6 Jun
Posted in: Practice
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All Conditioned Things

“All conditioned things are impermanent.
Their nature is to arise and pass away.
To be in harmony with this truth
Brings true happiness.”

My cat Ruby is dying. She’s about 15 years old and has been losing weight dramatically. She used to be…well…Rubenesque, but then all of a sudden (it seemed) she was looking rather svelte. But she kept losing weight and now she’s way past the super model stage.

Yesterday, when I came home from work, I could see that Ruby had been sick all over the house. I found her hiding where she always goes when she wants to be invisible. I thought she was dead. But then she opened her eyes. And she came out. She walked around. She went to the water bowl and looked at it for a while. She didn’t drink. But she didn’t seem to be in any pain or distress.

It was Metta night, so I went to sit with the group. (Which is a wonderful thing to do in circumstances like these, by the way. Thank you to all who were there.)

I was afraid that I’d come home from the group to find her dead. She had hidden herself again, but she was alive. She came out then….even went all the way downstairs, jumped up on the couch, and sat in my lap!

So it’s not over yet.

But it’s close.

What is there to do, but to say metta phrases for Ruby: May you feel safe and protected. May you be peaceful. May you be comfortable. May you live..and die…with ease. And for myself as well: May I feel safe and protected. May I be peaceful. May I be strong. May I, too, live…and die…with ease.  

(image: “Outsider Art,” Untitled, by Dwight Mackintosh)

5 Jun
Posted in: Sangha at Large
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Art in Nature, Nature in Art

The Deep Ecology KM Group recently met for a wonderfully mindful evening. Samara introduced various artists who work in deep connection with the earth (such as Andy Goldsworthy) and then led group members through their own artistic exploration of the surroundings.

The group’s next meeting will be Wednesday, June 6, at 6:45 pm, at Concordia Park (across from Kaldi’s on DeMun). Newcomers welcome! The focus will be on sensory awareness. The group will meet again on June 27 (mindful eating) and June 11 (art/nature).

For more information, contact Johannes.

(image: art installation —  made from tree branches! — on the lawn outside Washington University School of Art)



4 Jun
Posted in: Sangha at Large
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A Good Time Was Had By All

Here we are at the Cafe Sangha One-Year Birthday Party. Pictured are: Scott, Jan, Sophie, Abby, Suzanne, Jon, Abby, Scott, Nina, Jack and Rich.







Christy and Nadine are in the photo above, but you can’t see them. So here they are…with Scott.

(Cindy was also at the party, but somehow missed being in the photos.)



1 Jun
Posted in: Sangha at Large
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Calling all Dharma Friends

DharmaTown is thrilled to announce the start of a brand new KM group (Kalyana Mitta….aka “Dharma Friends). It will be called Dharma Seed KM, because the focus of the group will be to listen to and discuss selected talks available at Dharmaseed.org.

Who can come: The group is open to all, but please RSVP to Jan so we have some idea of how many people plan to attend.

Where: At the home of Cindy Brinkop in St. Louis Hills. Please contact Cindy for address and directions.

When: The first 3 meetings will be held on Monday, June 18, July 30 and August 27. Beginning on September 10, the group will meet every-other Monday.

What time: 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Format: The meeting will begin with a 20-minute sit, followed by a “check-in” time for everyone to share what’s currently going on with them. The group will then listen to a pre-selected Dharma Seed talk, which will last about an hour, followed by a discussion of about half-an-hour.

The first talk is by Tara Brach, titled “The Awakened Heart.” Future talks will be selected by the group and announced in advance by e-mail. If you would like to add your name to the e-mail list for this group, please contact Jan.

(image: Napo Tarot)




31 May
Posted in: Sangha at Large
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Just Sitting

Need a reason to get up and get out of bed on a Saturday morning? Come join “Sitting in the Park,” a newly formed meditation group that…well….sits in the park!

When: Every Saturday morning, weather permitting, from now through October.

Where: Near the Farmer’s Market in Tower Grove Park.

What time: 8:30 to 9:00 am. No dharma talk. Just sitting. (Beginners who would like instruction are invited to come at 8:15am.)


Photo: Shown here are Jan and Nina. Cindy, who leads the group, is taking the photo. 

30 May
Posted in: Books, Money
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Spending Life Energy

“Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.”

I read this in Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez, and have been thinking about it a lot. The book gives a very detailed process for discovering just how much money someone is actually getting for the job they are doing (after accounting for the actual number of hours worked and subtracting all the things they wouldn’t have to buy, if they didn’t have that job). Then it offers a structure for getting exceptional clear about where all that money (life energy) actually goes. And then it asks:

* “Are you receiving fulfillment, satisfaction and value in proportion to the life energy you spend?”

* “Is this expenditure of life energy in alignment with your values and life purpose?”

* “How might this expenditure change if you didn’t have to work for a living?”

I’m only about half-way through the book, and haven’t sat down to do all the calculations, but I can already feel these questions taking root in my mind. I have a feeling they will produce significant fruit.

(image from Steampunk Tarot)

29 May
Posted in: Food, Practice
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I’m Eating!

I’ve been listening to recordings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya answering questions during a recent retreat at IMS and it’s inspired me to re-think the First Bite Meditation practice I’ve been trying to do.

Instead of trying to remember to be mindful when I’m taking the first bite of each meal, I’ve decided to relax a bit and simply notice that….when I’m eating, I’m eating! Instead of trying to do something special with that first bite, I’ve shifted the focus to just trying to be aware of what I’m doing. If I notice I’m eating right from the first bite–great. If I notice I’m eating in the middle of the meal, or even at the end of the meal–also great.

And guess what! Now that I’ve let go of trying to “do” something, I’m finding that it’s not all that hard to be aware, at some point, that I’m eating when I’m eating!

Actually, it’s more like: it’s not all that hard to keep waking up to the fact that I’m eating. I keep zoning out again, of course. But then, I get another chance to wake up!

25 May
Posted in: Money, Retreats
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Staying Alive

I loved the talk Tempel Smith gave at the DPP retreat on “Right Livelihood.” He explained that the Pail word “samma-ajiva,” which is traditionally translated as “right livelihood,” can more literally be translated as “right fire-of-life.” So it’s less “right career,” as I’ve always thought of it, and more “right way of feeding our fire, of sustaining our vitality.” The issue not so much what job do we have, but more what do we do to keep ourselves alive.

The talk offered questions, rather than answers. (As most great talks do.) For example:

“What is the impact of your work on your heart and mind?”

“How can you practice in your work as it is today?”

“Does your livelihood support your awakening?”

I leave these for you to ponder.






(image from Phantasmagoric Theatre Tarot)

24 May
Posted in: Money
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10 Things

I’ve just finished an interesting exercise on Cultivating Contentment, from Mindfulness and Money, by Kulananda and Dominic Houlder.

Here’s the exercise. First:
“List the 10 most significant things you’ve acquired or done in the past 3 years. By significant, we don’t mean only the things you spent lots of money on, though you should include those, we also mean the things that have been important to you and made a difference in your life.”

Here’s my list (in no particular order):
* Enrolled in the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP) at Spirit Rock
* Bought a new Fiat 500 — convertible!
* Found Benedetto, un bravissimo Italian tutor
* Started DharmaTown.org
* Took a trip to Wales
* Went to Barre, to meet with Mirabai
* Put replacement windows in my almost-100-year-old house
* Subscribed to Fair Shares, an awesome CCSA (Combined Community Supported Agriculture)
* Cleaned out all my closets and de-cluttered my entire house!
* Organized the Cafe Sangha, Maplewood Metta and 3 Kalyana Mitta groups


Then: “Rank them in order of cost.”

Then: “Rank them in order of value.”

And then: “Graph them on a chart relating cost to value.”

This makes for an interesting, but not too surprising graph.

But then: “List the 10 things that are most important to you at this moment, and their cost.”

Here’s where it becomes clear that the most important things are impossible to put a price on. Which is where we discover our hidden wealth…whose “value is infinite and economic costs are low.”

For the last part of the exercise: “List your hidden wealth. Write down why the items on the list are valuable to you.”

Give it a try.

23 May
Posted in: Money
By    Comments Off on Kitchen Dharma

Kitchen Dharma

I’m not a graphic designer. I used to be a graphic designer, but that was back in the days when we did things with X-Acto knives and Rapidograph pens. I still think like a designer though, so when I got the idea to do this DharmaTown website, I knew exactly how I wanted it to look. But I also knew how much time it would take and how much money it was going to cost.

I didn’t have the money.

I’m not a designer, but I do work for a graphics company and we design web sites all the time. But it didn’t feel right to ask for a freebie. I’m friendly with one of the designers who does work on the weekends, but even at freelance rates, I knew it would cost more than I had.

Then I thought….hmmm….I don’t have money, but I do have time. And energy.

And I can cook!

So we made a deal. She would build the website and for every hour of design time she put in, I would spend an hour cooking for her family. (I also offered babysitting time, but the cooking deal seemed to work out better.)

It needed to be food that I could bring to the office, that she could heat up when she got home, so I made New Zealand Sweet Potato Chowder, Four-Alarm Veggie Chili, a double batch of Sicilian Caponata, Wild Mushroom and Barley Stew, and a ton of Rafael’s Pasta Sauce with Artichokes Hearts.

And now we have DharmaTown.

Bon Appetit!