Browsing Category "Retreats"
15 Feb
2019
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
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Worth Celebrating

Exactly ten years ago today, I was at my first-ever retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society) in Barre, Massachusetts. (February. Boston. What was I thinking?!?)

Previously I had been going to retreats at Spirt Rock — which is in California, where it’s warm!!! — but there I was, in Massachusetts (in the winter!!!) because six months earlier, I’d heard a dharmaseed talk by a then-little-known teacher (who I’d certainly never heard of), who was going on about a new book he had just written (which I’d also never heard of), who spoke with a slight southern-ish accent (which I never used to like), but who somehow — I really don’t know how — had such an impact on me that by the time he finished talking, I’d decided: I’ve got to go sit with that guy!

“That guy” was Phillip Moffitt (who is now my main teacher and mentor) and the book he was talking about is Dancing with Life (which is now my all-time favorite dharma book).

So last night, I celebrated, by listening to that first talk, and then to a couple of the talks Phillip gave at that first retreat.

Why not! I feel like it’s sort of my Dharma Anniversary.

Want to celebrate with me?

Here’s a link to that first dharmaseed talk: Dancing with Life

Here’s a link to a couple of Phillip’s talk at that first retreat: The Second Noble Truth and the Hindrances, and Now That You Know, What Do You Know?

Here’s an excerpt from the intro to his book: “Dancing with Life is a teaching of the wisdom that is to be found in being consciously and fully present with your suffering until what is called ‘pure’ awareness,’ or ‘Buddha nature,’ or ’emptiness,’ that lies beyond your personality is revealed. It points to the opportunity you have to make a radical inner shift in how you view your existence.

“Whatever the source of your suffering may be, this inner shift will provide a new, deeper context for interpreting your experiences that bring clarity and equanimity to your mind.

“The result of this inner transformation is that your life — with all its pain, disappointment and uncertainty, as well as all that you cherish, love, and work hard for — is radically enriched.

“You will discover, as so may others have before you, a feeling of aliveness, something mystical, palpable in your daily life. You may have a long journey to your final and full liberation, but peace and freedom of mind are available to you right now in ever-increasing measure.”

(He’s right.)

***

Cheers!

14 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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What We Do for Love

I love going on silent retreats. My first was three days long. My longest was two months. I’d love to sit a longer retreat — maybe even a full year, like a friend of mine recently did at the Forest Refuge.

But what about sitting a four-year silent retreat!?!

That’s what Bill and Susan Morgan did! Beginning in the fall of 2009.

Seems kind of crazy, right? From a “normal life” view of things, of course it IS!

But then, isn’t love always some kind of “crazy”?

Check it out:

“Now, in a series of seven videos entitled A Deeper Dive, the couple reflect on their extraordinary experiences at the Forest Refuge. They speak about how they came to the idea to commit to such a prolonged period of practice, the challenges they faced along the way, and several profound insights they gleaned both about themselves as individuals, and as a couple, practicing side-by-side every day, without speaking, for four years.”
– from Insight Meditation Society Sangha News

17 Dec
2018
Posted in: Retreats, Social Justice, Teachers
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And Finally…

One of the topics at the recent course on Suffering and Oppression, taught by Lila Kate Wheeler and Lama Rod Owens, was the sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by leaders in some Buddhist communities. Our discussion focused mainly on the Rigpa lineage, since the leader of that organization — Sogyal Rinpoche — had been Lama Rod’s primary teacher. (Sogyal stepped down in 2017 when the abuse he’d perpetrated for decades finally came to light.)

Unfortunately this kind of behavior is not limited to any one tradition or organization, so I am very glad to see that Ajahn Sucitto has just written a blog post on this subject, titled The Power: to Bless or Abuse, which I highly recommend.

Of course Sucitto’s blog post doesn’t begin to cover this topic, but I like that he sums up his thoughts with this advice:

“The duty of the teacher, lay or in robes, is to recognize that their position and Dhamma will give them power – whether they wish for it or not.

“Thus my advice to disciples: check as to whether a teacher is in touch with a source outside his/her own mind; whether they operate within conventions that are widely held to be virtuous; and whether they are accountable to a group of peers or elders.

“And to teachers: ward off titles and empowerments; while occupying the teacher’s seat, pay homage to the source of those teachings; and finally when one has completed a teaching, get off that sacred seat and walk away.”

4 Dec
2018
Posted in: Retreats
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Let It Snow

Note: No post tomorrow because I’ll be busy getting ready to go to the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (in western Massachusetts), where I’ll be taking a course on the Satipatthana in Dialogue with Suffering and Oppressiontaught by my mentor Lila Kate Wheeler and Lama Rod Owens.

This does involve flying to Boston. In the winter.

I know.

But consider the bios of these two teachers!

Lila Kate Wheeler was authorized to teach at IMS-Spirit Rock ten years ago. She’s now honored to serve as a coordinator for the current training cohort at Spirit Rock, historic in its diverse composition. Lila’s practice includes being a nun in Burma and the US; learning and authorizations to share Dharma from Harilal Poonja and Dza Kilung Rinpoche. She’s married, a published writer, and has edited the first anthology of Buddhist fiction plus two books by the late Sayadaw U Pandita, her Burmese meditation master.

Lama Rod Owens is the Guiding Teacher for the Radical Dharma Boston Collective and teaches with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) where he is also a faculty member for the organization’s teacher training program. He holds a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on the intersection of social change, identity, and spiritual practice. He is a co-author of Radical Dharma, Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, which explores race in the context of American Buddhist communities. He also contributed a chapter on working with anger and difficult emotions in the book Real World Mindfulness for Beginners. He has offered talks, retreats, and workshops at Harvard, Yale, Tufts, NYU, and other universities. His current writing project is an exploration of intersectional masculinity and spirituality. He is a formally authorized teacher in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

***

Who cares about a little snow!

5 Oct
2018
Posted in: Books, Retreats
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Forge Your Fierceness!

In A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any MomentSpring Washam writes:

“The Buddha said that in a human life, we experience ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. None of us is free from either.

“We have to open up to everything in order to transform it. We become willing to use every condition, challenge, and misery as a teaching, no matter how bad it feels or how dark it gets

“When we allow the shadows and the suffering in, they become the vehicles for our healing. Heartbreak, loss, and the worst betrayals become the fuel for transformation. We can learn how to use the mud and muck of our lives to wake up and grow.

“When it feels impossible, that is exactly the time when we need a fierce heart the most. Let it all burn in the cosmic fires, so you can forge your fierceness and grow stronger and wiser.

“No matter what you’ve been through, now is the starting point, so if you’re feeling hopeless or at a loss, please trust me when I say your greatest moments are yet to come.”

***

Forge your fierceness with Spring Washam right here in St. Louis, Nov 1-4.
Rates begin at $5.

Don’t miss it!!!
For more information, click here.

 

15 Sep
2018
Posted in: Practice, Racism, Retreats, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Contemplating Externally

Contemplating Externally

I’ve just signed up to attend a very unusual weekend course offered at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS). The title of the course is Satipattana in Dialogue with Suffering and Oppression and it’s being taught by my mentor, Lila Kate Wheeler, and Lama Rod Owens (pictured above), co-author of Radical Dharma (which I’ve posted about here and here).

This is the course description:

Satipatthana means “foundations of mindfulness.” As the Buddha originally taught this, mindfulness and clear comprehension are offered as the most helpful, liberating way to relate to four areas of experience: body, feeling tones, mind, and Dharmas or psychophysical patterns. Contemporary mindfulness, as widely practiced in many different engagements, tends to emphasize the internal or personal aspects of satipatthana.

Yet the Buddha’s instructions ask that we practice ‘externally’ too. During this course we will present a traditional understanding of satipatthana, and place it in dialogue with challenges many of us face in our daily lives. Can satipatthana be a helpful, liberating way to relate to racism, class, ableism, patriarchy, sex, environmental violence, and body shame? How do we move toward freedom?

***

Doesn’t sound like your typical “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” retreat, now does it!

Interested?

Think about taking the course with me!

BCBS is located in Barre, MA, near Boston. There are direct flights on Southwest from St. Louis to Boston, where you can get a shuttle that will take you to BCBS, which is out in the woods and is an AWESOME place to practice — even in December! The cost of the course with room and board is $327 (plus a donation to the teachers). Scholarships are available.

The course dates are: Thursday, Dec 6 (early evening) to Sunday, Dec 9 (mid-day).

Check it out!!!!

4 Sep
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice, Retreats, Talks
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Whatever You Get Interested In…. Gets Interesting.

I’m back now from the Concentration retreat, which was VERY. VERY. INTERESTING.

I wish you could all have been there. At least I can give you a peek:

In one of my favorite talks from the retreat — the “Enjoyment” talk — Sally Armstrong references Ajahn Sucitto’s lovely little book, Samadhi is Pure Enjoyment.

Here’s a link to the talk: Developing a Skillful Relationship to Happiness.

And here’s an excerpt from the book:

“…The idea of focusing is to settle, to focus in a way in which you feel settled and easy, not confused or sleepy. That’s the only point where you’ll experience a steady breath. This is really where your awareness can settle. Which means that it’s a matter of attitude as well as a physical point.

“Then you’ll find yourself settling in. You’ll begin to experience some kind of sign — the quality of openness without attachment has a characteristic feel, such as brightness. Listen in to that (if it’s something you experience through listening) as if you’re listening to the listening. If it’s tactile, feel it. If it has an emotional base, resonate with it.

“It is beautiful. Notice the beauty. What is this beauty? It’s where the mind feels gently delighted and uplifted. This is rapture — the threshold of samadhi….

“We can’t hold this beauty of rapture. A relationship to beauty is something akin to devotion. We don’t hold it; we’re aware of it in a way that’s both gladdened and respectful. We have to give ourselves to it. Of course, this is something we’re not used to; it’s something that requires trust.

“Trust your body first of all. The body is something that can be trusted much more than the mind. As one learns to trust, one learns to receive the blessings of what is good and conducive to the heart’s welfare. This brings joy….

“I think of ‘enjoyment’ as ‘receiving joy’; and samadhi as the art of refined enjoyment. It is the careful collecting of oneself into 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 ti. So there is stillness. It’s just this.”

13 Aug
2018
Posted in: Retreats
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I Got In!!!

I just found out I got into the month-long retreat Guy and Sally Armstrong will be teaching at the Forest Refuge next June!!! (There are less than 30 spots available and they’re awarded by lottery.) My buddy Carolyn got put on the wait list (bummer) but I think chances are good a spot will open up. It’s almost a year away, after all.

The theme of the retreat is The Still Heart of Awareness and the structure is pretty unusual:

This retreat will strengthen our understanding and experience of the nature of awareness in meditation practice. We will explore this in three stages.

During the initial part of the month, we will build meditative stability through a focus on anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing).

In the next phase, we will undertake intensive practice of metta (lovingkindness), allowing the beautiful and responsive qualities of heart to unfold.

Then, with concentration and lovingkindness as our foundation, the last stage of the retreat will focus on specific meditative techniques that allow us to rest in the pure nature of awareness. The teachers will offer regular meditation instructions, talks about the teachings and individual meetings. A minimum stay for the full month of June is required. Participants are expected to follow the sequence of instructions as they are given.

***

Sounds awesome. (Finger crossed, Carolyn!)

26 Jun
2018
Posted in: Books, Retreats
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And to Consciously Know the Mystery

For the past several nights I’ve been listening to the recorded talks from the Nine Bodies retreat I was at almost a month ago now — which I am sorry to say are only available to those who attended the retreat. BUT, there is one talk that I CAN quote from, since what I want to share is itself a quote from Phillip Moffitt’s first book, Dancing with Life, in which he too includes a quote — this one from the Buddha.

Phillip writes, “As the Buddha lay on his deathbed, his students questioned him about how they should continue without him. In his final discourse he gave them the following advice: Be a lamp unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves, do not turn to external refuge, hold fast to the Truth as a lamp, hold fast to the Truth as a refuge…It is those [who do so] that will reach the very topmost height. But they must be anxious to learn.

“There have been many translations and interpretations of these words, but for me they are a call to examine, to reflect, to discover, and to consciously know the mystery of this human life in this very moment.

“These words reflect the heart of the Buddha’s teaching — that you have the power and the responsibility to resolve the many contradictions and paradoxes of life through insight and direct knowing.

“…Meditation, mindfulness, and compassion bring you into the stillness in which your innocence is most unguarded and available. It is here that you can most deeply experience insights as to what genuinely matters, or as C.G. Jung stated, It is the individual in stillness who constitutes the meaning of the world.”

***

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my dharma buddy Alice for turning me on to the FABULOUS book from which the illustration above was taken — The Red Book, by C. G. Jung.

11 Jun
2018
Posted in: Books, Retreats
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Your Mind Already Moves

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to post after coming back from the Nine Bodies retreat, but the retreat — as well as the meeting I had with Phillip the day after — were such powerful experiences that I’ve needed all this time just to start to let it soak in.

But I do want to keep my promise to the Sunday Sangha, so here’s the link I mentioned to the website where you can find a video recording of Phillip Moffitt introducing the Nine Bodies teaching, as well as audio recordings of guided meditations for accessing each of these Bodies (levels of consciousness).

The retreat was very unusual. (Almost no dharma talks, for example, but lots of guided meditation.) It was very personal. (Both Phillip and Dana were present during all but a few of the sits.) And it was very helpful for me and the development of my practice.

I can’t really say much more than that. So I’ll just leave you with this excerpt from the book:

“Just reading about and reflecting on the Nine Bodies can make a difference in your self-understanding and how skillfully you respond to various challenges in your life…

“Your mind already moves in and out of these different Bodies, and they are continually affecting your physical body, attitude, perception, and mental capabilities. So just having the ability to recognize the underlying energies of the various Bodies can bring equanimity to the mind.”

***

Check it out. Awakening Through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners, by Phillip Moffitt.