Browsing Category "Talks"
19 Oct
Posted in: Groups, Talks
By    Comments Off on May We All Be Happy

May We All Be Happy


Note: I’ll be entertaining an out-of-town friend starting tomorrow, so I’m taking a little break from posting while she’s here. Check back again on Monday (10/24). 

In the mean time, I leave you with the prep work I’ve “assigned” for the Let’s Talk Dharma discussion group that meets at my house tomorrow evening. The topic is Wise Concentration, and the homework is a talk given by Tempel Smith, who spent a lot of time doing metta as a concentration practice and who tells a really great story about the purification process (aka “meltdown”) he went through on a long metta retreat. (The story has a happy ending.)

You can listen to it by clicking here. May you be happy!


(That’s me with Tempel and a group of dharma buddies when we were in Burma!)

14 Oct
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Be Natural. Be Wise. Be Juicy.

Be Natural. Be Wise. Be Juicy.

so-juicyAs you can probably tell, I listen to a lot of dharma talks. Sometimes I listen to talks by a lot of different teachers, but mostly I listen to my same old favorites — which is great because I feel like I’m really getting to know them, but also not so great because, frankly, there’s a lot of repetition.

But every so often, even one my “same old favorites” will tell a new story ….usually just when I think I’ve heard every one of their stories, several times over.

Which is what happened when I listened to a talk by Guy Armstrong on The Power of Lovingkindness. The new part was a story about the advice given by a Tibetan teacher at the end of a retreat Guy once attended. It was guidance on taking the teachings back out into the world. The advice was:

1. Be Natural. (Don’t put on “spiritual airs”.)
2. Be Wise. (Be careful with your conduct. Don’t harm people.)
3. Be Juicy. (!!!!)

So, Guy says, the immediate way to manifest the benefits of your practice is to behave in ways that includes the qualities of:



Sounds pretty juicy to me!

13 Oct
Posted in: Books, Talks
By    Comments Off on Joseph’s “True Confession”

Joseph’s “True Confession”


I was listening to one of Joseph’s talks — Creating a Concept of Self — when I was surprised (and delighted) to hear him “confess” to a fondness for mystery novels (a fondness that I share)….and then to hear him close his talk with this passage from a distinctly unusual source of dharma wisdom — the detective novel, Bangkok Tattooby John Burnet:

“You see, dear readers, speaking frankly and without any intention to offend, you are a ramshackle collection of coincidences held together by a desperate and irrational clinging.

“There is no center at all. Everything depends on everything else. Your body depends on the environment. Your thoughts depend on whatever junk floats in from the media. Your emotions are largely from the reptilian end of your DNA. Your intellect is a chemical computer that can’t add up a zillionth as fast as a pocket calculator. And even your best side is a superficial piece of social programming that will fall apart just as soon as your spouse leaves with the kids and the money in your joint account, or the economy starts to fail and you get the sack, or you get conscripted into some idiot’s war.

“To name the amorphous morass of self-pity, vanity and despair: “self”, is not only the height of hubris, it is also proof — if any were needed — that we are above all a delusional species. We are in a trance from birth to death. Prick the balloon and what do you get? Emptiness.

“Take two steps in the divine art of Buddhist meditation and you will find yourself on a planet you no longer recognize. Those needs and fears you thought were the very bones of your being turn out to be no more than bugs in your software.”

5 Oct
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Better Than, Worse Than, Same As

Better Than, Worse Than, Same As

02shortcuts-jumboYesterday one of my dharma buddies (thank you, Thomas) turned me on to a really delightful — and quite humorous — talk by Bonnie Duran on mana (usually translated as “conceit”), which is one of the last of the ten fetters (or torments) to let go right before one attains full enlightenment. (Joseph Goldstein says that he loves it when he sees this one arise because he thinks: “Oh good, now I’m working on Arahantship!”)

Basically, mana is the thought: “I am better than someone else; I am worse than someone else; or I am equal to someone else.” (That last part can come as a bit of a surprise I know, but it’s problematic — just like the others — because any comparison or “measuring” of oneself against another creates a split in what is fundamentally — on the ultimate level — not separate.)

This topic might sound boring and technical, but this talk is DEFINITELY NOT. If you want a chance to laugh at yourself (who doesn’t need a chance to do that!) and to enjoy laughing with Bonnie as she laughs at herself — click here and listen to this talk!

3 Oct
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on If There’s No Self….

If There’s No Self….

child-ask-question-raise-hand-schoolI’m back from the CDL (Community Dharma Leader) training retreat…which was terrific, by the way…and am almost caught up with all the laundry, grocery shopping, emails, housekeeping, etc. that’s always a part of coming home from a trip — including starting to dive into some of dharmaseed talks I’ve missed while I was gone.

One of which is an especially terrific Q&A discussion with Joseph Goldstein from the 3-month retreat that’s in session right now at IMS (Insight Meditation Society). It starts with a question about what it means to take refuge, which prompts Joseph to talk quite inspiringly about the reality of enlightenment here and now, and then there’s another question from which he takes off into a great little riff on what he calls “the myth of intimacy” and then someone asks about the teaching of non-self as it relates to karma and reincarnation (“can you speak on who owns the karma?”).

Joseph begins his reply with: “Just so you know, I think the most frequently asked preface to a question is: If there’s no self, then…” Which prompts him to go into one of the most helpful explorations of the teaching of non-self I’ve heard in a very long time. And it just keeps getting better from there.

You can listen to the talk by clicking here. (His answer to the question about non-self starts at about the 20-minute mark.)

May wisdom arise in the pattern of an unfolding life…that’s called “you”.

14 Sep
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Kind of Like Being There

Kind of Like Being There

decade-3-1xLast night I listened to Guy Armstrong give the opening talk at this year’s 3-month retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society, shown here).

I sat the first 6 weeks of that retreat in 2013 (Guy was one of my interview teachers) and I thought then that surely I’d be back for the full 3 months…if not the following year (2014), then definitely by the year after that (2015). But alas, here it is 2016 and well, it hasn’t quite worked out like that.

Still, it was great to “be there in spirit” by listening to the tape and to feel a kinship with all those who are there this year (one of whom is our former St. Louis sangha member, Leslie!) It renewed my commitment to sit a 3-month retreat. And gave a sweet little boost to my practice!

If you’d like some of that too, I recommend listening to Guy’s talk. He leads the group in the traditional retreat practice of reciting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts (which is a nice thing to do at home as well) and he also adds some very interesting information and reflections on the historical Buddha, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard done before. It’s not like actually being on the retreat…but it’s kind of like that.

Click here to listen to the talk. (56 minutes)

12 Sep
Posted in: Groups, Talks
By    Comments Off on Who Could Ever Stand It?

Who Could Ever Stand It?

pikachu_gone_crazy____by_moon_manunit_42In preparation this Thursday’s “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion on Enlightenment, I offer this quote from Buddhadasa’s teaching on Nirvana for Everyone:

When causal conditions are not present, mental defilements [greed, hatred, and delusion] simply become extinct. Even though the extinction may be temporary, even thought there is only temporary coolness, the phenomenon has the real sense of nirvana.

Hence, temporary nirvana does exist for for those who have some defilements left; temporary nirvana nourishes all sentient beings.

If defilements were with us day and night without ceasing, who could ever stand it? Living things would either die, or become insane…and then die. One survives because there are periods when the fires of defilements do not burn. Temporary nirvana keeps all of us alive and well, and is a nourishing condition, normal to life. 

6 Sep
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on It Was Fun!

It Was Fun!

boutiqueretro617gI’m back now from the Concentration Retreat and I feel like I need to say something about the experience — because it was significantly different than what I had experienced previously at similar retreats — but the difference was so, well….experiential…..that I don’t know what I can say about it that would convey anything meaningful. Except that the energetic experience of sustaining my attention on the breath began as a feeling of “riding” or “resting” on it, then turning into something more like “dancing” with it, and then finally, a whole lot like “rolling around under the sheets” with it!

So let me just say: It was fun!!!

17 Aug
Posted in: Groups, Talks
By    Comments Off on It Is Possible

It Is Possible


As I posted earlier, the homework assignment for tomorrow night’s “Let’s Talk” Dharma discussion, is to listen to Jack Kornfield’s talk, “Labor of Love — Right Livelihood”. In it, Jack quotes Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859):

“It is possible to have outer liberty and still be enslaved. The time may come when men and women are carried away by the pursuit of wealth and lose all self restraint. In their exclusive anxiety to make a fortune, they neglect their chief business, which is to remain masters of their own life and heart.”


11 Aug
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on When It Feels Like There’s Nothing There

When It Feels Like There’s Nothing There


In the same talk I wrote about in Monday’s post, Ajahn Sucitto gives a very interesting answer to someone asking for more instructions on “detecting somatic experiences,” saying that there seem to be many “numb places” in this person’s body, and that “presumably it isn’t that the body doesn’t feel them but that it’s something to do with the mind’s inability to receive the messages.”

Sucitto responds:
“Well, the message there is: numb. That’s a message of a kind….

“It can be that the mind just isn’t tuned in enough, doesn’t pick up the signals. In which case you can begin to sensitize it by noticing things such as sensations in the hands, or a sense of warmth in the overall body….

“The energies of the emotions and the energies of the body are intertwined, so where there’s strong emotional affliction, there tends to be a certain somatic effect. Constriction, for example. Just as when somebody screams at you, you tighten up. You don’t decided to do. Your body just does it. As a defense. There can be many events like that. Most people tend to have had those kinds of experiences.

“It can also be a safety system, where you don’t feel anything because it’s too uncomfortable to feel it. Or it can be something to do with resignation, like: It’s not going to happen for me, so I just won’t bother and then something closes down, something freezes up. You go numb because the good, the warm, the friendly, the loving, isn’t going to happen, so your mind says: Just put up with it. Then something closes down. And there’s a sense of loss…

“Some numbness can be just that your mind isn’t acute enough. Some can be because of things that happened. And some can be because of things that didn’t happen.

“Mostly those things that did happen cause something more like tightness or tension or constriction. Whereas things that didn’t happen tend to cause numbness. You didn’t get the warmth or the support, so your mind just goes: Oh well…. It gives up, then it closes down. Or you didn’t get heard, or something, so you closed down. If this gets repeated enough and it becomes a pattern…then something closes.

“If you feel a numb place in your body, turn your attention to a place where you’re not so numb. Maybe your feet…or try to feel the whole of your body as much as you can…. At any rate, you widen your field of attention until you’ve got some reference…

“You find a place out of the afflicted area. And from there you let your mind rest in that which feels alive. And then from there you can welcome the numb place, turn your kind attention to it. Perhaps sweep from the safe place through the place of affliction…moving the attention gently, like stroking…and then moving…and breathing…though all of it.”


The above has been edited. Here’s a link to the full talk (53 minutes). He reads the question about numbness at around 10 minutes before the end.