20 Sep
2019
Posted in: Books
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Are You Afraid of Being Happy?

In Dancing with Life, Phillip Moffitt writes:

“A few years ago I was teaching a silent meditation retreat attended by a student I’ll call Thomas… After much inquiry, Thomas came to the conclusion that he almost never stayed mindful during his good moments, partly because he had an unconscious belief that good moments are the way life is supposed to be, so when they occurred it simply indicated that he was finally functioning at his minimal level of capacity…

“Further exploration revealed that Thomas was also afraid that if he focused on the good moments in meditation or in his daily life he would become lazy and lose his motivation to both succeed in the world and to practice.

“Working with Thomas led me to start noticing how many people in my weekly sitting group skip over their good moments of meditation. Then I began being mindful of how many people in casual daily conversation seldom mention enjoying something, being in a good mood, or feeling gratitude or appreciation for their many blessings.

“What it revealed to me is that people are afraid or at least ambivalent about being present for their own happiness!

“….You may be telling yourself that you certainly are not afraid of your happiness. You might be right, but I suggest that you pay more attention to how you handle your moments of happiness before reaching such a conclusion.

“In my observation ambivalence, defensiveness, and even aversion toward happiness is quite pervasive. Even among people who talk about wanting to be happy, there is a tendency to distance themselves and take their actual felt experience of happiness for granted…

“Sometime students resist my instructions to be mindful of their happy moments because they mistakenly believe that if they bring mindfulness to their joy it will disappear!

“When I first encountered this belief it took me by surprise. Your happiness will not be diminished by becoming fully present with it; it will be enhanced. It is true, however, that your mindfulness of the pleasant will reveal whether you are clinging during times of happiness, or if your euphoria is false, or if your pleasure is coming from unskillful acts that will bring harm….

“Once you understand the depth and subtlety of practicing with happiness, you will see how challenging it can be for your mind to embrace happiness but also how beneficial it can be to your life…

Let this be your quiet practice, your open secret, visible in your feeling tone, words, and actions, but never directly stated to others…

“Please do not deny yourself this gift of wonderment and joy; being fully present with your happiness is a vital part of dancing with life.”

18 Sep
2019
Posted in: Poems
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A Kind of Love, Is it Not?

The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

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.

***