28 Feb
2019
Posted in: APP
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Exploring the Nature of Mind

So at last we begin on Spirit Rock’s Advanced Practitioners Program, which kicks off with a 9-day retreat starting April 15 on the Nature of Awareness, taught by Phillip Moffitt, Guy Armstrong, Susie Harrington, and Brian Lesage.

I know we’ve begun, because I’ve just received the very first homework assignment!

Here’s what they say:
“The APP program is designed for practitioners who already have a strong connection to the Dharma and are looking to deepen that connection. In light of this, we invite you to take some time to reflect on your current connection to the Dharma in these particular ways:

  1. How has your practice transformed your life and the communities you live in so far?
  2. How is your practice connected with the larger context of issues happening within our society and the world?
  3. What continues to motivate you and inspire you to practice?
  4. What are your aspirations for this APP program?

“For our first retreat, we will be offering different teachings on how to understand the nature of mind. To prepare for the retreat, we invite you to reflect upon two different ways of understanding the nature of mind — or more precisely, the nature of consciousness — that are found in Theravada… ”

***

The suggestion is that we write our responses in a journal. And so it begins.

But first — I have to decided on the right journal!

(Ah yes. Already an exploration into the nature of this particular mind.)

Stay tuned.

27 Feb
2019
Posted in: Books, Classes, Practice
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Alongside Whatever Other Responsibilities…

Interested in joining my Study and Practice Class on the Satipatthana Sutta, but don’t live in St. Louis, or don’t have time on Tuesdays, or just can’t make it for some other reason?

Here’s another option:

Get the book — Satipatthana Meditation: A Practice Guide, by Bhikkhu Analayo — then use this link to Analayo’s guided instructions (freely available from the publisher) to do your own study-and-practice course, either by yourself or with a couple of friends!

This is not exactly what we’ll be doing in the class I’ll be teaching, but it’s what Analayo himself suggests in the introduction to his text:

“I would recommend using the book and recordings to develop the practice step by step. This could be done, for example, over a period of seven weeks. In the early discourses the number seven functions as a symbol of a complete cycle of time.

“In preparation for this cycle of self-training, I recommend reading the first two chapters. Following such preparation, perhaps each week it would be possible to find time to study one of the chapters on the seven main contemplations, and during the ensuing days of the week cultivate its actual practice. In this way, alongside whatever other responsibilities we might have, it would be possible to complete a course of self-training within a period of seven weeks.

“Following such a course of training, we might then continue letting the practice of all four satipatthanas become more and more an integral part of our life. The basic pattern of mindfulness practice remains throughout: being in the present, knowing what is happening, and proceeding accordingly.”

***

(That’s Bhikkhu Analayo in the photo above. While you’re listening to him give the guided instructions, you could imagine yourself sitting right there with him!)

26 Feb
2019
Posted in: Books, Classes
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Come On In!

I’m busily getting ready for the new Study and Practice class I’ll be teaching on the Satipatthana Sutta — which will meet in this very sweet room, by the way!

To introduce these teachings, I’ll use this quote from Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“The discourse generally considered to offer the most comprehensive instructions on the meditation practice is the Satipatthana Sutta….

“The Pali texts treat meditation as a discipline of mental training aimed at a two-fold task: training the mind and generating insight.

The still mind, calm and collected, is the foundation for insight. The still mind observes phenomena as they arise and pass away, and from sustained observation and probing exploration arises ‘the higher wisdom of insight into phenomena.’

“As wisdom gathers momentum, it penetrates more and more deeply into the nature of things, culminating in the full and comprehensive understanding called enlightenment.”

***

Here’s how the class will go:

  • We begin each evening with a short “arriving-in-the-room” silent meditation. (approx. 5 min)
  • After we sit, I give an introductory talk on the meditation topic of the evening. (approx. 25 min)
  • After the talk, I lead a guided meditation on that practice. (approx. 30 min)
  • After the practice, I open for a discussion/Q&A on the topic. (approx. 30 min)

***

First class meets Tuesday, March 5, 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Then every Tuesday for the next 6 weeks. Want to join in? It’s not too late. Send me an email.

25 Feb
2019
Posted in: Earth, Practice
By    Comments Off on Generosity and Beauty and Basicness

Generosity and Beauty and Basicness

The following excerpt is from Handy Tips on How to Behave at the Death of the Worldby Anne Herbert, originally published in Whole Earth Review (1995) and currently reprinted in The Sun magazine:

“Sometimes it comes in a dream, and sometimes in one more newspaper headline. And then you know. With your cells and past and future you know. It’s over. We are killing it all and soon it will all be dead. We are here at the death of the world — killers, witnesses, and those who will die. How then shall we live?

“Probably good to tell truth as much as possible. Truth generally appreciated by terminal patients and we all are.

“Good to avoid shoddy activities. You are doing some of the last things done by beings on this planet. Generosity and beauty and basicness might be good ways to go. Avoid that which is self-serving in a small way. Keep in mind standing in for ancestors including people who lived ten thousand years ago and also fishes. Might be best to do activities that would make some ancestors feel honored to be part of bringing you here.

“… Be in radical alignment with particular forms of aliveness being smashed. Particular species, human creatures, styles of living are being obliterated brutally now. In as much as we all are going to die fairly soon, the stylish thing to do is to align with one of the lifeforms and help it be itself as long and strong as possible.

“Eschew blandness. Eschew causing others pain. We are all the targets so wear bright colors and dance with those you love. Falling in love has always been a bit too much to apply to one person. Falling is love is appropriate for now, to love all those things which are about to leave. The rocks are watching, and the squirrels and the stars and the tired people on the street. If you love them, let them know, with grace and non-invasive extravagance. Care about the beings you care about in gorgeous and surprising ways. Color outside the lines. Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. This is your last chance.”

22 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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I, Too, Have Been Flooded

Ajahn Sucitto:
“We pick up that our hearts will probably quite easily come into the wish for the welfare of others:

“May they be happy.
“May they be cherished.
“May they be free from harm and suffering.
“May their practice bear fruit.

“Bring this to mind.

“Then bring into that field: the people one is spending time with, one’s relatives, and associates — with all the difficult bits —

“I just wish them well, that’s all.

“I’m not expecting them to be fantastic. Or for everything to be really swinging along between us. I just wish them freedom from harm.

“I can do that.

“And then:

“I, too, have been flooded with behaviors and actions that were inappropriate, not worthy, not welcome, wrong time…

“I ask for forgiveness.

“There’s the flush that one gets, the grandiosity that can come out of feeling one is right; the lack of straightforwardness that can come out of feeling one is wrong, so one never dares say the truth, and how confusing that is; the confusion that can arise from thinking one can know what someone else is thinking, what they’re up to, and then having an opinion about it….

“Haven’t we all done this?

“This — is forgiveness.”

***

(from the last few minutes of Ajahn Sucitto’s talk: Body — the Last Outpost of Sanity. Click here to listen.)

21 Feb
2019
Posted in: Books, Teachers
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Mamma Knows the Way

For today, I’m taking a page (literally) from my Sweet-Metta Dhamma-Mamma:

 (from Walking Each Other Homeby Ram Dass & Mirabai Bush)

19 Feb
2019
Posted in: Poems
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Now, If Poetry Can Help…

I’ve just learned that Tony Hoagland — whose poetry I’ve had a love/hate relationship with since about the time I started this blog — died this past October, from pancreatic cancer. He was sixty-four. 

In The Beautiful Rain
by Tony Hoagland

Hearing that old phrase “a good death,”
which I still don’t exactly understand,
I’ve decided I’ve already
had so many, I don’t need another.

Though before I go
I wish to offer some revisions
to the existing vocabulary.

Let us decline the pretense
of the hyper-factual: the
myocardial infarction; the arterial embolism;
the postoperative complication.

Let us forgo the euphemistic:
the “passed away”
and “shuffled off this mortal coil,”
as worn out and passive as an old dildo.

Now, if poetry can help, it is time to say,
“She fell from her trapeze at 2 am
in the midst of a triple backflip
in front of her favorite witnesses.”

Let us say, “In broad daylight,
Ms. Abigail Miller
conducted her daring escape
before life, that Crook,
had completely picked her pocket.”

It is not too late from some hero
to appear and volunteer
in the name of setting an example:

Let us say, “He flew with abandon,
and a joyous expression on his face,
like a gust of wind
or a man in a necktie
from the last dinner party he would ever have to attend.”

To say, “He was the egg
that elected to break
for the greater cause of the omelet;
the good piece of wood
that leapt into the fire.”

“Through grudging at first,
he fell like the rain,
with his eyes wide open,
willing to change.”

***

May it be so, Tony. May it be so.

18 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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After the Storm

I think of the emotional aspect of my experience as a “body” with the quality of water — much as the physical aspect of my experience has the quality of earth.

This emotional body of mine — for reasons I don’t want to go into right now — was experiencing quite a bit of “weather” yesterday afternoon, so I spent some time listening to Phillip Moffitt’s guided meditation on Metta for the Emotional Body.

Check it out. You never know when the waters are going to start rising!

15 Feb
2019
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
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Worth Celebrating

Exactly ten years ago today, I was at my first-ever retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society) in Barre, Massachusetts. (February. Boston. What was I thinking?!?)

Previously I had been going to retreats at Spirt Rock — which is in California, where it’s warm!!! — but there I was, in Massachusetts (in the winter!!!) because six months earlier, I’d heard a dharmaseed talk by a then-little-known teacher (who I’d certainly never heard of), who was going on about a new book he had just written (which I’d also never heard of), who spoke with a slight southern-ish accent (which I never used to like), but who somehow — I really don’t know how — had such an impact on me that by the time he finished talking, I’d decided: I’ve got to go sit with that guy!

“That guy” was Phillip Moffitt (who is now my main teacher and mentor) and the book he was talking about is Dancing with Life (which is now my all-time favorite dharma book).

So last night, I celebrated, by listening to that first talk, and then to a couple of the talks Phillip gave at that first retreat.

Why not! I feel like it’s sort of my Dharma Anniversary.

Want to celebrate with me?

Here’s a link to that first dharmaseed talk: Dancing with Life

Here’s a link to a couple of Phillip’s talk at that first retreat: The Second Noble Truth and the Hindrances, and Now That You Know, What Do You Know?

Here’s an excerpt from the intro to his book: “Dancing with Life 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 bring 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 may others 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.”

(He’s right.)

***

Cheers!

14 Feb
2019
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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What We Do for Love

I love going on silent retreats. My first was three days long. My longest was two months. I’d love to sit a longer retreat — maybe even a full year, like a friend of mine recently did at the Forest Refuge.

But what about sitting a four-year silent retreat!?!

That’s what Bill and Susan Morgan did! Beginning in the fall of 2009.

Seems kind of crazy, right? From a “normal life” view of things, of course it IS!

But then, isn’t love always some kind of “crazy”?

Check it out:

“Now, in a series of seven videos entitled A Deeper Dive, the couple reflect on their extraordinary experiences at the Forest Refuge. They speak about how they came to the idea to commit to such a prolonged period of practice, the challenges they faced along the way, and several profound insights they gleaned both about themselves as individuals, and as a couple, practicing side-by-side every day, without speaking, for four years.”
– from Insight Meditation Society Sangha News