1 Aug
Posted in: Art, Practice
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(Illustration/text by Maira Kalman, who sat a 3-day silent retreat at IMS in 2013 and then drew/wrote about the experience for Mindful magazine.)

31 Jul
Posted in: Classes
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Cultivation of Attention

I’m thinking of offering a new 5-week Study & Practice class series on the Cultivation of Attention. So far, I’m planning to include instructions and guided meditations on:

  • Resting Attention on the Body
  • Aiming and Sustaining Attention
  • Practicing Kind Attention

I’m hoping to offer the series beginning Sept 17, but I’m still working out the details. Stay tuned!


(illustration by Maira Kalman)

30 Jul
Posted in: Poems
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Someplace Between the 17th and 18th Mile

Under Ideal Conditions
by Al Zolynas

say in the flattest part of North Dakota
on a starless moonless night
no breath of wind

a man could light a candle
then walk away
every now and then
he could turn and see
the candle burning

seventeen miles later
provided conditions remained ideal
he could still see the flame

somewhere between the seventeen and eighteenth mile
he would lose the light

if he were walking backwards
he would know the exact moment when he lost the flame

he could step forward and find it again
back and forth
dark to light light to dark

what’s the place where the light disappears?
where the light reappears?
don’t tell me about photons
and eyeballs
reflection and refraction
don’t tell me about one hundred and eighty-six thousand
miles per second and the theory of relativity

all I know is that place
where the light appears and disappears
that’s the place where we live

29 Jul
Posted in: Books
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What, Perhaps, Joy Is

I was just getting ready to post this lovely little delight from Ross Gay’s Book of Delights (thank you again, Brian) when I got a text (thank you Carrie!) alerting me to the recent On Being podcast, in which this very same Ross Gay responds to the question: “How can we be joyful in a moment like this?” by saying “How can we not be joyful, especially in a moment like this?” and then goes on to say that joy has nothing to do with ease and “everything to do with the fact that we’re all going to die.”

Read the selection I had planned for today (below) and if you want more (which how could you not?!?), listen to the podcast, titled: Tending Joy and Practicing Delight.

“Joy Is Such a Human Madness”: The Duff Between Us
by Ross Gay

“In healthy forests, which we might imagine to exist mostly above ground, and be wrong in our imagining, given as the bulk of the tree, the roots, are reaching through the earth below, there exists a constant communication between those roots and mycelium, where often the ill or weak or stressed are supported by the strong and surplussed.

“By which I mean a tree over there needs nitrogen, and a nearby tree has extra, so the hyphae (so close to hyphen, the handshake of the punctuation world), the fungal ambulances, ferry it over. Constantly. This tree to that. That to this. And that in a tablespoon of rich fungal duff (a delight: the phrase fungal duff, meaning a healthy forest soil, swirling with the living the dead make) are miles and miles of hyphae, handshakes, who get a little sugar for their work. The pronoun who turned the mushrooms into people, yes it did. Evolved the people into mushrooms.

“Because in trying to articulate what, perhaps, joy is, it has occurred to me that among other things — the trees and the mushrooms have shown me this — joy is the mostly invisible, the underground union between us, you and me, which is, among other things, the great fact of our life and the lives of everyone and everything we love going away. If we sink a spoon into that fact, into the duff between us, we will find it teeming. It will look like all the books ever written. It will look like all the nerves in a body. We might call it sorrow, but we might call it a union, one that, once we notice it, once we bring it into the light, might become flower and food. Might be joy.”

26 Jul
Posted in: gratitude
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It’s Good to Go Slow

I went to the orthopedic surgeon today to try to get a sense of what I will need in terms of a support network when I have to get my arthritic knee(s) replaced. (My house only has one bathroom and it’s on the second floor.)

The bad news is that, yes, both knees are worse than they were the last time I visited the surgeon (a year-and-a-half ago), and yes, we’re pretty much down to bone-on-bone (not to mention the hideous meniscus!).

But the good news is that the knee(s) are not SO bad that I have to have surgery done right away, or even that it has to be done any time soon! There are still pain meds that can help. (So far I’ve only been taking over-the-counter NSAIDs.) And if the new meds don’t help, there are shots I can get that could offer relief for as much as 6 months at a time. (I hate shots, but I hate being cut up a whole lot more.)

Of course, I’m sure I could find another surgeon who would we happy to go right ahead and do the surgery — NOW. But I’m really kind of loving that I’ve got a surgeon who’s not really in a hurry to do surgery!

Also, that he and my brother were roommates in med school. When the surgeon realized who I was, he told me he had a picture at home of him and my brother together, posing like like they were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (my brother looked/looks just like Robert Redford!), so I feel like I’m getting the best “this-is-what-I-would-do-for-my-own-sister” kind of treatment.

Which, in itself, is a pain reliever.

25 Jul
Posted in: Talks
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Same but Different

If you liked the video I posted on Monday, in which Bhikkhu Analayo talks about Respecting the Different Buddhist Traditions, I think you’ll also like watching Bhikkhu Bodhi speak on the same topic, this time with quite a bit more historical detail. (Bhikkhu Bodhi was Bhikkhu Analayo’s teacher and mentor.)

The title of Ven. Bodhi’s talk is Bridging the Two Vehicles (1 hr 25 min). I found it fascinating. (Worth the time just to witness his joy and generous spirit.) Watch it on YouTube here.

24 Jul
Posted in: Poems
By    Comments Off on Ask. Answer.

Ask. Answer.

I ask and you answer.
When I do not ask, you do not answer.

What can it be then that is in your heart,
O Lord Bodhidharma?

And what is it, the heart?
It is the sound of the pine breeze
there in the ink painting on the wall.

— Ikkyu

22 Jul
Posted in: Talks
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It Takes a Garden

A major theme of the Advanced Practitioner Program at Spirit Rock and the June retreat at the Forest Refuge is how to make sense of the differences in teaching between different Buddhist traditions — particularly between an Early Buddhist understanding of the Nature of Awareness and Tibetan Dzogchen.

Naturally, I have my own personal preference, but I don’t want to make that a problem. Which is why I love Bhikkhu Analayo’s great little YouTube video on Respecting the Different Buddhist Traditions. (30 minutes) He talks about seeing the different traditions as different kinds of flowers, laid out in a “garden” of historical time — thus avoiding both fundamentalism (which he says would be like preferring a black-and-white photo to an actual living garden) while also avoiding universalism (which he says would be like putting all the flowers into a blender!)

I love this talk, even though he’s not on “my side” in the Nature of Awareness “debate.”

Here’s a frame from the video. I can’t figure out how to imbed it, so just click here.

20 Jul
Posted in: gratitude
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Not Just Tonight

In honor of today’s 50th anniversary of our landing on the moon and in appreciation for my father, whose work in developing an equation to describe orbital ellipses was used in the guidance and control systems of the Apollo 11 space craft (he was — literally — a rocket scientist), I offer this haiku by Ihara Saikaku:

Villages may lack
sea bream or flowers
but they all have
tonight’s moon.


I’m proud of you, Dad.

18 Jul
Posted in: Poems
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Heavy Sigh.

Dakota Homecoming
by Gwen Westerman,
published in The Sun, August 2019 issue

We are so honored that
you are here, they said.

We know that this is
your homeland, they said.

The admission price
is five dollars, they said.

Here is your button
for the event, they said.

It means so much to us that
you are here, they said.

We want to write
an apology letter, they said.

Tell us what to say.