Browsing Category "Practice"
6 Jun
Posted in: Practice
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All Conditioned Things

“All conditioned things are impermanent.
Their nature is to arise and pass away.
To be in harmony with this truth
Brings true happiness.”

My cat Ruby is dying. She’s about 15 years old and has been losing weight dramatically. She used to be…well…Rubenesque, but then all of a sudden (it seemed) she was looking rather svelte. But she kept losing weight and now she’s way past the super model stage.

Yesterday, when I came home from work, I could see that Ruby had been sick all over the house. I found her hiding where she always goes when she wants to be invisible. I thought she was dead. But then she opened her eyes. And she came out. She walked around. She went to the water bowl and looked at it for a while. She didn’t drink. But she didn’t seem to be in any pain or distress.

It was Metta night, so I went to sit with the group. (Which is a wonderful thing to do in circumstances like these, by the way. Thank you to all who were there.)

I was afraid that I’d come home from the group to find her dead. She had hidden herself again, but she was alive. She came out then….even went all the way downstairs, jumped up on the couch, and sat in my lap!

So it’s not over yet.

But it’s close.

What is there to do, but to say metta phrases for Ruby: May you feel safe and protected. May you be peaceful. May you be comfortable. May you live..and die…with ease. And for myself as well: May I feel safe and protected. May I be peaceful. May I be strong. May I, too, live…and die…with ease.  

(image: “Outsider Art,” Untitled, by Dwight Mackintosh)

29 May
Posted in: Food, Practice
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I’m Eating!

I’ve been listening to recordings of Sayadaw U Tejaniya answering questions during a recent retreat at IMS and it’s inspired me to re-think the First Bite Meditation practice I’ve been trying to do.

Instead of trying to remember to be mindful when I’m taking the first bite of each meal, I’ve decided to relax a bit and simply notice that….when I’m eating, I’m eating! Instead of trying to do something special with that first bite, I’ve shifted the focus to just trying to be aware of what I’m doing. If I notice I’m eating right from the first bite–great. If I notice I’m eating in the middle of the meal, or even at the end of the meal–also great.

And guess what! Now that I’ve let go of trying to “do” something, I’m finding that it’s not all that hard to be aware, at some point, that I’m eating when I’m eating!

Actually, it’s more like: it’s not all that hard to keep waking up to the fact that I’m eating. I keep zoning out again, of course. But then, I get another chance to wake up!

21 May
Posted in: Food, Practice
By    Comments Off on Delicious


My niece got married this weekend and everything about it was wonderful. The beautiful couple was happy and the families were delighted. The music was joyous. The flowers were lovely. And the food was delicious.

At least I think it was. But I can’t say for sure, because once again, my First Bite Meditation practice somehow slipped my mind.

Not entirely. About half-way through the meal I noticed a sweet-tart, “sting” of balsamic vinegar as I bit into the portobello mushroom. And I woke up!

But then right away I noticed some resistance to really focusing on the flavors. I noticed that I didn’t want to slow down. I didn’t want to “waste” time tasting what was in my mouth….I wanted to hurry up and get to that next bite!

And then I realized that there was something about the wanting that I wanted. I actually wanted to feel the wanting. There was something about it that was familiar. That felt right. It was as if I was certain that if the wanting wasn’t there, then somehow I wasn’t having a good time.

This is delusion, I’m sure. Because the sensation of wanting was a kind of force, a pressure, that needed the next thing. And I wanted to feel it. Even though it was a kind of dissatisfaction. Which is the opposite of enjoyment.

But just knowing that didn’t make it go away. It did make me think about it, though. So I’m giving myself credit for that.

18 May
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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Then Comes Joy

Pascal Auclair gave a great talk at the retreat on Renunciation, a word which always sounds punishing to me. But Pascal talked about it in terms of “profound release” and “a joyful letting go.” Which sounds a heck of a lot better.

Almost as an aside, he mentioned that he’s heard Phillip Moffitt talk about 3 renunciations that he (Phillip) has taken on. I’m considering taking them on, too.

(1) Not being the star of my own movie.

(2) Not measuring my success by the number of desires that are met.

(3) Not being attached to being right.

The caveat here, from Pascal’s talk, is that “renunciation can not be led by ill will or repression, but when it’s aligned with wisdom…..then comes joy.”





(image from The Housewives Tarot)

17 May
Posted in: Practice, Sangha at Large
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Sitting in the Park

One of our Maplewood Metta sangha members, Cindy Brinkop, has started a new sitting group. It’s called Sitting in the Park and that’s just what they do!

I’ve listed them on the Neighborhood Sitting Groups page, but I wanted to highlight them here because I think it’s so cool.

When: Every Saturday morning through October (weather permitting), 8:30 to 9:00 am
(Beginners requesting instruction are invited to arrive at 8:15)

Where: Tower Grove Park, just west of the Farmer’s Market (on the Kingshighway side)

Look for the Tibetan Prayer Flags! (And bring a waterproof mat or cushion.)

For more info, contact Cindy.

16 May
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Judging-Comparing-Fixing


At the retreat, we renewed our commitment — our vow, really — to abstain from judging, comparing and fixing. Which, of course, didn’t mean that we all stopped doing it.

But we all did commit to take this on as a practice.

And it occurs to me that this is a practice of equanimity. By not judging others, by not comparing myself to them and by not trying to “fix” them, I am letting them be who they are, as they are. This doesn’t mean that I withdraw from them. I can be right there with them. Present and responsive, as needed.

But they don’t have to be the way I want them to be for me to care about them. They don’t have to be like me. And I don’t have to be like them. We are profoundly connected, but we don’t need to go around fixing each other.

So I have added this to my morning ritual. In addition to taking the traditional vows to avoid harming other beings, I have add: For my own freedom and for the freedom of others, I will practice equanimity by not judging, comparing or fixing.


15 May
Posted in: Food, Practice
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Not So Easy

I thought I was a pretty mindful person. I thought taking on a First Bite Meditation practice would be fairly straightforward, not too difficult….maybe a bit tedious, but really not that much of a challenge.

I was wrong.

I haven’t been able to go a single day without forgetting to do the practice at least once. Actually, a lot more than once. And it’s not like I’m catching myself after a bite or two! Sometimes I do. But often — often — I’ve finished the entire meal and am off onto something else before it even crosses my mind that I was supposed to stop and actually notice what I was eating.


But I’m not giving up. And I’m not giving myself a bad time about it. I’m just noticing…with surprise. I’m giving a little respectful bow to the formidable power of habit, and I’m starting over.

Again and again.

9 May
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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Stop. Take a breath. Observe. Proceed.

This is a cool little mindfulness practice I brought back from the retreat, thanks to Tempel Smith. At least once a day, I send a text to one of my dharma buddies that just says: STOP.

It stands for: Stop. Take a breath. Observe. Proceed.

And at least once a day, each of them sends the same text to me.

So, randomly, I get these little “pings” on my cell phone throughout the day, and I’m reminded to come back to the present moment and to notice what’s going on. It’s very sweet. Especially since I’m also reminded that someone I care about is thinking of me.

8 May
Posted in: Food, Practice, Retreats
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First Bite Meditation

On the last day of the “Worldly Dharmas” retreat, Sally Armstrong asked us to write down — and to share — one or two intentions we have for bringing our practice into the world over the next few months.

One of mine has to do with money and I’ll write more about that later. But the other one is to practice what I’m calling First Bite Meditation.

Mindfully eating at every meal is surely a good idea, but the truth is, it’s just not going to happen. At least not for me. At least not right now.

But I do think I can manage to be somewhat more mindful. And my first step is to set an intention of mindfully eating the first bite of every meal.

I’ve been trying it now for 2-and-a-half days, and most of the time I’ve caught myself mid-bite, mid-meal and thought….#!%&!….I forgot again! But then I just say, OK, at least I can stop for a second and taste this bite.

And then I do.

It’s harder than I thought, but it’s getting easier. I’m catching myself earlier. And I’m slowing down a little bit more.

It’s good to be in the world….and to know what it tastes like!