Browsing Category "Groups"
19 Oct
Posted in: Groups, Talks
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May We All Be Happy


Note: I’ll be entertaining an out-of-town friend starting tomorrow, so I’m taking a little break from posting while she’s here. Check back again on Monday (10/24). 

In the mean time, I leave you with the prep work I’ve “assigned” for the Let’s Talk Dharma discussion group that meets at my house tomorrow evening. The topic is Wise Concentration, and the homework is a talk given by Tempel Smith, who spent a lot of time doing metta as a concentration practice and who tells a really great story about the purification process (aka “meltdown”) he went through on a long metta retreat. (The story has a happy ending.)

You can listen to it by clicking here. May you be happy!


(That’s me with Tempel and a group of dharma buddies when we were in Burma!)

15 Sep
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Every Seat in the House

img_5792No time for a proper post, so instead I’ll share this photo of my living room, which I’ve just gotten ready for the “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion tonight…by bringing in every single chair in the whole house!

12 Sep
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Who Could Ever Stand It?

pikachu_gone_crazy____by_moon_manunit_42In preparation this Thursday’s “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion on Enlightenment, I offer this quote from Buddhadasa’s teaching on Nirvana for Everyone:

When causal conditions are not present, mental defilements [greed, hatred, and delusion] simply become extinct. Even though the extinction may be temporary, even thought there is only temporary coolness, the phenomenon has the real sense of nirvana.

Hence, temporary nirvana does exist for for those who have some defilements left; temporary nirvana nourishes all sentient beings.

If defilements were with us day and night without ceasing, who could ever stand it? Living things would either die, or become insane…and then die. One survives because there are periods when the fires of defilements do not burn. Temporary nirvana keeps all of us alive and well, and is a nourishing condition, normal to life. 

17 Aug
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It Is Possible


As I posted earlier, the homework assignment for tomorrow night’s “Let’s Talk” Dharma discussion, is to listen to Jack Kornfield’s talk, “Labor of Love — Right Livelihood”. In it, Jack quotes Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859):

“It is possible to have outer liberty and still be enslaved. The time may come when men and women are carried away by the pursuit of wealth and lose all self restraint. In their exclusive anxiety to make a fortune, they neglect their chief business, which is to remain masters of their own life and heart.”


21 Jul
Posted in: Books, Groups
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According to How We Act

future will ariseI’m still getting ready for the “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion on Karma (which meets tonight at my house!), so I’ll just post a quick quote from Ajahn Sucitto’s really wonderful book on the topic: Kamma and the End of Kamma. (click here for free e-book)

“The past is not dead; its effects carry potential. The future will arise according to how we act on that.” 

5 Jul
Posted in: Groups
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Let’s Talk Dharma

KAMPONG THOM, CAMBODIA - JANUARY 13: A statue of Buddha is seen at a temple in Kampong Thom province on January 5, 2016 in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Kampong Thom is Cambodia's second largest province by area. There are a number of significant Angkorian sites in the area, including Prasat Sambor Prei Kuk and Prasat Andet temples. (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images)

For those of you who haven’t already heard, I’m starting a new “Let’s Talk Dharma” Discussion Group. Here’s the email announcement I sent out yesterday:

*** As many of you know, I am in the middle of a 2-year Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program led by Spirit Rock. The focus of the program right now is on learning to develop/organize/teach day-long events and multi-week series of classes. We are encouraged to take a creative approach to this, so instead of offering a standard introductory course on basic Buddhist teachings, I’ve decided to try a series of once-a-month Dharma discussion “classes”, each focusing on a single topic of interest. Thus:


When: 3rd Thursday of each month, beginning July 21, 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Where: My house (in Dogtown)
Format: 20-minute sit, teaching on a selected topic, Q&A, discussion
Cost: Dana (This means the teachings are offered freely. Donations to support these teachings will be freely accepted.)
July 21: The Buddha’s Teaching on KARMA
August 18: The Buddha’s Teaching on RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
September 15: The Buddha’s Teaching on ENLIGHTENMENT
October 20: To be determined
November 17: To be determined
December 15: To be determined
Note: SPACE IS VERY LIMITED. You do NOT need to attend every session, but for each session you do attend, you WILL NEED to RESERVE YOUR PLACE.

For more information and/or to sign up, email Jan here.

11 Apr
Posted in: Groups
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It’s Good to Have Good Friends

reallygoodfriendsAt our last meeting, one of my good friends in the Kalyana Mitta Group I belong to shared a lovely article written by Norman Fischer that I’d like to share with you, too. (Thanks Anne!) It’s from the May issue of Lion’s Roar magazine.

The article starts with a story about advice the Buddha gave to a meditator who wanted to practice alone in an especially beautiful and peaceful mango grove, but who found that his mediation was anything but beautiful and peaceful. (Probably because it was too self-centered.)

“Five things induce release of heart and lasting peace, the Buddha told him. “First, a lovely intimacy with good friends. Second, virtuous conduct. Third, frequent conversation that inspires and encourages practice. Fourth, diligence, energy, and enthusiasm for the good. And fifth, insight into impermanence.” 

The Buddha then went through the list again, this time preceding each of the other items with the first: “When there is a lovely intimacy between friends, then there is virtuous conduct,” etc.   

“In other words,” Fischer writes, “friendship is the most important element in the spiritual path. Everything else naturally flows from it…..

“In the Buddhist path, spiritual friendship takes place in the context of community….. It is less about personal connection than it is about helping one another grow in faith and goodness….

“Often the most unlikely people show up….people who under ordinary circumstances would never meet and spend weeks, maybe years, together. Yet this disparate group of people manages to find harmony, commonality, and deep mutual appreciation despite their differences. They come to share something more fundamental than their interests and affinities…”


I have found this to be true. Nothing is more lovely than the intimacy I have shared with spiritual friends.


27 Jan
Posted in: Groups, Racism
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What Love’s Got to Do with It

I'm_not_listeningTonight I meet (by Skype) with my White Awake study group. It’s a very thoughtful and surprisingly non-confrontational course of study that looks at Whiteness and Racism and while it covers pretty much what you’d expect, it’s unlike any “diversity training” I’ve ever done before. It’s hard to explain what’s so different about it. Let me just say that it feels like this time the subject is being looked at with love. And it’s having a profound impact on my ease and openness in looking at — and talking about — the many habitual ways that people in a dominant culture tend to ignore/discount/not-see/not-include whatever doesn’t fit into the narrative of that culture.

So in honor of this process of waking up, I offer this quote from Maya Angelou:

“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me, ‘I love you.’… There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

19 Jan
Posted in: Groups, Retreats, Talks
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“Sampler Retreats”

SamplerThis morning I sent an email about my latest idea to connect folks here in St. Louis with retreat teachers and practices at Spirit Rock and IMS (Insight Meditation Society). But not everyone is on my mailing list so — with apologies to those who have already gotten the word — I’m re-posting the email here:

Whenever I come back from retreat at Spirit Rock (SR) or IMS (Insight Meditation Society), I’m always filled with gratitude for the opportunity to sit with and learn from teachers who have had so many years of deep, DEEP experience practicing the Dharma. At the “Box Retreat” on Sunday, Sharon Salzberg said that by the time an insight has formed itself into words/thoughts in your mind, it has already changed you….and it’s clear to me that the teachers I’ve sat with at SR/IMS have been profoundly changed in ways that I also want to be changed.

Which is why I keep going on retreats!

I know how fortunate I am to be able to do that. And I know that taking time away from work and/or family is not something everyone is able to do. Not to mention flying halfway across the country, paying the fees, making the arrangements, etc etc etc. But I also know how vital it is to experience the teachings offered in this way and to connect with teachers who embody this level of practice.

Which is why I’m committed to finding ways to bring something of the retreat practice available at SR/IMS to all of us here in St. Louis. It’s why I joined the board of MidAmerica Dharma and am acting as retreat coordinator for 2017. It’s also why I started offering the video-recorded “Box” retreats.

And now I’ve got another idea:

I’m going to try offering “Sampler Retreats.” By which I mean choosing a sampling of recorded talks and guided meditation instructions taken from a selected retreat offered at SR/IMS, and playing them — one each week, for 4 weeksat my house (in Dogtown), to a small group of people who have signed up in advance and are committed to attending at least 3 of the 4 weeks. We would start each session with sitting meditation and end with group discussion.

Here’s the first “Sampler”:

Joy on the Path: selected talks/instructions from this retreat at IMS (January 9-16, 2016), led by Lila Kate Wheeler (one of my mentors) and Pascal Auclair.
“While silently sitting and walking with meditative presence, and with guidance from the teachers, we will explore the different kinds of spiritual joy: joy in the happiness of others and in their good qualities and good fortune; the joy of blamelessness; and the joy of presence, concentration, insight and liberation!

Thursday, Feb 4, 7:00 to 9:00 pm: Joy and Gladdening, talk by Lila Kate Wheeler

Thursday, Feb 11, 7:00 to 9:00 pm: Meditation Instructions on Concentration, led by Pascal Auclair

Thursday, Feb 18, 7:00 to 9:00 pm: This Fleeting Life, talk by Lila Kate Wheeler

Thursday, Feb 25, 7:00 to 9:00 pm: Joy on the Path, talk by Pascal Auclair

(There are 11 recorded talks/instructions available from this retreat. Click here for the full set of talks.)

Space at my house is VERY limited. Send me an email here if you would like to reserve a seat and expect to be able to attend at least 3 of the 4 weeks. Also, email me if you are interested in future “Samplers,” but are unable to attend this one.

I hope this works!

16 Nov
Posted in: Groups, Resources
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Out of the Battle

David H. led the Sunday Sangha Sitting Group yesterday, starting with this reading from Ajahn Chah:

“The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this–just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle.

David followed with selection of reading on what Buddhists call ” The Heavenly Messengers,” (i.e. Old Age, Sickness, and Death). He read from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s Meeting the Divine Messengers (click here to read) and from an article in Tricycle magazine titled Taken Away and Given: Encounters in Old Agewhich begins:

“It is said that we who live within the mists do not see the shapes of the clouds that are our dwelling place. We do not see the light of the sun, the moon, the stars, nor do we know the vastness of the sky.” (click here to read more)


Nina will be leading the discussion next week. She often finds her Dharma in the pages of the New York Times. Stay tuned!