Browsing Category "Retreats"
11 Nov
2019
Posted in: Books, Retreats, Travel
By    Comments Off on Confess What You Are Smuggling

Confess What You Are Smuggling

I leave tomorrow morning for the next Advanced Practitioners Program retreat at Spirit Rock followed by the first Nine Bodies Teacher Training retreat. I return on Thanksgiving Day, so most likely I won’t post again until December.

In my absence, I leave you with this excerpt from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, which is my all-time favorite guidebook for those about to travel:

“…So then, yours is truly a journey through memory!” The Great Khan, his ears always sharp, sat up in his hammock every time he caught a sigh in Marco’s speech. “It was to slough off a burden of nostalgia that you went so far away!” he exclaimed, or else: “You return from your voyages with a cargo of regrets!” And he added, sarcastically: “Meager purchases, to tell the truth, for a merchant of the Serenissima!”

This was the target of all Kublai’s questions about the past and the future. For an hour he had been toying with it, like a cat with a mouse, and finally he had Marco with his back to the wall, attacking him, putting a knee on his chest, seizing him by the beard: “This is what I wanted to hear from you: you confess what you are smuggling: moods, stages of grace, elegies!”

These words and actions were perhaps only imagined, as the two, silent and motionless, watched the smoke rise slowly from their pipes. The cloud dissolved at times in a wisp of wind, or else remained suspended in mid-air; and the answer was in that cloud. As the puff carried the smoke away, Marco thought of the mists that clouded the expanse of the sea and the mountain ranges and, when dispelled, leave the air dry and diaphanous, revealing distant cities. It was beyond that screen of fickle humors that his gaze wished to arrive: the form of things can be discerned better at a distance.

Or else the cloud hovered, having barely left the lips, dense and slow, and suggested another vision: the exhalations that hang over the roofs of the metropolises, the opaque smoke that is scattered, the hood of miasmata that weights over the bituminous streets. Not the labile mists of memory nor the the dry transparence, but the charring of burned lives that forms a scab on the city, the sponge swollen with vital matter that no longer floats, the jam of past, present, future that blocks existences calcified in the illusion of movement: this is what you would find at the end of your journey.

5 Nov
2019
Posted in: Chanting, Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Aware, I Stand and Vow….

Aware, I Stand and Vow….

At the close of most retreats in the Western Insight tradition, the group recites the Five Lay Precepts, which in English are usually translated as:

  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from killing.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from taking that which is not freely given.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from false speech.
  • I undertake the training precept to refrain from intoxicants that cause heedlessness.

At the retreat I just attended at Spirit Rock, we closed with a more contemporary and expansive version of these precepts (first developed for use at Manzanita Village):

  • Aware of the violence in the world and of the power of non-violent resistance, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the compassion that seeks to protect each living being.
  • Aware of the poverty and greed in the world and of the intrinsic abundance of the earth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the simplicity, gratitude, and generosity that have no limits.
  • Aware of the abuse and lovelessness in the world and of the healing that is made possible when we open to love, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate respect for the beauty and erotic power of our bodies.
  • Aware of the falsehood and deception in the world and of the power of living and speaking the truth, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate the ability to listen and to speak with clarity and integrity in all I communicate — by my words and by my actions.
  • Aware of the contamination and desecration of the world and of my responsibility for life as it manifests through me, I stand in the presence of the ancestors, the earth, and future generations and vow to cultivate discernment and care in what I take into my body and mind.
14 Oct
2019
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Turning Toward Mystery

Turning Toward Mystery

I leave on Thursday morning to attend the Fall Retreat at Spirit Rock, taught by Phillip Moffitt and others — including Tuere Sala, who just led a weekend retreat last month here in St. Louis!

The retreat at Spirit Rock will be a standard Insight Meditation retreat, but I’ll be working with Phillip on the Nine Bodies practice during this time because lately I’ve been feeling a strong interest in turning toward the fundamental mysteries of being alive, one of which is: What is consciousness? And: Where does it come from? What is its significance?

This all started while I was attending the Nature of Awareness retreat back in 2015. I didn’t know quite what to do about it then, but now that I’ve been practicing with the Nine Bodies material for a while, I’m starting to feel like I have a way forward.

Here’s a excerpt from Phillip’s book Awakening through the Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness for Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Practitioners:

“All-pervading pure awareness….is indescribable, not based on thinking or concepts; it can only be realized by practice. Yet words are necessary to point out the existence of this level of mind.

“For instance, in Tibetan Dzogchen practice, this pure awareness is called rigpa and is described as having three aspects: its essence is emptiness, its nature is radiance or luminosity, and its manifestation is responsiveness. In the Yogacara school in India, pure awareness is called Buddha nature and has three aspects that are inseparable: emptiness, radiance, and responsiveness… In the Pali texts of Theravada Buddhism this pure awareness has been referred to as the unborn, uncreated, and un-manifest.

“Of course there are large metaphysical differences in how these traditions interpret and understand this mystery of pure awareness. Even within each tradition there are disputes as to what is attained. However, there is general agreement that some fundamental change occurs that is markedly different from what characterizes the ordinary mind. In the Heart Sutra in the Tibetan tradition, this awakening is referred to in the following mantra:

Gate, gate,
paragata,
parasamgate,
bodhi svaha.

Gone, gone,
gone beyond,
unfathomably further than gone beyond,
into awakened mind, ah.”

16 Sep
2019
Posted in: Poems, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Everything They Encounter

Everything They Encounter

Earthworms
by Lynn Ungar

Imagine. The only thing that
God requires of them
is a persistent, wriggling, moving forward,
passing the earth through
the crinkled tube of their bodies
in a motion less like chewing
than like song.

Everything they encounter
goes through them,
as if sunsets, drug store clerks,
diesel fumes and sidewalks
were to move through our very centers
and emerge subtly different
for having fed us — looser somehow,
more open to the possibility of life.

They say the job of angels
is to sing to God in serried choirs.
Perhaps. But most jobs
aren’t so glamorous.
Mostly the world depend upon
the silent chanting underneath our feet.
To every grain that enters: “Welcome.”
To every parting mote: “Be blessed.”

3 Sep
2019
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on Drop-ins Welcome

Drop-ins Welcome

Registration is closed for this coming weekend retreat led by Tuere Sala, but if you’d still like to attend, you can!

Both the Friday Night Talk (Sept 6th, 6:30 to 8:30 pm) and the Saturday Daylong (Sept 7th, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm) will be held at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, 5007 Waterman (at Kingshighway), 63108.

You can come to just the Friday night talk for $10, or just the Saturday daylong for $50, or to BOTH for just $55!

And if you self-identify as a person of color, you can also come to the Sunday Afternoon POC session (Sept 8th, 2:00 to 4:00 pm) for just $5. It will be held at the InPower Institute, 4125 Humphrey Street, 63116.

Not really into pre-planning? No problem. Be spontaneous. Just drop in!

26 Aug
2019
Posted in: Retreats
By    Comments Off on Worth It.

Worth It.

On Friday I received this photo from Guy and Sally Armstrong, which was taken on the last day of the June retreat I attended (which they taught) at the Forest Refuge earlier this year. (click image to enlarge)

It’s quite unusual to have a group photo taken at the end of a retreat, but the retreat itself was quite unusual — in style, format, and content — and the successful completion of it seems to be signaling a new wave of “non-standard” retreats.

As a matter of fact, Guy and Sally will be teaching this same retreat/format (titled, The Still Heart of Awareness) in September of 2020. Here’s how they describe it on the Forest Refuge website:

“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.”

***

Sound awesome? It was!

***

Retreats at the Forest Refuge are for experienced meditators, which means you have to meet certain practice prerequisites before you can apply. And for this retreat, you have to stay for at least the full month of September. Then once you meet those requirements, the admission process is a lottery. Applications are due Nov 21, 2019.

(That’s a lot, I know. But it’s worth it.)

12 Aug
2019
Posted in: Retreats
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Come Meet My Friend Tuere

My friend, Tuere Sala, is coming to St. Louis!

She’ll give an evening talk on Friday, Sept 6 (6:30 to 8:30 pm, at the First Unitarian Church on Waterman and Kingshighway). Then she’ll lead a day-long retreat on Saturday, Sept 7 (9:00 am to 4:00 pm, also at the First Unitarian Church). And then, she’ll offer a special afternoon session for People of Color on Sunday, Sept 8 (2:00 to 4:00 pm, at InPower Institute near Tower Grove Park). 

You can come for just the Friday night talk ($10), or just the Saturday day-long ($50), or BOTH (priced on a sliding scale beginning at $55). AND if you self-identify as a person of color, you can ALSO come to the Sunday POC session ($5)!

I’ve sat several long retreats with Tuere and she is AWESOME. (She’s also funny!) She’s a former prosecuting attorney turned Dharma teacher, who has worked extensively with folks who are living with high stress, dealing with past trauma, or who just have a lot of trouble sitting still! (Sound like anyone you know?)

Click here for more info about Tuere and details about the weekend events. Or if you have any questions, you can e-mail me here. Or just show up at the right time/place. (No one will be turned away for lack of funds.)

I will be there. Come by and say hi!

11 Jul
2019
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Try This at Home!

Try This at Home!


I just checked dharmaseed and it looks like quite a lot of the talks from the June retreat I sat at the Forest Refuge are already posted and publicly available! (click here for the full list)

Most of the talks I’d already heard. But not the guided instructions Guy offered on Abiding in Emptiness (click here) and the Taking the Practice Home talk Guy gave on the very last day of the retreat, which really sums up the Awareness practice and speaks very clearly about how to integrate it into classic Insight practice. (click here)

You could pretty much do the retreat on your own, right there at home if you’d like, by listening to the talks, starting with first morning instructions on Mindfulness of Breathing, and then going through all the 31 talks that are posted.

Or if you’d just like to take in some of the highlights, I’d recommend:
Falling in Love with the Breath, (Sally)
The Development of Metta, (Sally)
Three Limbs of Equanimity, (Sally)
The Nature of Awareness, Part 2, (Guy)
Morning Instructions: Big Mind, (Sally)
Morning Instructions: Abiding in Emptiness,(Guy)
Taking the Practice Home, (Guy)

***

That should do it.
Enjoy!

16 May
2019
Posted in: APP, Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Is There Something That’s Stopping You?

Is There Something That’s Stopping You?

Another reflection from one of the sessions Phillip led at the Nature of Awareness retreat:

“Awareness bathes each of us in unconditional acceptance. It doesn’t move toward or away from any aspect of our personality. It is unconditionally accepting of whatever arises from this endless potential that a human mind is capable of creating.

“Awareness knows and accepts. It does not judge.

“Rest in awareness and let the multiplicity be known, and accepted. What somehow can not be accepted, hold with tenderness.

Is there something that you believe about yourself that’s stopping you in your movement toward freedom? Something that’s blocking you? Freezing you?

“If there is, in this very moment, can you hold it in compassion? Can you let yourself rest in the knowing of this?”

14 May
2019
Posted in: Practice, Retreats, Teachers
By    Comments Off on The Mind Can Rest

The Mind Can Rest

I can’t give you a link to the recorded talks from the Nature of Awareness retreat I just went to, because those talks are only available to people who attended the retreat. But I can report on my own experience, and my experience is this:

I find myself returning again and again to the following words, which struck me as deeply significant when Phillip offered them during his guided meditation on the Earth and Wind Elements:

“In the stillness, the mind can find ground. Can rest. But also in movement. Attention can rest in knowing movement. Attention can rest in regard to a moving object — whether it’s the wind element, or thoughts, or desire or aversion or joy… Attention can rest. This knowing capacity is not dependent on whether the object that is being know is still or moving. 

“This stillness, that allows the resting, is awareness.”