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5 Sep
2013
Posted in: Food, Groups
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Sangha Curry

The Dancing with Life KM Group added a bit of spice to last Monday night’s session by meeting at the home of one of our members — instead of at our regular meeting place — and having dinner together. We didn’t talk much about the book, but we did talk about our lives and our practice….which, after all, is what Dharma Friendship all about.

We had Chickpea and Spinach Curry over Spicy Indian Rice with Toasted Almonds made from the totally awesome cookbook: Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Moskowitz. Here’s the recipe for the curry:

Chickpea and Spinach Curry (serves 6-8)

1 12-oz can whole tomatoes (in juice, not puree)
3 Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced
3 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp asafoetida (optional)
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
10 cups fresh spinach, well rinsed and chopped
4 cups chickpeas, cooked and drained, or 2 15-0z. cans, drained and rinsed

Prepare the tomatoes by removing them one at a time from the can, squeezing out the juice, and tearing them into bite-size pieces. Place the prepared tomatoes in a bowl and reserve the juice in the can.

Preheat a medium-size saucepan over moderate heat; pour in the vegetable oil and then the mustard seeds. Let the seeds pop for about a minute (you may want to cover the pot so the seeds can’t escape), then add the onion; turn up the heat to  medium-high and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onion begins to brown.

Add garlic and ginger, and sauté 2 more minutes. Add spices, salt and 1/4 cup of the reserved tomato juice; sauté one minute more. Add tomatoes and heat through. Add handfuls of spinach, mixing each addition until wilted. When all the spinach has completely wilted and the mixture is liquid-y, add the chickpeas.

Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the spices if necessary. Simmer uncovered for about 10 more minutes, or until a thick, stew-like consistency is achieved.

Enjoy with friends!

16 Jul
2013
Posted in: Books, Groups, Talks
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Knowing That You Know

Last night the Dharma Seed KM group listened to a wonderful talk by Phillip Moffitt called The Refuge in Awareness. In it, he discusses the subtle nature of awareness, gives very helpful directions on how to take awareness itself as an object of meditation and reflects deeply on what it means to “rest” in awareness. I highly recommend listening it. (click here)

Phillip often uses the phrase “knowing that you know” to describe this quality of awareness. In Dancing with Life, he lists three empowerments that come from this knowing:

“First, only by knowing that you know will you have a base of insight that will allow you to realize the remaining insights. Otherwise, you will get stuck in your thoughts and emotions…

Second, by enabling you to integrate the insights into your daily existence, knowing that you know allows the dharma to make a substantial transformation in how you live your life right now….

“Finally, knowing that you know is an end in itself. Ajahn Sumedho describes this state as ‘Buddha knows the dharma,’ when your true nature is in touch with itselfThe result is what I call an ’embodied presence’: You become a person who walks your talk because you’re consciously willing to bear your suffering. With the integration of each truth, your wisdom grows and this sense of embodied presence becomes stronger and stronger.” 

(image from: Napo Tarot)

9 Jul
2013
Posted in: Books, Groups
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How to Dance

We had a great discussion at the Dancing with Life KM group last night. We’ve just started reading the last section of the book, which focuses on the Fourth Noble Truth: the Way Leading to the End of Suffering. This is where we look at the Buddha’s guide for purifying the mind: the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the training in ethical behavior (sila), mindfulness and concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panna).

“As you have seen through practicing mindfulness, your thoughts, words, and actions have consequences; they condition future moments in your life that will create either suffering or nonsuffering.

“For this reason….you cultivate ethical behavior (sila) so that your mind is not disturbed by guilt and denial.

“You develop mindfulness and concentration (samadhi) both in meditation and life so that your mind is steady and awake during all your daily activities so that you are present to make choices that do not create dukkha (suffering). 

And finally, you cultivate wisdom (panna) through meditation, observation, and reflection so that you develop the discernment to know what brings happiness and what causes suffering. All three–sila, samadhi, and panna–act together to purify the mind.”

I have to admit that “purifying the mind” is not what I thought I was getting into when I started meditation. “Purifying” sounds painful! It sounds “puritanical” and conjures up all kinds of abusive messages about being “dirty” and “sinful.”

But that’s not what this is about.

Purification of the mind brings the steadiness and the clarity that allows insight to arise. Both purification and insight are necessary for genuine liberation.

“Purification practice without insight and compassion leads to fundamentalism, a fixed view about right and wrong. It lends itself to superstition, to condemnation of others, and to imposing your will on others.

“Likewise, insight without purification can result in nihilism or hedonism, self-serving ignorance, and lack of accountability such that any behavior can be justified or rationalized.

Even when you have profound insights they cannot be integrated into your life if your mind is unpurified. You are unable to move to a new level of consciousness, and you continue to cause suffering for yourself and others

“By contrast, the act of skillfully dancing with life through the Noble Eightfold Path brings about the precursors moments of well-being and freedom that move you forward to full cessation [freedom from suffering].”  

(image from: The Rehearsal Onstage (detail), by Edgar Degas)

19 Jun
2013
Posted in: Groups, Talks
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Consciousness, Mindfulness and Awareness

Last Monday night, the Dharma Seed KM Group began its “Virtual Retreat” by listening to the first talk given at The Nature of Awareness: Insight Meditation Retreat for Experienced Studentswhich was held at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) on April 12-18, 2013. By “Virtual Retreat” we mean that between June 17 and Aug 12, we will listen to all the available talks from that retreat…one at each of our twice-monthly meetings…and that we will listen to them in the order they were given, so we’ll have some sense of the arc of the teachings as they were presented.

The first talk, The Attitude in Awareness, was given by Guy Armstrong. Guy talked about bringing a Relaxed, Observant, and Accepting attitude to our meditation practice, but he also spent quite a bit of time discussing the difference between three words that I’ve often heard used interchangeably: Consciousness, Mindfulness, and Awareness.

I was pretty clear on Consciousness….but Mindfulness and Awareness….those two have always been kind of a muddle.

If you want to know all the details, listen to the talk. But in summary:

Consciousness (vinnana in Pali) is the activation that takes place when the brain is “impacted” by a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, or mental “sensation” such as a thought or emotion. One has to be alive (and not sedated) to be conscious, but one does not necessarily have to be intelligent, thoughtful or even attentive.

Mindfulness (sati in Pali) is the activity of the mind that knows when something is being sensed, perceived, understood, etc. There has to be an understanding present for mindfulness to be happening…an intention to be attentive and a knowing of it. One has to be conscious, also, but consciousness alone is not enough.

Awareness (there is no equivalent word in Pali) is a term that is used much more loosely. Sometimes it means mindfulness. Sometimes it means conscious. And sometimes it means something in between.

Hmmmm. So what IS this “Nature of Awareness”? Good question. Guess that’s why it’s the title of the retreat.

Stay tuned.

(image from: Creative Whack Pack, by Roger von Oech)

 

21 Mar
2013
Posted in: Groups
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A Room with Less of a View

Because there’s a church event that’s held in Hope Chapel on the 3rd Wednesday of every month, last night the Dharma Friends Sitting Group met in….well, let’s just say….less impressive surroundings.

But it’s not the place we come for — it’s the practice. And the discussion afterwards. Which were both really wonderful last night.

I hope you will join us next time.

We meet every Wednesday, 7:00 to 8:30 pm at First Unitarian Church, 5007 Waterman at Kingshighway (in the Central West End).

 

Usually we’re in Hope Chapel.

But once a month, we’re not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Mar
2013
Posted in: Books, Groups
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Momentary Nibbana

In Dancing with Life, Phillip Moffitt writes, “In daily life you’ve no doubt experienced many moments of cessation when your mind was finally free from stress and contraction after a period of suffering: There were the arguments in which you were attached to being right, but winning them suddenly no longer mattered; there were your old desires of receiving recognition or acceptance, or getting some material object, but now you realize you no longer care about them; or there was the time you were rejected by someone you were in love with and it hurt for a long time, but now there is no pain. The stress you felt about all of those things that you thought you had to have just disappeared.

“The late Thai meditation teacher the Venerable Ajahn Buddhadosa says that each of these ordinary moments in which the mind is no longer grasping is a moment of nibbana, a little sampling of the mind being free from clinging. He teaches that if you did not have many of these small, brief moments of cessation each day you would literally go crazy from the tension and stress that arise from clinging.

There are hundreds, even thousands of moments each day when your mind is not grasping at anything. Your mind is temporarily, albeit briefly, content with how things are, and it is not stressed.”

So pay attention….and enjoy all those little bits of freedom!

(image: Housewives Tarot)

14 Mar
2013
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Room with a View

Wow. Now that the days have gotten longer, the Dharma Friends Sitting Group room really shines!

Here’s the view looking out toward the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s the room again, this time looking in from the garden.

As you can see, it’s nice and big, with plenty of space for sitting….and walking! In fact, we’re thinking about doing a day or half-day of sitting-and-walking practice at some point in the future.

Stay tuned.

 

11 Mar
2013
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Burning Mind

The Monday night “Dancing with Life” KM group has started reading Chapter 14, which begins looking deeply into the Third Noble Truth: The Noble Truth of Cessation is the abandoning of all craving.

Phillip Moffitt writes, “Imagine your mind totally free of craving, ill will, and delusion. It is clear, alert, and unaffected by external and internal conditions, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This liberated mind state is what comes with the realization of the Third Noble Truth….

“The fruit of realizing cessation is nibbana, in which you are no longer affected by dukkha. Nibbana literally means, ‘cooled’ and is analogous to a fire that’s no longer burning. Thus, when there is cessation, your mind no longer burns in response to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant in your life; it isn’t reactive or controlled by what you like or dislike…

“From this place of non-attachement, you are free to respond to the moment in a manner that is aligned with your values and reflects your deepest wisdom.”

(image: Q-cards)

7 Mar
2013
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We’re in the Chapel!

Dharma Friends Sitting Group met for the first time last night at the First Unitarian Church on Waterman at Kingshighway in the Central West End. I thought we’d be in a small conference room upstairs, but instead the church had reserved their large, open, modernist Hope Chapel for us!

 

 

 

 

At first I was concerned about the space because the group has been quite small. But there was a little alter along the wall near one corner (with a candle and a tiny singing bowl!) so I arranged a few chairs in a circle and hoped we wouldn’t feel swamped by the room. Then people started coming and I had to add more chairs!

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to see from these photos, but there’s a lovely garden area just beyond this wall of glass doors that I expect will be delightful once Daylight Savings Time begins. And because the room is so large, we could add walking meditation, if we want. We might even be able to schedule a whole day of sitting-and-walking meditation, at some time in the future.

Stay tuned!

6 Mar
2013
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We Made the News!

The Spirit Rock e-newsletter just came out and they’ve got an article about the St. Louis KM groups! And not only that, they’ve also got a link to our Dharma Town website….which they call “visually stunning.” How cool is that!!!

The article begins,”The Buddha considered sangha to be vitally important. Joining a group of fellow practitioners can support and inspire your practice. The Kalyana Mitta [KM] network is a collection of practice groups throughout the country that bring together members of the Dharma community to study and share practice experiences in a friendly and supportive environment.”

Which is exactly what I had in mind when we started forming these groups. If you’re interested in participating, send me an email or check us out here.

As I said in the article, “For me, the outpouring of interest and active participation in these groups has been a tremendous source of joy, confidence and inspiration. Not only have I found a wonderful new group of like-minded friends, but I feel deeply immersed in the Dharma, and more committed than ever to my life as a practice. At long last, I’ve found my Dharma Home.”

It’s true.