Browsing Category "Talks"
19 Dec
Posted in: Talks
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This is Good; This is Bad

As part of the homework for the “Waking Up White” work I’ve been doing, I listened (again) to a terrific talk by Thanissara, which — in addition to an impassioned call to Reclaim the Sacred lost through colonialism, racism, domination of nature and repression of the feminine — includes an interesting anecdote about the first time she heard Ajahn Chah give a dharma talk.

Thanissara says that she was on her first retreat ever, where the practice was a very strict style of Burmese meditation, taught by a Burmese master (who didn’t speak any English). She was having quite a hard time of it, so about half-way through, she decided to sneak out of the retreat center to go listen to a talk being given at Oxford by a Thai master who she’d heard was very powerful, very free and very direct — Ajahn Chah. (He didn’t speak any English either, but at least there was a translator!)

Thanissara says that this was the first time she had actually heard the Dharma and as Ajahn Chah was talking, she was thinking: This is really, really good. 

Then at the end of the talk, he said: If you’ve been sitting here thinking “This is good” or “This is bad,” you have really been listening.

(So then, of course, Thanissara thought: Wow, that’s really good!)

OK, I won’t say the talk is good. Or bad. I’ll just say: Listen to it! (here)

16 Dec
Posted in: Talks
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Not Comfy for Long

My natural inclination, especially when confronted with the state of the world right now, is to find some nice, comfy corner of my mind and sleep in.

But that’s just an old habit.

Besides, I know from experience that nice comfy corners tend not to stay nice and comfy for long.

I’d rather wake up.

If you would too, I highly recommend listening to this talk: Engaged Dharma in a World on Fire. It was given by Kitissaro and Thanissara back in March of 2015, but it’s still relevant — maybe even more so now than back then!

6 Dec
Posted in: Talks
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What Is Needed Now?


I’ve been listening (again and again) to Ajahn Sucitto’s beautiful meditation instructions (13 minutes), in which he suggests “dropping in the question: What is needed now?” 

This is addressed “to the citta, to the heart, to the sense of presence, to the ‘I’ behind the ‘I am’, to awareness.” Because awareness does not have a specific object (unlike attention), asking the question is almost like dropping a penny down a well. (As in: “Hmmm. Who knows where that’s going to go?”)

The question could be: What’s needed? What’s not needed? What’s helpful? What’s not helpful? What’s beautiful? What would bring in the beautiful?

This goes past the level of thought. Let the penny drop down, beyond the immediate wish to come up with an answer, dropping it into the body.

What do you really, really need? As if this were the last moment of your life. What’s really needed now? Not operating according to scripts. Not for an answer such as “What is needed is more mindfulness, more clarity, more….” No. Not that. Not: “What is needed is for other people to…” No. Not other people. Not: “What is needed is if I were….” No. Not “I.” Beneath that. Behind that. What’s needed right down in your belly? In your heart? In your tissues? That’s the place where you let it drop.

It’s not necessary to have to come up with a verbal response. Maybe just asking the question is all that is needed.

And then to listen.


Click here.

30 Nov
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Build Your Nest

Build Your Nest

bluebirdhappyAs many of you know, one of our sangha members (Thomas) is currently sitting a month-long retreat taught by Ajahn Sucitto at the Forest Refuge (in Barre, MA). I’ve been listening to the talks from that retreat, which is a great practice in itself.

At the end of one my favorites of these talks, Sucitto says this about instructions to ‘place your attention’ in meditation:

“Generally we associate doing things with ‘doing it to get it done’ and ‘doing it to get good results’ and ‘doing it because you are to be measured and assessed in terms of how well you did it.’…

“Those attitudes are disastrous. [laughs] Truly disastrous. And if you keep putting that into your body, repeatedly [heavy sigh], it’s going to be pretty painful. It’s not a cooperative mode, if that’s what’s understood by the instruction to ‘place attention’.

“Attention is a natural faculty of mind. It’s one of the inevitable faculties. However erratic it may be, we always have attention. What we need to do is to get that little bird of attention to rest on something suitable. If you create the right nest and put the right food in it, that little bird’s gonna sit there, ‘cuz it likes it. [delighted laughter]

“So you just…Build your nest. Put the food in the nest with devotion. And then…may it be!”


Click here to listen to the talk. It’s a keeper.

21 Nov
Posted in: Suttas, Talks
By    Comments Off on It Takes Courage

It Takes Courage



We’ve been training for a period like this for a long time,” Jack Kornfield says, in the talk he gave at Spirit Rock the week after the election.

It’s a terrific talk. And it’s not just Jack… Thanissara is there with a plea to join the Native American protests against the pipeline in North Dakota, and it ends by playing a little Leonard Cohen. (“Even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!“)

As a reminder of our training, and as a way to move forward, Jack offers this from the teachings of the Buddha:

“Others will be cruel; we will not be cruel. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will kill or harm living beings; we will not harm beings. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will be greedy; we will not be greedy. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will speak falsely, maliciously; we will speak truthfully and kindly. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will be envious; we will not be envious. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will be arrogant; we will not be arrogant. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will be unmindful; we shall establish mindful presence. Thus we will incline our hearts.

“Others will lack wisdom; we shall cultivate wisdom. Thus we will incline our hearts.”


Jack talk ends the talk with this quote by Thomas Jefferson: “One person with courage is a majority.”

Click here to listen.

10 Nov
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on I Do Not Let My Mind Shut Down

I Do Not Let My Mind Shut Down

walk-on*** Note: I have a writing project due tomorrow and then I’m leaving town on Tuesday and Wednesday for a visit with Mirabai, so I won’t post again until late next week, or maybe not till the following Monday, so check back then. Or better yet, sign up to get these posts delivered to your email by subscribing to the blog (see side bar). ***   

Last night I listened to a talk by Ajahn Sucitto, titled Keep Calm and Carry On, which he gave last May at the end of a long retreat about “going back out into the world.” He talks about taking a pause in the middle of difficulties — even just for 10 seconds — to touch into our own place of fundamental goodwill by recalling:

I do not let my mind shut down with fear.

I do not let my mind shut down with resentment.

I do not let my mind shut down with impatience.

It’s a very helpful talk. There’s a bit of untranslated Pali and some references to topics he’s been talking about with this group for almost a month (so it’s a little like dropping into the middle of an on-going conversation) but don’t let that put you off. It’s a great support. Click here to listen.

4 Nov
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time


I just listened to what has got to be the most creative, most unusual, and maybe the wildest (in a good way) dharma talk I have ever heard. It was given by Greg Scharf on Halloween, at this year’s 3-month retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society).

The title of the talk is: Prince 5-Weapons and the Sticky-Haired Monster.

I’m not kidding.

It’s a hoot. Don’t miss it.

Click here to listen.

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
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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.”