Browsing Category "Talks"
27 Nov
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on More Questions, More Answers

More Questions, More Answers

If you listened to Joseph Goldstein answer questions from yogis during the second half of the 3-month retreat at IMS (which I posted about here) and you were hoping for more — you’re in luck! There’s a new Q&A session with Joseph posted on Dharma Seed, in which he talks about all kinds of wild and wonderful things including: creativity, the hallucination of wrong view, trauma, stream entry, and much more. Click here to listen.

19 Nov
Posted in: Groups, Talks, Teachers
By    Comments Off on And the Answer Is….

And the Answer Is….

Last night the Dharma Seed KM Group listened to a great talk, given by Joseph Goldstein during the second half of the 3-month retreat at IMS (going on right now), in which he answers several excellent questions (submitted in written form) from some of the people at the retreat.

The questions are:

(1) What is the difference between mindfulness, awareness and consciousness? And how can we practice seeing these as not self?

(2) Is this all there is….getting lost in fantasy, coming back to this seat, meeting the hindrances, coming back to the various vibrations and weird pressure sensations of the body? Everything feels empty, like it’s really just the six sense doors over and over…even out in real life, there’s no role or position or partner or adventure or success or house or anything outside of this. No matter what, it’s just the six sense doors. Frankly it’s feeling depressing and I’ve been feeling it for a year now. I feel this sense of grief and sometimes rage and am desperately wanting it to be something more than empty. But it’s said that the joy is in the emptiness. Can you help me/us feel that’s true or possible?

(3) Sometimes I feel so much joy I want to start skipping, but I fear it would disturb others. Should I just skip? Or is this not appropriate? 

(4) I am a 3-month yogi. During the course of the retreat, I have gotten insight from direct experience that when tormenting mind states arise, it is based on either something that happened in the past or something that may happen in the future. At first these tormenting states would sweep me away for a day or two. I couldn’t even recall that it was impermanent. Now as of the last two times these states arose, there is greater space and awareness that this too will pass…that its nature is impermanent. How long do tormenting mind states continue to arise? What is their purpose? Are they a regular part of practice? Aside from doing no harm, noting, seeing its impermanence, metta and forgiveness, are there any other tools to use to get free from these states of mind that indeed torment?

(5) In the Satipatthana Sutta, there is a lot of talk about observing things internally, externally or both internally and externally. What constitutes an internal observation? What constitutes an external observation? What is the significance of this distinction?

(6) When doing Forgiveness Practice, when is it appropriate to ask the other person to actually forgive you instead of just saying the phrases in your head?

(7) Suppose re-birth really happens and accept it…there is no me, no mine, no myself. Who or what gets reborn?

(8) Who and what is the “managing unit” that seems to be behind the decisions? There is some managing agent that decides to go fishing for enlightenment…or whatever fish is chooses to go fishing for. Or to have a sitting or walking meditation…or to walk slow or fast…and where to turn the attention to….or to ask this question. Who is this agent?

Interested in the answers? Listen to what Joseph has to say here.

6 Sep
Posted in: Groups, Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Farelong, Oh Crumpleweed

Farelong, Oh Crumpleweed

Note: I will be away on retreat until Oct 24, so there will be no new DharmaTown postings until I return.


At the last Dharma Seed KM meeting before my retreat, one of our members (Roberta!) brought home-made muffins (which she often does!) and this time she decorated one of them (for me!) with a “banner” that read:

Farelong, oh Crumpleweed, our friend! We’ll miss you! 

This was especially wonderful since it’s a quote from something my teacher, Lila Wheeler, had read in one of the talks we’ve listened to. (You can hear the talk here.)

Here’s the whole quote:
Whenever I part with my kids or my husband, I always try to say something loving because I imagine a car crash or somebody’s heart giving out, and I don’t want my last words to be impatient or distracted. Neither do I want my “I love you’s” to become automatic. So I’ve been trying to come up with ways to say good-bye that are unique, intimate, and genuine.

For several years when my son was young, he used to say to me, “Farelong, oh Crumpleweed, my friend,” whenever he left the house. I have no idea where he got it. Those are words of good-bye I could live with.  — Angelina Citrone, from The Sun magazine


So Farelong, oh you Crumpleweeds, my DharmaTown friends. I look forward to connecting with you again when I return.

(image from: A Whole World, by Couprie and Louchard)

29 Aug
Posted in: Practice, Talks, Teachers
By    Comments Off on How to Train the Mind

How to Train the Mind

Joseph Goldstein will be one of the teachers at the 6-week retreat I’m going to, so I’ve been getting ready by listening to one of his talks every night. He has an absolutely fascinating series of talks — 47 in all! — on the Satipatthana Sutta. (Available on Dharma Seed here.)

The talk I listened to last night was the 4th in this series and he talked a lot about the importance of noticing how everything is always Arising and Passing Away, and about what it means to “Enter the Stream” of Awakening….all of which was wonderful to listen to….but what really struck me was what he called “a way of holding it all in balance,” which he offered at the very end of the talk in the form of a Tibetan practice called The Seven-Point Mind Training:

(1) Consider all phenomena to be dreams.

(2) Be grateful to everyone.

(3) Don’t be swayed by outer circumstances. 

(4) Don’t brood over the faults of others.

(5) Explore the nature of unborn awareness.

(6) At all times, simply rely on a joyful mind.

(7) Don’t expect a standing ovation.

(image from: Phantasmagoric Theater Tarot)

13 Aug
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Maybe I Overdid It

Maybe I Overdid It

Last night the Dharma Seed KM group listened to a great talk by Phillip Moffitt called The Metta of Awareness and the Awareness of Metta. It was the final talk given at the Nature of Awareness retreat at IMS earlier this year. This is the second time I’ve listened to this talk and, well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure I’ll be listening to it again and again.

Phillip uses poetry quite a lot in this talk, especially selections from the Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot. But he also uses more “conversational” poems, including this one, which I offer as an incentive to click here and listen to Phillip’s talk!

Phone Call by Tony Hoagland

Maybe I overdid it
when I called my father
an enemy of humanity.

That might have been a little strongly put,
a slight over exaggeration,
an immoderate description
of the person who at that moment,
two thousand miles away,
holding the telephone receiver six inches from his ear,
must have regretted paying for my therapy.

What I meant was
that my father was an enemy of my humanity.

And what I meant behind that was that
my father was split into two people.
One of them, living deep inside of me,
like a bad king, or an incurable disease,
blighting my crops, striking down my herds, poisoning my wells.

The other, standing in another time zone,
in a kitchen in Wyoming,
with bad knees
and white hairs sprouting from his ears.

I don’t want to scream forever.
I don’t want to live without proportion,
like some kind of infection from the past.

So I have to remember the second father,
the one whose TV dinner is getting cold
while he holds the phone in his left hand
and stares blankly out the window

where just now,
the sun is going down
and the last fingertips of sunlight
are withdrawing from the hills
they once touched like a child.

24 Jul
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Just Traveling Through

Just Traveling Through

I listened to a beautiful talk last night by Jack Kornfield called Mystery and the Graciousness of Uncertainty. It’s a talk he gave after visiting with my friend, Steve, who recently had a stroke and as a result, discovered that he has advanced and terminal cancer. Jack begins with this quote from a poem by Hafiz:

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.

Jack talks about visiting Steve in the hospital and says, “…it was like visiting some saint in India…it was like darshan…we looked at each other…his eyes were just gleaming bright…and his heart was so open like some miraculous…” ……and here words being to fail even Jack.

In honor of Steve, here is the full text of the poem Jack quoted in his talk. Deepening the Wonder by Hafiz:

Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our sense and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks

And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world

Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.

Death is a favor to us,
But our minds have lost their balance.

The miraculous existence and impermanence of Form
Always makes the illuminated ones
Laugh and Sing.

(image from: Tarot Espanol)


16 Jul
Posted in: Books, Groups, Talks
By    Comments Off on Knowing That You Know

Knowing That You Know

Last night the Dharma Seed KM group listened to a wonderful talk by Phillip Moffitt called The Refuge in Awareness. In it, he discusses the subtle nature of awareness, gives very helpful directions on how to take awareness itself as an object of meditation and reflects deeply on what it means to “rest” in awareness. I highly recommend listening it. (click here)

Phillip often uses the phrase “knowing that you know” to describe this quality of awareness. In Dancing with Life, he lists three empowerments that come from this knowing:

“First, only by knowing that you know will you have a base of insight that will allow you to realize the remaining insights. Otherwise, you will get stuck in your thoughts and emotions…

Second, by enabling you to integrate the insights into your daily existence, knowing that you know allows the dharma to make a substantial transformation in how you live your life right now….

“Finally, knowing that you know is an end in itself. Ajahn Sumedho describes this state as ‘Buddha knows the dharma,’ when your true nature is in touch with itselfThe result is what I call an ’embodied presence’: You become a person who walks your talk because you’re consciously willing to bear your suffering. With the integration of each truth, your wisdom grows and this sense of embodied presence becomes stronger and stronger.” 

(image from: Napo Tarot)

2 Jul
Posted in: Poems, Talks
By    Comments Off on Thanks for Everything

Thanks for Everything

Last night at the Dharma Seed KM Group, we listened to a talk by my teacher, Lila Kate Wheeler, titled: The World of Experience. Lila is also a travel writer and novelist, and she often uses poems as part of her talks…but not just from the standard “dharma talk” poets.

Last night, she included this poem from John Giorno, an AIDS activist who spent a lot of time with Andy Warhol and friends.

Thanks for Nothing, by John Giorno

I want to give my thanks to everyone
for everything
And as a token of my appreciation
I want to offer back to you
All my good and bad habits —
magnificent, priceless jewels,
wish-fullfilling gems,
satisfying your every need and want

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

May all the chocolate I every ate
come rushing through your blood stream…
make you feel happy.

I give enormous thanks to all my lovers,
beautiful men 
with brilliant minds
and great artists.

May they come here and now
and make love to you.
May they hold you in their arms….
if you are attracted to any of them.
May they come back from the dead and do whatever is your pleasure.

Huge hugs to all the friends who betrayed me.
Big kisses to all the loves that failed.
I delight that your vacuum cleaner is sucking everything into your dirtbag.
You are none other than a reflection
of my own mind.

And America, thanks for the neglect.
I did it all without you.
Let us celebrate that you and I
never really existed.

Thanks for introducing me
to the face of my own naked mind.

Thanks for nothing. 

(image from: Paper Source)

20 Jun
Posted in: Practice, Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Aware of Awareness

Aware of Awareness

If you’re interested in trying the Dharma Seed Virtual Retreat I wrote about in yesterday’s post, it would be a good idea to listen to Guy Armstrong’s Meditation Instructions, which he gave on the morning after the first talk.

The first talk is available: here. The meditation instructions are: here. The full list of all the retreat talks is: here.

Guy’s instructions run 55 minutes. During the first 15 minutes, he gives very clear…and quite beautiful….guidance for using Awareness itself as an object of meditation. He talks about experiencing Awareness as an open field, as well as knowing it in relation to a chosen object, such as sounds, body sensations or the breath.

The next 30 minutes are silent. (So you can meditate!)

The last 10 minutes are Question & Answer.

Check it out.

(image from: Feng Shui Tarot)

19 Jun
Posted in: Groups, Talks
By    1 Comment

Consciousness, Mindfulness and Awareness

Last Monday night, the Dharma Seed KM Group began its “Virtual Retreat” by listening to the first talk given at The Nature of Awareness: Insight Meditation Retreat for Experienced Studentswhich was held at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) on April 12-18, 2013. By “Virtual Retreat” we mean that between June 17 and Aug 12, we will listen to all the available talks from that retreat…one at each of our twice-monthly meetings…and that we will listen to them in the order they were given, so we’ll have some sense of the arc of the teachings as they were presented.

The first talk, The Attitude in Awareness, was given by Guy Armstrong. Guy talked about bringing a Relaxed, Observant, and Accepting attitude to our meditation practice, but he also spent quite a bit of time discussing the difference between three words that I’ve often heard used interchangeably: Consciousness, Mindfulness, and Awareness.

I was pretty clear on Consciousness….but Mindfulness and Awareness….those two have always been kind of a muddle.

If you want to know all the details, listen to the talk. But in summary:

Consciousness (vinnana in Pali) is the activation that takes place when the brain is “impacted” by a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or mental “sensation” such as a thought or emotion. One has to be alive (and not sedated) to be conscious, but one does not necessarily have to be intelligent, thoughtful or even attentive.

Mindfulness (sati in Pali) is the activity of the mind that knows when something is being sensed, perceived, understood, etc. There has to be an understanding present for mindfulness to be happening…an intention to be attentive and a knowing of it. One has to be conscious, also, but consciousness alone is not enough.

Awareness (there is no equivalent word in Pali) is a term that is used much more loosely. Sometimes it means mindfulness. Sometimes it means conscious. And sometimes it means something in between.

Hmmmm. So what IS this “Nature of Awareness”? Good question. Guess that’s why it’s the title of the retreat.

Stay tuned.

(image from: Creative Whack Pack, by Roger von Oech)