10 Sep
2012
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Road Trip!

John Travis is leading a 9-day Retreat at Oakwood Retreat Center (near Muncie, Indiana) from October 19-28. It’s short notice (I just found out about this on Friday night), but if you can manage to arrange your schedule and make the trip….do it!

John is terrific. He is one of the teachers at the annual New Year’s Retreat at Spirit Rock, which is where I’ve sat with him. He’s deeply, deeply rooted in both Vipassana and Tibetan practices…has a sweet, gentle style and presence…and an amazing life story that includes living in India, Nepal, Thailand and Burma. You can read more about him here.

I’ve already committed to be at a different retreat, or I’d be going.

Tri-State Dharma is sponsoring this event. There’s no on-line registration, but if you’re interested, send an email to Joan Staubach or Bridget Rolens.

7 Sep
2012
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What?!?

What is it about women that men find so disturbing?

Again, from this month’s DPP homework: ….even the Buddha’s radical move allowing women entrance into the sangha was predicated on their forgetting their sexual difference while following eight rules designed to make sure they never forgot the hierarchy between genders. (For example, the most senior, most accomplished, most perfectly practicing nun must still bow down to –and walk behind — even the youngest, newest, least disciplined monk. Simply because she has had the misfortune to be born into a female form.)

That’s just wrong.

But that’s how it is. To this very day! And not just in “backwards” parts of the world.

So what is it about women that men — and even some women! — find so disturbing/disgusting/dangerous?

OK. Not all men.

But still.

Is it because new life comes from inside our bodies? Because men feel powerless over their own sexual desires and so blame it on the evil, seductive powers of women?

I don’t get it.

(image from “Carnival Mask, Green, Violet, and Pink,” by Max Beckmann)

 

6 Sep
2012
Posted in: Books, Groups
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You Can’t Pretend She’s Not There

In keeping with this month’s theme of Women and Sexuality in Buddhism, I read a selection from The Buddha and the Goddess, by Rick Fields at last night’s Hi-Pointe Sitting Group.

Here’s a taste:
Thus have I envisioned:
Once the Buddha was walking along the forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai,
walking without arriving anywhere or having any thought of arriving or not arriving.

And lotuses, shining with the morning dew miraculously appeared under every step
Soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha.

When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky, dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking eyes, shimmering like a rainbow or a spider’s web,
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower–the Goddess appeared quivering like a humming bird in the air before him.

She, for she was surely a she, as the Buddha could clearly see with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom, was mostly red in color, though when the light shifted, she flashed like a rainbow.

She was naked except for the usual flower ornaments goddesses wear.

Her long his was deep blue, her eyes fathomless pits of space, and her third eye a bloodshot song of fire.

The Buddha folded his hands together and greeted the Goddess thus: “O goddess, why are you blocking my path? Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere. Now I’m not so sure where I go.”

“You can go around me,” said the Goddess, twirling on her heel like a bird darting away, but just a little way away, “or you can come after me
but you can’t pretend I’m not here,
This is my forest, too.”

With that the Buddha sat, supple as a snake, solid as a rock, beneath a Bo tree that sprung full-leaved to shade him.

“Perhaps we should have a chat,” he said. “After years of arduous practice at the time of the morning star, I penetrated reality and ….”

“Not so fast, Buddha,” the Goddess said,
“I am reality.”

It goes on from there, but you get the gist.

(I found this in Jack Kornfield’s The Buddha Is Still Teaching. He credits Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism & Ecology, edited by Allan Hunt Badiner.)

(image from The Buddha Tarot by Robert M. Place)

 

5 Sep
2012
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It’s All Dharma

The theme for this month’s DPP homework has arrived and it’s a doozie! The topic is: Women in Buddhism, Sexuality and Relationship.

There are quite a lot of readings, including How American Woman Are Changing Buddhism, by Rita Gross, What’s Wrong with Sex, by David R. Loy, and Buddhism and Intimate Relationships: Monogamy, Polyamory and Beyond, by Jorge Ferrer.

There are also reflections and weekly practices, including: Take a few minutes to image yourself as a female Buddha. What 3 to 5 themes usually left unaddressed by traditional Buddhism would you want to explore? (For example: oppression, new forms of leadership or intensive practice, child-rearing, family life, healthy attachment, etc.) 

And….In your meditation this month, spend 10 minutes each week being mindful of your genitals, breasts, etc. as part of mindfulness of the body. Notice how it impacts (or not) your meditation. 

Well OK then.

Should be an interesting month.

(image: “Danae” by Artemisia Gentileschi)

 

4 Sep
2012
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Dancing with Awareness

Last night at the Dancing with Life KM group, we spent a lot of time talking about the Third Insight, what Phillip Moffitt calls “knowing that you know.”

On page 62, he says, “Using mindfulness in working with the Third Insight means that you practice consciously shifting your awareness….For instance, if you experience pain in your back during sitting meditation, concentrate your attention not on the physical stimulus or even your experience of the pain itself, but rather on your awareness of the pain…..

“In other words, instead of just being aware that the mind is experiencing suffering around an event, notice that the knowing of it is independent from the experience itself.” (emphasis added)

I have learned that this is really the key in being able to connect with whatever’s happening….without reacting to it automatically in some old, habitual way.

On page 63, Phillip goes on to say, “You will quickly notice that this awareness is untouched by what it is aware of, regardless of whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. It is simply there, knowing that it knows. Note, however, that this knowing is not removed from or indifferent to the experience; rather, it offers you an expanded perspective on the experience. It opens you to the awareness of awareness itself.”

This may not sound like much. But in my experience, it’s the difference between being on “auto pilot” and having a conscious choice in the way you live your life.

(image from Q-card by zolo.com)

31 Aug
2012
Posted in: Sangha at Large
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A Taste of Tibet

I went to see Lama Lodru last night at Blue Lotus Dharma Center and enjoyed all the “bells and smells,” as they liked to say in the High Episcopal Church I used to attend. I loved lining up for the Lama’s arrival, the white scarves, the bows, the incense, the cushy platform and the fancy umbrella with the dangling hearts they had set up behind it.

I wish I had taken a photo, but it just didn’t feel right to pull out my iPhone in the middle of all that.

The talk itself was pretty basic. And repetitive. But I liked how he answered people’s questions at the end. Kindly. Reasonable. And with a real sense of trying to help.

Overall: an uplifting evening.

Lama Lodru Rinpoche will be at The Healing Arts Center tonight and tomorrow morning. (info here) If you’re thinking you might like to go…..just do it!

 

(image from Buddha Tarot by Robert M. Place)

 

30 Aug
2012
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What Is Already There

Last night, at the Hi-Pointe Sitting Group, I talked a little bit about what I learned at the retreat….which is how important it is to actually notice and pay attention to whatever contentment is already present, before even starting to try to settle and focus the mind.

Then I offered this from “Free and Easy,” by Lama Gendun:

Only our searching for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It’s like a vivid rainbow which you pursue without
ever catching,
or a dog chasing its own tail.
Although peace and happiness do not exist
as an actual thing or place,
it is always available
and accompanies you every instant.

Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax this tight fist
of grasping,
infinite space is there–open, inviting, and
comfortable.

Make use of this spaciousness, this freedom
and natural ease.
Don’t search any further.

Don’t go into the tangled jungle
looking for the great awakened elephant
who is already resting quietly at home
in front of your own hearth.

(image from Napo Tarot)

29 Aug
2012
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One Book

At the end of the retreat, someone asked the teachers what “one book” they would recommend….like the Bible or the Koran….to read/study/ponder as a guide in following the Buddhist path.

Phillip Moffitt immediately suggested The Middle Length Discourses: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi. It’s the main text for the Dedicated Practitioner Program, and it’s definitely on par with the Bible and Koran, but frankly it’s a bit….daunting.

Sally Armstrong and Andrea Fella both suggested The Life of the Buddha, by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. That’s a new one for me, but coming so highly recommended, it must be worth checking out.

Here’s the description on Amazon.com: “Composed entirely of texts from the Pail canon, this unique biography presents the oldest authentic record of the Buddha’s life and revolutionary philosophy. The ancient texts are rendered here in a language marked by lucidity and dignity, and a framework of narrators and voices connect the canonical texts. Vivid recollections of his personal attendant Ananda and other disciples bring the reader into the Buddha’s presence, where his example offers profound inspiration and guidance on the path to freedom.”

I think I’ll add it to my list.

(image from “Offerings,” by Danielle and Olivier Follmi)

28 Aug
2012
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“Dancing” with Phillip

I talked with Phillip Moffitt after the retreat and told him about the two KM groups we’ve organized to discuss his book, Dancing with Life. I told him that one of the groups is taking the time to read the book out loud, word for word, during the meetings — then stopping to discuss whatever anyone wants to discuss. And that the other group is reading the book at home, in short sections, then bringing a sentence or two to discuss with the group.

He was really touched by the care and attention we are taking and asked that I post something about our methods on his Facebook page. (Which I did, here.)

He also said that I should emphasize to the groups that the 4 Noble Truths (which are what he uses for the basis of his book) are not just Truths that are Noble, but in fact, are Truths that Ennoble. He said that he mentioned this point in the book, but was advised not to press it too strongly, for fear (on the publisher’s part) that it would not be understood.

Seems pretty clear to me. But OK.

Phillip was very insistent that I make this point to the group. The truths that the Buddha taught are not just noble in themselves; they are truths that ennobles us.

There you go.

Straight from Phillip to you.

(image from  “Dancing in Colombia,” by Fernando Botero) 

27 Aug
2012
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The Gift of Attention

I want to write about what it was like being on retreat, about the beauty of the land, the bell in the dark of the morning, the palpable presence of stillness in a room of 100 people, the happiness and the boredom, the discomfort, the striving, the confusion, and the peace. But it’s all just words.

What I really want is for you to experience this for yourself.

But I know that’s not possible for everyone.

If you can’t find a way to get away on retreat, then maybe you can find a quiet place, even for just a few minutes a day, where you can sit relaxed and undisturbed, and give the gift of attention to yourself.

Maybe you could even listen to one of the morning instructions we heard at the retreat, like this one here, given by Phillip Moffitt.