16 Sep
2019
Posted in: Poems, Retreats
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Everything They Encounter

Earthworms
by Lynn Ungar

Imagine. The only thing that
God requires of them
is a persistent, wriggling, moving forward,
passing the earth through
the crinkled tube of their bodies
in a motion less like chewing
than like song.

Everything they encounter
goes through them,
as if sunsets, drug store clerks,
diesel fumes and sidewalks
were to move through our very centers
and emerge subtly different
for having fed us — looser somehow,
more open to the possibility of life.

They say the job of angels
is to sing to God in serried choirs.
Perhaps. But most jobs
aren’t so glamorous.
Mostly the world depend upon
the silent chanting underneath our feet.
To every grain that enters: “Welcome.”
To every parting mote: “Be blessed.”

13 Sep
2019
Posted in: Talks, Teachers
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It Doesn’t Even Have to Be Called Buddhism

The following is an excerpt from Let’s Just Call It Love, by Jack Kornfield, published in the March 2019 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine:

“The important question is not the future of Buddhism…

“It is clear there won’t be a single Buddhism in the West. There will be different Buddhisms. Every other Buddhist culture has many sects and traditions living side by side. These express the ten thousand skillful means of awakening: through devotion and meditation, direct pointing and transmissions, myth and story, community and ritual, wise heart and wise society.

“There are conservative, traditional sects who preserve the teachings, and in each generation, there are adaptive sects who modernize and renew them. Even though they can glare at each other across the divide, these perspectives complement each other. We need them both.

“Buddhist traditions in the West are already being changed. While we don’t know what the next decades will bring, there are hints.

“Buddhism in the West is already not as patriarchal as in the past, embodying more female leaders and more feminine wisdom. It is less hierarchical and more democratic. While building monastic traditions, it is more lay-oriented.

“There is more emphasis on meditation and less on the practice of devotion and offering. There is a growing use of self-compassion to counterbalance spiritual ambition and misguided effort.

“While true to its roots, Buddhism is also incorporating the complementary skills of modern psychology, trauma work, and neuroscience. Diversity and inclusion is a visible direction for Buddhist communities everywhere, as is more active engagement in the alleviation of suffering in our society….

“And true to capitalism, the dharma is being packaged and sold. Some people are worried about the watering down of the dharma, the secular selling without a deeper foundation. History laughs. Let it spread in ten thousand forms. The dharma can take care of itself! It is magnificent, the timeless truth, the reality of life.

“And honestly, though we Americans are expert at misusing things, there is a centuries-long tradition of misusing the teachings prior to us. Magnificently watered-down dharma was and is widespread across Buddhist Asia.

“There are whole sects that live for money-making funerals, and millions who go to temples to get fortunes read or to make offerings for business success, better luck in marriage, or to offset their continuing misdeeds. Yet these societies are also the treasure houses of profound dharma and great sanghas. Popular Buddhism and devotion to deep practice inter-are. They always exist in a dance together.

“I say let the dharma spread and become so common it becomes an invisible understanding, enhancing humanity in every field. Let it foster virtue, inner well-being, respect for basic human dignity, care for all life, and the awakening of freedom.

“Let these seeds of goodness flower in a thousand forms.

“It doesn’t even have to be called Buddhism.

“Let’s just call it love.”

11 Sep
2019
Posted in: Talks, Teachers
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Practice with Phillip from Home — for FREE!

This coming Monday (Sept 16), Phillip Moffitt will lead a guided meditation (about 30 min), followed by a dharma talk (about 1 hr), at the Spirit Rock Community Center near San Francisco. But you don’t have to go to California to take part!

The evening is available live online — and you can watch for FREE — but only if you register in advance (click here).

It begins at 7:15 pm Pacific Time (9:15 pm St. Louis time), but the video recording is available for at least two weeks after the event ends — so you don’t even have to stay up late to watch it!!!

But again, ONLY IF YOU REGISTER BEFORE IT BEGINS. (register here)

Phillip doesn’t do this often. Now’s your chance. Don’t miss it!

3 Sep
2019
Posted in: Retreats
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Drop-ins Welcome

Registration is closed for this coming weekend retreat led by Tuere Sala, but if you’d still like to attend, you can!

Both the Friday Night Talk (Sept 6th, 6:30 to 8:30 pm) and the Saturday Daylong (Sept 7th, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm) will be held at the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis, 5007 Waterman (at Kingshighway), 63108.

You can come to just the Friday night talk for $10, or just the Saturday daylong for $50, or to BOTH for just $55!

And if you self-identify as a person of color, you can also come to the Sunday Afternoon POC session (Sept 8th, 2:00 to 4:00 pm) for just $5. It will be held at the InPower Institute, 4125 Humphrey Street, 63116.

Not really into pre-planning? No problem. Be spontaneous. Just drop in!

28 Aug
2019
Posted in: Books, Practice
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Knowing the Truth of It

“Let me be perfectly clear that in order for you to take the Buddhist approach [to finding meaning and joy in the face of suffering], it is not necessary for you to adopt a creed, sacrifice your religion, or transform yourself into some new person.

“You simply must have faith in the possibility that understanding your suffering can bring about a radical change in how you experience life. In other words, you must suspend your doubt long enough to see for yourself what you are capable of realizing.

“At the same time, you should not underestimate this challenge, as it demands that you voluntarily show up for your own suffering with no agenda other than knowing the truth of it.”

— from Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering,
by Phillip Moffitt

26 Aug
2019
Posted in: Retreats
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Worth It.

On Friday I received this photo from Guy and Sally Armstrong, which was taken on the last day of the June retreat I attended (which they taught) at the Forest Refuge earlier this year. (click image to enlarge)

It’s quite unusual to have a group photo taken at the end of a retreat, but the retreat itself was quite unusual — in style, format, and content — and the successful completion of it seems to be signaling a new wave of “non-standard” retreats.

As a matter of fact, Guy and Sally will be teaching this same retreat/format (titled, The Still Heart of Awareness) in September of 2020. Here’s how they describe it on the Forest Refuge website:

“This retreat will strengthen our understanding and experience of the nature of awareness in meditation practice.

“We will explore this in three stages. During the initial part of the month, we will build meditative stability through a focus on anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing).

“In the next phase, we will undertake intensive practice of metta (lovingkindness), allowing the beautiful and responsive qualities of heart to unfold.

“Then, with concentration and lovingkindness as our foundation, the last stage of the retreat will focus on specific meditative techniques that allow us to rest in the pure nature of awareness.”

***

Sound awesome? It was!

***

Retreats at the Forest Refuge are for experienced meditators, which means you have to meet certain practice prerequisites before you can apply. And for this retreat, you have to stay for at least the full month of September. Then once you meet those requirements, the admission process is a lottery. Applications are due Nov 21, 2019.

(That’s a lot, I know. But it’s worth it.)

23 Aug
2019
Posted in: gratitude
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Happy Birthday, Mom

My mom is 90 today. This is her, in the picture my dad keeps on his desk. I’m not sure when it was taken. Maybe when they got married. (She was 18. He was 20. They’ve been married 72 years.)

The smaller photo behind it is also of her, shortly after my sister was born. (The little girl, looking on, is me!) And tucked in with that photo, cut out and pasted on, is another one of her, standing behind me and one of my brothers at my college graduation.

Things change, don’t they.

But love lives on.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

22 Aug
2019
Posted in: Practice
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I Take Heart…

A couple of weeks ago at Sunday Sangha I talked about how, in addition to chanting the Pali text, I use my own words to express what I mean when I recite the 5 Precepts — the classic practice of training to refrain from ethical misconduct. (My phrases are at the end of this post.)

I didn’t mention this on Sunday, but I also use my own words when doing another classic Buddhist practice — the formal Taking of Refuges, which is usually translated in English as:

To the Buddha, I go for refuge.
To the Dhamma, I go for refuge.
To the Sangha, I go for refuge.

I often recite the refuges in this way, as well chant them in the original Pali. But I also add my own way of expressing this intention, which is:

I take heart in the human capacity to Awaken.
I take heart in the Natural Laws of the Universe.
I take heart in the Company of all those who have Awakened and are Awakening.

These are a little out of the ordinary, but this is the sense of the phrases that means the most to me. Which is important, because I’m serious about what I’m doing. I need to say what I really mean because I fully intend to live by what I say.

***

In case you missed my Sunday talk, here are the 5 Precepts — in my own words — which I recite every morning (along with the 3 Refuges above):

* For my own peace of mind and for the peace of others, may I practice compassion by not intentionally killing or harming any living creature.
* For my own contentment and for the contentment of others, may I practice generosity by not taking that which is not freely given.
* For my own well-being and for the well-being of others, may I practice loving-kindness by not engaging in sexuality that is harmful.
* For my own happiness and for the happiness of others, may I practice honesty and goodwill by not speaking in ways that are false, harsh, divisive, or mindless.
* For my own safety and for the safety of others, may I practice restraint by not clouding my mind with intoxicants.

***

21 Aug
2019
Posted in: Practice, Teachers
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Meditate with Mirabai!

Last week Mirabai Bush led a really beautiful on-line guided meditation (only 17 minutes long) for a Facebook “Mindful Women Meditate” event, in which 3,000 people participated — including me!

Anyone who’s spent any time at all around me (in person, or on this blog), already knows that being introduced to meditation by Mirabai totally opened my heart — an experience that I have come to understand and appreciate more and more over the years. (I know I’m not alone in having had this wide-heart-opening with Mirabai. The moderator of the Facebook session calls her the “Mother of Mindfulness.”)

If you’d like a sense of what meditating with Mirabai can be like, come join her in that big, big room she talks about in this guided meditation — now posted on YouTube. (click here.)

Relax. Breath. Enjoy.

(The photo above is of Mirabai with Ram Dass at one of their annual Open Your Heart in Paradise retreats.)

20 Aug
2019
Posted in: Books
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A Feeling of Aliveness

“The Buddha’s twelve insights of the Four Noble Truths is a teaching of the wisdom that is to be found in being consciously and fully present with your suffering until what is called ‘pure awareness’ or ‘Buddha nature’ or ’emptiness’ that lies beyond your personality is revealed. It points to the opportunity you have to make a radical inner shift in how you view your existence.

“Whatever the source of your suffering may be, this inner shift will provide a new, deeper context for interpreting your experiences that brings clarity and equanimity to your mind. The result of this inner transformation is that your life — with all its pain, disappointment and uncertainty, as well as all that you cherish, love, and work hard for — is radically enriched.

“You will discover, as so many other have before you, a feeling of aliveness, something mystical, palpable in your daily life. You may have a long journey to your final and full liberation, but peace and freedom of mind are available to you right now in ever-increasing measure.”

Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering,
by Phillip Moffitt