Browsing Category "Talks"
19 Jun
2013
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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
2013
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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
2013
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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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
2013
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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
2013
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
2013
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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)

 

5 Dec
2012
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We are Music

Last night I listened to Jack Kornfield‘s most recent talk from his regular Monday Night meetings at Spirit Rock. All of Jack’s talks are inspiring, but this one in particular, I found mesmerizing. The title is “Karma & the Power of Intention.” You can listen to it on dharmaseed here.

Jack talks about karma as the pattern of cause and effect that governs the universe. He talks about the way this patterns of experience happen and quotes the Buddha as saying:

If a man plays upon a lute, the musical notes do not appear from a storehouse of hidden notes. And when he stops, they do not return to any place else. They arise from certain conditions–the body of the lute, the strings, the training and exertion of the player. And when those causes and conditions change, the notes cease, leaving no trace. In the same way, the elements of being–physical and mental–arise according to conditions, and then cease. 

This is the way that the patterns we experience become manifest.

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

8 Oct
2012
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Dharma TV

More free videoconferences! 

The Compassionate Brain
Rick Hanson
, author of Buddha’s Brain, will host a 7-part video series called The Compassionate Brain. The series begins tonight, 7-8pm Central time and will continue for the following seven Monday nights. Each week, he will discuss the power of neuro-plasticity with world-class teachers: Richie Davidson, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Dacher Keltner, Kelly McGonigal, Kristin Neff and Jean Houston. You can watch live or view archived videos by clicking here.

Open Your Heart, Be the Change
Qigong Master Mingtong Gu
 will host an on-line series of conversations with respected thought leaders: James Baraz, Sharon Salzberg, Jean Houston, James O’Dea, Marci Shimoff, Janet Attwood, Norm Shealy and others. Beginning Tuesday, Oct 16, 3:30-4:30pm Central time, watch live or view archived videos here.

 

5 Oct
2012
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Mindfulness at Work

My very first introduction to Mindfulness meditation — to any meditation, for that matter — was at a 3-day silent retreat offered by the company I worked for at the time: Monsanto. Strange, I know. But it was a life-changing experience….mainly, I think, because the teacher was Mirabai Bush.

Mirabai is the Founding Director of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (just to name one of her incarnations). And she has recently teamed with More Than Sound to offer a FREE, monthly webinar series on the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace.

The next webinar will be Thursday, Oct 11 at 2:00 pm Central Time. It will feature a live discussion between Mirabai and Dr. Kyra Bobinet, President of Senior Care Solutions at Aetna. You can register for it here, or view a streaming video shortly after the webcast here.

The webinar will cover:

* Dr. Bobinet’s best practices learned from developing and leading Aetna’s clinical efficacy studies with the company’s mind-body stress reduction programs

* Discussion of Aetna’s Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace clinical trial, and the study results that were published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology

* Mirabai Bush’s experience with developing the curriculum for Google’s Search Insider Yourself course, including participant reports of reduced stress, increased productivity, and more creative problem solving after taking the course

* A short, guided mindfulness exercise led by Mirabai Bush

Stay Tuned: The next webinar in the series will held on Nov 14 and will feature a discussion with Mirabai Bush and Richard Davidson, Ph.D., director of The Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain.

 

4 Oct
2012
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Wakefulness, Wisdom, Community

Last night at the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, someone asked if we could spend some of our time learning the Pali chants I use to start the sit. So we did!

Here’s the Homage part of the chant in Pali (which we repeat 3 times):
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma-sambuddhassa

Here it is in English:
Homage to the Blessed, Noble and Pefectly Enlightened One

Here’s the Refuges part in Pali (normally done 3 times, but we just do it once):
Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami

Sangham saranam gacchami 

Here it is in English:
To the Buddha I go for refuge
To the Dhamma I go for refuge
To the Sangha I go for refuge

For me, this means that I turn to Wakefulness (the Buddha), Wisdom (the Dhamma) and Community (the Sangha) for my place of safety and rest.

Of course chants are to be heard, not read. Click here for a terrific talk by Greg Scharf, where you can listen to these chants, and hear a beautiful reflection on what it means to pay Homage and Take Refuge.

(image from Offerings by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)