Browsing Category "Retreats"
23 Dec
Posted in: Books, Practice, Retreats
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Expansive, Unlimited

Here’s another quote from the collection we were given at the Exploring the Nature of Awareness retreat I just attended. We were encouraged to continue our practice at home by reading, re-reading, and reflecting on one of the quotes each day.

For today I chose this one, from Intuitive Awareness, by Ajahn Sumedho:

“With intuitive awareness we are taking our refuge in awakeness, which is expansive, unlimited. Thought and mental conception create boundaries. The body is a boundary; emotional habits are boundaries; language is a boundary; words expressing feelings are also boundaries. That which transcends all of this, we begin to recognize through awakening.

“Even if what I’m saying sounds like rubbish to you, be aware of that. Open to the fact that you don’t like what I’m saying. It’s like this. It’s not that you have to like it: it’s starting from the way it is rather than you having to figure out what I’m trying to say.”

22 Dec
Posted in: Books, Retreats
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It’s Like This

At the retreat I just returned from, the focus was on turning our attention from whatever thoughts/sensations/emotions we are experiencing and noticing, instead, the presence of awareness itself. We were given a handout with quotes from various teachers on the nature of awareness and were encouraged to continue our practice at home by taking one of these quotes each day and reflecting on them.

Here’s the quote I’m using today, from Intuitive Awareness, by Ajahn Sumedho:


Awareness is your refuge:
Awareness of the changingness of feelings,
of attitudes, of moods, of material change
and emotional change.
Stay with that, because it’s a refuge that is

It’s not something that changes.

It’s a refuge that you can trust in.

This refuge is not something that you create.
It’s not a creation. It’s not an ideal.
It’s very practical and very simple, but
easily overlooked or not noticed.

When you’re mindful,
you’re beginning to notice:

It’s like this. 


26 Oct
Posted in: Retreats
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Read All About It

We made the news!

St. Louis reporter, Debra Bass, attend a recent meditation retreat led by Shaila Catherine and Phil Jones, held this past August in the Kansas City area. (The retreat was organized by Mid-America Dharma, whose board I recently joined.)

This was Debra’s first silent retreat..but it looks like it won’t be her last:

I’m rather animated, and dramatic storytelling is one of my favorite ways to entertain friends. I’m a loud laugher, and I love a pithy exchange of verbal volleys. My typical retreat involves a passport, yoga classes, lux spa treatments and a juicy murder mystery book. Needless to say, some of my friends expected that I’d call to be rescued from this serene retreat in a 120-year-old building that was originally designed as a mental health asylum known as the ‘Home of the Insane.’

“Yet, in the end I wanted to stay a few days longer in my aged twin bed and vintage floral sheets, crocheted blankets and a stiff creaky mattress. I wanted to sleep a few more days with the gurgling moans of the window air-conditioning unit. I wanted to continue being awakened by the ting of hand-rung bells as 6 a. am.

“I knew I would miss doing yoga barefoot alone on the cool stones lining the Koi pond. I would dream of the afternoon ritual I dubbed porch swing meditation.

“I was not ready to leave. I had found my groove…

“When I returned to my daily life in St. Louis, my friends asked if I felt different (I did) and they asked if I thought my life would be better. At this I shrugged. Within hours of returning home from the retreat a series of unfortunate events showed me that life would continue to be life. The first text I received when I turned my cell phone back on was an image of one of my dearest friends in a hospital bed. He had emergency surgery (ironically, he was my emergency contact during the retreat). Next, a flat tire. At the service shop, I was informed that I needed four new tires that were installed as I waited with my luggage still in the trunk.

“Then, an email from the guy I’d been dating for six months telling me that we should probably just be friends. As I digested this news, I heard screams and shouts outside and a loud knocking on my front door. My neighbor told me that my air condenser had been stolen by two guys in a white SUV. I had been home 17 minutes when I stood staring at the empty concrete patch where the unit had been.

“After the police left, I took a shower, climbed into bed and slept. I lamented my losses and shed a few tears from fatigue and frustration, but I did not ask why me, why now, why does the universe hate me or indulge in grousing other than wonder. A recurring theme at the retreat was that you can’t change life’s cruel tide, but you can choose not to be roiled by it. The next morning I got up at 6:30 a.m. to mediate……”


She goes on delightfully from there. And concludes:

At the end of the retreat, we each shared thoughts, insights, impressions of our experience and one guy in his 30s who works as a lobbyist said that he never felt more alive than he did right then.

“I initially shuddered at the hyperbole, but I couldn’t deny that I felt significantly different. I felt clearer-headed than I could remember. I felt unburdened. I felt utterly and completely OK that I’d spent eight perfectly good summer vacation days sitting in a dimly lighted room with strangers I didn’t talk to. And I wanted to stay.”


Click here to read the entire article. It includes links to upcoming retreats, recommends finding a group to start practicing with….and: there’s a link to Dharma Town!!!!!! 


12 Oct
Posted in: Retreats, Teachers
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You Just Can’t Miss It

Yesterday we held our first-ever Retreat in a Box (led by Jack Kornfield) and I think it was a hit. (Jack’s always a hit.)

So for today I offer this by Alice Walker, which Jack quoted at the retreat:

“One day when I was sitting there like a motherless child which I was, it came to me, that feeling of being a part of everything, and I knew if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed, and I laughed and cried and I ran all around the house. When it happens, you just can’t miss it.”

2 Oct
Posted in: Art, Retreats
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How It Feels To Be Free

OK, so now I’m ready to talk about it…and I just want to say that the CDL training retreat was awesome.

To give you a taste, take a minute (actually 6 minutes and 12 seconds) to watch/listen to this You Tube video of Nina Simon singing/playing…teaching the dharma!….live at Montreau in 1976. It’s a video that one of the CDL teachers (Gina Sharp) played for us as part of our training. (And which Gina has played….all by itself, with nothing added — because nothing is needed! — as a dharma talk.)

Check it out! Click here.

17 Aug
Posted in: Retreats, Teachers
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Introducing: Retreat in a Box

On Sunday, October 11, Dharma Town will host a day-long video-recorded retreat led by Jack Kornfield. Jack led this Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation retreat at Spirit Rock in April of 2014, where it was also offered as a live webcast. The recording of the webcast was made available to Spirit Rock monthly donors (of which I am one).

I checked with Spirit Rock and they said it would be OK for me to invite a group of people to “attend” the recorded retreat, which includes dharma talks, instruction, guided and silent sitting meditation, walking meditation with instructions, and a Q&A session — all given by Jack Kornfield.

So….Spirit Rock RETREAT-IN-A-BOX was born!

This event is FREE and will be held at the  home of one of our sangha members. Space is limited, so reservations are required. If you are interested and would like more information, please email Jan here.

If all goes well, we plan to offer a retreat like this every quarter. The next one is schedule for Sunday, January, 17, 2016. Future topics and teachers are:
No Self in the Brain, led by Rick Hanson
Buddhist Psychology, oled by Jack Kornfield
Equanimity, led by Sharon Salzberg

Stay tuned!


4 Aug
Posted in: Retreats
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Go For It!

If you are at all interested in going on retreat, and are available for either a weekend or a full 8 days beginning Sept 5….THIS IS THE RETREAT FOR YOU.

It will be held in the Kansas City area (only 4 hours from St. Louis) and will be led by Spirit Rock/IMS teacher, Shaila Catherine (who specializes in deep concentration practices), and KC Dharma Leader, Phillip Jones (president of Mid-American Dharma).

DON’T LET FINANCES STAND IN YOUR WAY. Reduced Rates starting at $250 are now available, plus additional financial assistance, if needed.

Please help support our efforts to bring nationally recognized teachers to the midwest by attending this retreat!

Click here to learn more and to register. REGISTRATION ENDS AUG. 22.

28 Apr
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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What It Feels Like

In guiding us through the 4th foundation of Mindfulness (often translated — somewhat opaquely — as “investigation of mind objects”) Ven. Analayo quoted a set of similes the Buddha used to illustrate how it feels when each of the classic “hindrances” is not present. These hindrances are: Craving, Anger, Sloth/Torpor (sluggishness), Restlessness/Worry (agitation), and Doubt. What they hinder is: Peace.

Not craving is like getting out of debt.
Not being angry is like recovering from an illness.
Not feeling sluggishness is like getting out of jail.
Not feeling agitated is like being freed from slavery.
Not being in doubt is like arriving safely after a dangerous journey.

I love these similes because instead of suggesting that craving, anger, etc. are somehow failings on my part that need to be eradicated…..they’re just unpleasant, painful, limiting states of mind that it would be a joy to be free of!

The instruction, then, is not to try to force myself not to crave something, or get angry, etc., but just to notice whenever I’m NOT craving or angry or sluggish, etc.….and then to enjoy the feeling of being FREE!!!

How liberating.

27 Apr
Posted in: Practice, Retreats
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Let the Mind Rest on the Body

I’m back from the deeply transformative 10-day retreat led by Ven. Analayo (shown in photo), followed by the Community Dharma Leader workshop, and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with so much to write about.

So, for today, I’ll just leave you with the opening phrase, which Ven. Analayo used every morning and every afternoon (always the same, word for word), as he led us on a guided meditation/contemplation through the series of 7 practices outlined in the Satipatthana Sutta that are common to the both Pali and Chinese versions of the text. (The practices are: Anatomical Parts, Elements, Cemetery Contemplation, Feeling Tone, Contemplation of Mind, Hindrances, Enlightenment Factors.)

At every sit, this opening phrase would wash over me like a wave of calm, so now I start every meditation by saying it to myself:

“We are aware of the body in the sitting posture, and we let the mind rest on the body just as the body rests on the cushion.”



To listen to a sample of the guided meditation (40 minutes), beginning with this opening phrase, click here.

3 Apr
Posted in: Retreats, Travel
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Check Back on April 27

I leave tomorrow for two retreats at Spirit Rock: the first will be a silent retreat led by Bhikkhu Analayo, Phillip Moffitt and Shaila Catherine; the second will be more of a workshop retreat (half silent, half not), which begins my 2-year training as a Community Dharma Leader (CDL).

Ten years ago, Analayo wrote what is now considered the standard text on the satipatthana sutta (Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization, available as a FREE download here). More recently, he wrote a companion book, Perspectives on Satipatthana, which compares the Pail and Chinese versions of this sutta, and which is required reading for the upcoming retreat. (Sounds boring, I know, but it’s actually quite fascinating. At least to me.)

After that, I’ll have a day to spend with friends Tony and Maggie, who live  in San Francisco, and then back to Spirit Rock for the CDL workshop/retreat led by Eugene Cash, Larry Yang, Gina Sharp, and Pamela Weiss. There are two assigned texts for the CDL retreat: one is Analayo’s first Satipatthana book (which I love) and the other is Joanna Macey’s Coming Back to Life book (which I DON’T….and about which I’ve posted earlier.)

Anyway….I leave on April 4 and won’t get back until April 24. It will take me a while to get back into my “normal” routine, so don’t expect another post until Monday, April 27.

Hope you’ll check in with me then.