Browsing Category "Talks"
24 Jul
Posted in: Poems, Talks
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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
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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
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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
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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)


14 Jun
Posted in: Talks
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Wish You Were There

In case you missed Bhikkhu Bodhi at the Thai Temple in St. Louis, his talk is posted here on YouTube. The quality is not that good, but I think it’s still worth checking out. There are also photos of the event posted here on the Buddhist Council of Greater St. Louis Facebook page.

Here’s a sampling:


















13 Jun
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Read All About It

Read All About It

One of the many interesting things Bhikkhu Bodhi said at his talk on Tuesday night, was that he practices Metta meditation in a slightly different form than the one traditionally taught. Instead of directing his attention to various categories of people….self, friend, neutral person, difficult person, all beings…and then cultivating a sense of friendliness and goodwill toward each of them in turn, he said that he just reads the news and then lets his heart open to the specific instances of suffering that are happening — right here and now — all over the world.

Even more than that. Let your heart be broken, he said, without reacting in violence or sinking into despair, and it will have a transformative effect on the way to respond to the world.

12 Jun
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Give Me Five

Last night Bhikkhu Bodhi gave a beautifully clear, lively and inspiring talk at the Thai Temple in St. Louis. It was recorded, so I hope to be able to post a link to it in the near future. In the mean time, here’s a list of Five Spiritual Faculties (also called Strengths or Powers), which was the basis of his talk.

Faith (saddha), also known as Trust or Confidence, which is the uplifting quality that inspires practice, dispels doubt, and balances Wisdom.

Energy (viriya), also known as Effort or Persistence, which is the vital force that enlivens our practice, dispels laziness, and balances Concentration.

Mindfulness (sati), also known as Bearing in Mind, which reminds and reconnects us with our intentions, dispels heedlessness, and balances all the other factors.

Concentration (samadhi), also known as Collectedness, which is the calming quality that bring peace, dispels distraction, and balances Energy.

Wisdom (panna), also known as Discernment, which is the result of seeing clearly into the nature of all things, dispels ignorance, and balances Faith.

26 Mar
Posted in: Poems, Talks
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Waking Up

I was listening to another great talk by Jack Kornfield last night, this one titled: The Gates of Awakening, in which he quotes from Thomas Merton‘s famous “Fourth and Walnut” epiphany:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all of those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness…..

“It was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.

“If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed….I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

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


22 Mar
Posted in: Poems, Talks
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Grasped by What We Cannot Grasp

I was listening to a recorded talk last night by one of my teachers, Lila Kate Wheeler, given at the one-month retreat that’s going on right now at Spirit Rock. She begins (and ends) with this poem, which strikes me as a beautiful description of our meditation practice. I offer it here for your reflection.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance–

and it changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind on our faces.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly

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