Forgiveness is both possible and necessary. It is never too late to find forgiveness and to start again.  Buddhist psychology offers specific teachings and practices for redemption and the development of forgiveness.  Like the practice of compassion, forgiveness does not ignore the truth of our suffering.  Forgiveness is not weak.  It demands courage and integrity.  Yet only forgiveness and love can bring about the peace we long for.  This week Stephanie guided our reflections on the possibility and necessity of forgiveness by sharing a dharma talk by Phillip Moffitt and encouraging a discussion of his offerings on the topic.

You can listen to the talk yourself here:


The Three Keys

At the heart of the Buddha’s understanding and practice are the Marks of Existence, the three characteristics that are true of all things: the normality of suffering, the pervasiveness of change, and the absence of an enduring individual self.  As excerpts from several talks selected by Sam demonstrated this Sunday, we can return to these insights again and again, each time encountering fresh perspectives that arrest the mind and heal the heart.

Links to the talks are forthcoming


Equanimity, further developed

Last week’s three short talks by Matthew Brensilver presented new perspectives on topics such as delusion and clinging, and engendered a very fertile discussion. Equanimity is not about the future or the present, but about accepting what has already come to pass without distorting it with the delusion that disguises our strategies of evasion.

This week Jeff focused our discussion on two related short talks by Brensilver. The first focuses on our anticipations, and the second on the ways in which “performing the self” enhances our pain, rather than providing the reassurance that it seems to promise.  Getting past this performance of the self we arrive at the wonder and openness of equanimity. 


Equanimity – Beyond Balance, into Something New

Equanimity comes at the end of several key lists in Buddhism and is considered a culminating practice by many. However, a strategy of waiting until you nearly reach the end of the path to develop equanimity may not yield the greatest fruit. Jeff led our continued exploration of cultivating equanimity featuring excerpts from three short talks by Matthew Brensilver from a five-talk series on equanimity given at the Insight Meditation Center.

Matthew reminds us that equanimity is not passivity. Instead, equanimity enlivens our commitment to non-harming and to eliminating suffering. And significantly, Matthew points out that the middle way described by the Buddha is not the “average” of two extremes, but is a radical departure from either extreme and their opposition, with the potential for true freedom.

You can listen to the whole series at the following links, but we listened specifically to the talks numbered 1, 3, and 5.

Some of the pearls of wisdom from Matthew’s talks.

  • Equanimity is a non-compulsion around our preferences. We still have preferences, but we do not have a compulsion to enact them in the world. We no longer have a feeling that the moment can be fixed.
  • Ajahn Sumedho – “Desire is not the cause of suffering. The cause of suffering is grasping of desire.”
  • On the subtlety of delusion: Delusion feels exactly like the truth until it doesn’t. How can we see what we can’t see? Delusion is very subtle – it “launders” our greed and hatred. It serves to justify and dignify the forces of greed and hatred. Launder greed and it looks like hope, and fun and excitement. Launder hatred and it looks like righteousness, clarity and discernment.
  • Pain met with equanimity is a cause for love. The capacity to bring difficulty into attention is profound and is the basis for not spilling our suffering on others. Our self-regulation fails when equanimity is absent.
  • Matthew presents the two extremes which the Buddha rejected:
    • Extreme 1: Everything means everything. There is no rest
    • Extreme 2: Nothing means anything. Love dissolves.
  • In the Buddha’s middle path equanimity purifies our compassion. Our compassion becomes less compulsive, less codependent, less grandiose and less self-righteous. Actions arising from equanimity are more potent than actions arising from clinging. We are less intimidated by the enormity of dukkha when are are confident that the heart can rest in peace, or equanimity.

The Physical Path to Equanimity

Equanimity is clearly an important aspect of dharma practice – it’s one of the four Brahma Viharas, and is the seventh Factor of Awakening. We often seek a mental path to arrive at this state of being – attempting to reason ourselves into balance and non-reactivity. But a more direct way is available, through looking deeply into our somatic sensations and working with these bodily expressions of our mind/heart state— as we find it, and as it develops in practice sessions. This week, Sarah brought a talk and other insights from Jill Shepherd to help to clarify this approach.

We listened to excerpts from several talks:

Sarah also read the following quote by Jill on the interdependent nature of the Brama Viharas, which you can also find here.

The Four Sublime Abidings

Metta, [kindness] the love that connects, is an antidote to all forms of aversion.

It is not attachment.

If it slides into sentimentality, karuna [compassion] brings the heart back into balance.

Karuna, the love that responds, is an antidote to cruelty. 

It is not pity.

If it slides into sorrow, mudita [appreciative joy] brings the heart back into balance.

Mudita, the love that celebrates, is an antidote to envy.

It is not competitive.

If it slides into agitated excitement, upekkha [equanimity] brings the heart back into balance.

Upekkha, the love that allows, is the antidote to partiality.

It is not indifference.

If it slides into disconnection, metta brings the heart back into balance.


Deeper than Reason: Intuition, Buddha Nature, and Choice

Sometimes we approach puzzling or difficult situations with logical reasoning – often with only middling results.  But we can also draw upon the wisdom of our Buddha Nature, if we can begin to learn to recognize it. During our session this Sunday, Michael and our gathered friends explored this second approach in a simple, non-threatening and non-verbal way.


Appreciating our own joy

Our minds tend naturally toward critical thoughts, always on the lookout for what’s wrong and what can be fixed. This is often even more pronounced in relation to ourselves. The Buddha spoke about Mudita, or “appreciative joy”, as one of the core practices we can use to stabilize our reactive tendencies, but when it’s discussed it usually refers to cultivating appreciation for the joy of others, and not for happy experiences we have ourselves. The earliest Buddhist texts, however, give us a much more broad definition to this traditional antidote. This Sunday, Payton examined how we might make better use of Mudita as a living practice.

Payton played a short talk by Jill Shepherd to prime this discussion. You can listen to the talk here:


The Gift of Impermanence

Most people see impermanence as an unfortunate fact that we must deal with; or, when things are difficult, on the contrary, we might be grateful to think the situation will inevitably change.  From the Dharmic point of view, however, both these attitudes fail to grasp the rich value of a true understanding of anicca, impermanence, perpetual flow and change. As Pema Chodron said, if we understand it deeply, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony.”  This Sunday, Ginny led our exploration of this deeper truth, and the ways it can contribute to a fuller life.


The sense of lack

Consumerism, the “never enough” ideology, body image – how does living within a culture that highly values these concepts shape our thoughts and minds? Do we propagate them ourselves unintentionally? Are we doing this “life” thing right? Don S. guided our Sangha this week on the sense of “lack” in our practice, drawing on a talk by Brian Lesage.

You can listen to Brian’s talk here:


Emptiness and Art

It has been said that there is no such thing as an exceptionally creative human; all humans are exceptional because it is our nature to be creative. 

If there is truth in this, is it surprising that the Buddha taught little to  nothing about art or creativity?  

How do we consider art and the creative process from a Buddhist perspective?  

This Sunday, Steve led our exploration of these questions through contemplation, meditation, excerpts from a fascinating dharma talk, and group discussion.

A link to the talk is forthcoming.