding to others….and to ourselves….with a non-judgmental, non-aversive attitude.

Traditionally we start the practice by wishing happiness/safety/wellbeing to ourselves, but sometimes that’s hard. It feels selfish. Or awkward. Or it brings up feelings of unworthiness. Or reminds us of how unhappy/unsafe/unwell we often are!

So instead I like to start by telling people to picture someone who makes them smile. (Could be a kid. Could be a dog!) Usually this evokes such a pleasant mental feeling that it’s easy to want good things for that person…or pet: May you be safe. May you be happy.

Lately I’ve tried using less traditional phrases like: I hope things go well for you. I want you to be happy. May you live well and prosper!

Sound like fun? Join us on Sunday. (11:00 am to 12:30 pm at Solar Yoga, 6002 Pershing, 63112)

Or try it right now:
Think of someone who makes you smile. Wish them well.

21 Jan
Posted in: gratitude, Practice
By    Comments Off on What a Wonderful World!

What a Wonderful World!

cat-snowed-inSomeone — I don’t know who — shoveled my sidewalk.

And not only my sidewalk, but the steps from my house to the sidewalk–two sets–and then a path from the sidewalk to the street where I park my car, plus a little pathway AROUND my car, so I could get into it without getting my shoes and socks full of snow!

I have no idea who it was. I don’t even know when they did it.

My usual way of dealing with snow is to stay inside and wait till it melts. Which I did yesterday until about dinnertime, when I just couldn’t face the left-overs I had in the frig, so I put on my coat and went out to see how bad the streets were. (I live in the city and they don’t plow the snow.)

And lo and behold… steps, my sidewalk, and all around my car was shoveled clean and clear.

I was so happy I wanted to run out and kiss whoever had done it. Or at least shake their hand. Or bow to them, or something. But nobody was around. Nobody. I thought about going up and down the street, knocking on everyone’s door, asking if they had done it and saying how wonderful it was. But then I thought that might freak somebody out, since I don’t even know everyone on my block. So I settled for sending texts to the neighbors I knew. (None of them said they had done it!)

So I just want to say: I am thrilled to be living in such a wonderful world where people sometimes do stuff like that.

And I have resolved to do stuff like that too.


18 Jan
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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May I Offer….

may-i-offerIn honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a follow-up to yesterday’s “Box Retreat” on the theme of Equanimity, I want to offer these phrases for your reflection and for use in your practice.

Some of these phrases are direct quotes from Rev. Howard Thurman, who deeply influenced Dr. King. Some are inspired by him. Some are more traditional meditation phrases used in Equanimity Practice, similar to the phrases offered by Sharon Salzberg at yesterday’s retreat.

All were taken from a guided meditation led by Lila Kate Wheeler, one of my mentors. To listen to the talk, click here. (16 minutes)

Pick one (or more), sit quietly and let it drop into your mind — like a pebble into a pond — then just breathe:

* May I see the world with quiet eyes.

* May I offer my care and presence without conditions, knowing I may be met with gratitude, anger, or indifference.

* May I find the inner resources to truly be able to give.

* May I offer love, knowing I can’t control the course of life, suffering, or death.

* May I remain in peace and let go of expectations.

* May I offer my efforts and help, knowing it may be of great benefit, some benefit, or maybe even no benefit.

* May I be free from prejudice. 

14 Jan
Posted in: Practice, Resources, Retreats
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Not Separate

not-separateFor today, one more quote from the collection offered for our reflection at the Exploring the Nature of Awareness retreat:

“The evolutionary imperative of our times demands we evolve from seeing the world ‘out there,’ separate and alien from us, to directly knowing our intimacy with all things. This is the shift from a dualistic consciousness to an awake awareness that recognized nothing is apart from anything else, or from our deeper nature.” — from Listening to the Heart, by Kittisaro and Thanissara