29 May
Posted in: Food, Practice
By    Comments Off on I’m Eating!

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!

25 May
Posted in: Money, Retreats
By    Comments Off on Staying Alive

Staying Alive

I loved the talk Tempel Smith gave at the DPP retreat on “Right Livelihood.” He explained that the Pail word “samma-ajiva,” which is traditionally translated as “right livelihood,” can more literally be translated as “right fire-of-life.” So it’s less “right career,” as I’ve always thought of it, and more “right way of feeding our fire, of sustaining our vitality.” The issue not so much what job do we have, but more what do we do to keep ourselves alive.

The talk offered questions, rather than answers. (As most great talks do.) For example:

“What is the impact of your work on your heart and mind?”

“How can you practice in your work as it is today?”

“Does your livelihood support your awakening?”

I leave these for you to ponder.






(image from Phantasmagoric Theatre Tarot)

24 May
Posted in: Money
By    2 Comments

10 Things

I’ve just finished an interesting exercise on Cultivating Contentment, from Mindfulness and Money, by Kulananda and Dominic Houlder.

Here’s the exercise. First:
“List the 10 most significant things you’ve acquired or done in the past 3 years. By significant, we don’t mean only the things you spent lots of money on, though you should include those, we also mean the things that have been important to you and made a difference in your life.”

Here’s my list (in no particular order):
* Enrolled in the Dedicated Practitioner Program (DPP) at Spirit Rock
* Bought a new Fiat 500 — convertible!
* Found Benedetto, un bravissimo Italian tutor
* Started DharmaTown.org
* Took a trip to Wales
* Went to Barre, to meet with Mirabai
* Put replacement windows in my almost-100-year-old house
* Subscribed to Fair Shares, an awesome CCSA (Combined Community Supported Agriculture)
* Cleaned out all my closets and de-cluttered my entire house!
* Organized the Cafe Sangha, Maplewood Metta and 3 Kalyana Mitta groups


Then: “Rank them in order of cost.”

Then: “Rank them in order of value.”

And then: “Graph them on a chart relating cost to value.”

This makes for an interesting, but not too surprising graph.

But then: “List the 10 things that are most important to you at this moment, and their cost.”

Here’s where it becomes clear that the most important things are impossible to put a price on. Which is where we discover our hidden wealth…whose “value is infinite and economic costs are low.”

For the last part of the exercise: “List your hidden wealth. Write down why the items on the list are valuable to you.”

Give it a try.

23 May
Posted in: Money
By    Comments Off on Kitchen Dharma

Kitchen Dharma

I’m not a graphic designer. I used to be a graphic designer, but that was back in the days when we did things with X-Acto knives and Rapidograph pens. I still think like a designer though, so when I got the idea to do this DharmaTown website, I knew exactly how I wanted it to look. But I also knew how much time it would take and how much money it was going to cost.

I didn’t have the money.

I’m not a designer, but I do work for a graphics company and we design web sites all the time. But it didn’t feel right to ask for a freebie. I’m friendly with one of the designers who does work on the weekends, but even at freelance rates, I knew it would cost more than I had.

Then I thought….hmmm….I don’t have money, but I do have time. And energy.

And I can cook!

So we made a deal. She would build the website and for every hour of design time she put in, I would spend an hour cooking for her family. (I also offered babysitting time, but the cooking deal seemed to work out better.)

It needed to be food that I could bring to the office, that she could heat up when she got home, so I made New Zealand Sweet Potato Chowder, Four-Alarm Veggie Chili, a double batch of Sicilian Caponata, Wild Mushroom and Barley Stew, and a ton of Rafael’s Pasta Sauce with Artichokes Hearts.

And now we have DharmaTown.

Bon Appetit!


22 May
Posted in: Sangha at Large
By    Comments Off on There Will Be Cake

There Will Be Cake

Mark Your Calendar!

Cafe Sangha will celebrate its One Year Anniversary on Saturday, June 2, and we’re having a party.

Please join us!

Where’s the party: Stone Spiral Coffee & Curious, 25 Sutton, Maplewood, MO 63143

When: Saturday, June 2 from 8:30 am to 10:00 am….or later.

Who should come: Anyone interested in a little unstructured, social time with fellow practitioners, getting acquainted, or making new friends.

Questions: Contact Jan.


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
By    Comments Off on Then Comes Joy

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
By    Comments Off on Sitting in the Park

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
By    4 Comments

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.