Browsing Category "Practice"
19 Sep
Posted in: Practice, Teachers, Travel
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Traveling Metta


I’ll be leaving on Saturday for a week-long CDL (Community Dharma Leader) training retreat, which will be held at Garrison Institute on the bluffs overlooking the Hudson River, about an hour north of New York City. I love going to Garrison because the trip involves a gorgeous train ride (on the Hudson River Line), starting at Grand Central Station.

Which will be the perfect place to re-start a practice I used to do whenever I was traveling. I’d look around at people in airports or in cars on the highway or wherever I’d find myself when I was going from one place to another, and I’d say to them (silently) “may you be safe” or “may you be happy”  or “peaceful” or “healthy” or whatever.

Sharon Salzberg calls this “Street Lovingkindness.” She made a series of great little videos about it….including one shot in Grand Central Station! It’s very inspiring. Check it out. (click here)

16 Sep
Posted in: Practice, Teachers
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It Feels So Good to Feel Right

maxresdefaultThere is a truly wonderful article in the e-newsletter sent out today by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS). The title is a bit off-putting: “Part 2 of a Two-Part Interview on Vedana with Bhikkhu Analayo” but it’s a fabulous read.

Here’s a sample:

BCBS: “It’s not so uncommon for meditators to say things like, ‘Oh, that’s a view. That’s an opinion. I shouldn’t have those. I shouldn’t cling.’ Things can shift when we understand that there really is a payoff — we’re getting that pleasant feeling. Then maybe we can also understand, ‘Okay. There’s a reason why I’m doing this. There’s a reason why I’m clinging.’ Then it’s no longer a matter of being crazy or delusional or bad. Once we see what we’re getting out of something, we can decide whether or not it’s really worth what we’re giving up to get it.”

Ven. Analayo: “Yes. That’s exactly the point. And it’s a gradual path. It’s not that suddenly you have no more attachment to views. The point is just to be aware of it. That’s all. Every moment I’m aware of the hedonic part of my clinging is a moment when I’m learning to live with cognitive dissonance — learning to live with not being the way I would like to be. And this is precisely what I want. I want to be able to be with myself when I’m not the way I want to be. Because this is the reality of the present moment. And from there, step by step, the gradual improvement happens.”

BCBS: “So beautiful, Bhante. It’s easy to miss that part and think, ‘I’m not allowed to have strong views anymore. I shouldn’t form strong opinions.’ But looked at in this way, you can have strong views and opinions. It’s just a matter of not clinging to them.

Ven. Atalayo: “The Buddha had very strong views. When a monk would misrepresent his teaching, he’d call him and say, ‘You are a fool. What did you say? Did I ever teach that?’ Scolding him in front of everyone. And the monk sits there, shoulders drooping, head down, sad, unable to talk. The Buddha really lets him know it, but there’s no aversion there, no clinging. Now, we’re not in the position of the Buddha, and we don’t have to be so strong. But it’s not a matter of becoming blurry and not knowing what is right and wrong — that is not the point. The point is simply allowing the basic capacity of mindfulness to see the whole situation……

“And this is all based on feeling. It’s all based on this awareness of the hedonic side. Maybe we don’t catch it at the moment it happens in discussion, but we can see it afterwards. ‘Yes. At that point I got really excited. And I had all those strong feeling, and then I went really overboard with the way I was discussing it.’ Just acknowledge it. Not saying, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have done it.’ No. Just being aware that this is how it happened. And the next time closer to it, closer to it, and eventually we’ll notice it right at the time it happens. And maybe at that time we can just let it go.”


To read the full interview, click here.

7 Sep
Posted in: Poems, Practice
By    Comments Off on Intimate and Ultimate

Intimate and Ultimate


So I’m thinking, after yesterday’s post, what else can I say about this new relationship I’ve discovered with the breath.

How about this:

from To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
by Mary Oliver


Eat bread and understand comfort.

Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the
who are drinking the sweetness, who
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine
Eventually tides will be the only calendar
believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love,
will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and

And you will hear the air itself, like a
beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the
beautiful bodies of your lungs. 

10 Aug
Posted in: Practice
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Into a New Way


“I cannot think myself into a new way of living. I have to live myself into a new way of thinking.”
— Claude AnShin Thomas

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.