Nature’s beauty and our vulnerability

In the beauty and poignancy of spring we can become deeply aware of the beauty of the changes around us. Can we take in this beauty in a way that helps us accept the natural changes of our mind-body and the mind-bodies around us as another deeply beautiful process? One that could bring us to a place of peace and understanding? What habits might prevent us from doing this? What lovely qualities would support this aspiration?

Christina Feldman defines Dukkha as vulnerability and also as a moment of standing at a crossroads. We can choose to follow our habits and find ourselves again and again in a familiar place of distress or we can choose to follow a path that “is actually concerned with cultivating the lovely…”  One of these “lovely qualities” is joy (Piti), such as joy in the beauty of nature and its changes. 

Darryl guided our reflections this Sunday as we listened to and discussed excerpts from two Christina Feldman talks (including words from Chris Cullen).

You can listen to the talks here:


Generosity’s gifts to those who give

In the Buddha’s opinion, the practice of gratitude and generosity, while not always easy, is “beautiful in the beginning, beautiful in the middle, and beautiful in the end.” The variety of forms that gratitude takes can be remarkable.  Giving to a charity or to a person on the street may be what first come to mind.  But what about relating clearly to the present moment – giving it our full attention, and suddenly seeing it (and everyone in it) quite differently.  Letting go of a firmly held idea can be a powerful form of generosity to the larger situation.  

This week, Eveline guided our discussion of the ways in which practicing any form of generosity brings the mind into a happy, open, receptive place from which to begin again, refreshed.  A talk by Jaya Rudgard, who teaches at IMS and Spirit Rock, served as a further source of insights for our discussion.

A link to the talk is forthcoming.


Wisdom and Energy

Meditation offers us many benefits, and at the top of the list are Wisdom and Energy.  Wisdom may come in small increments or spectacular insights.  But in either case it requires sustained energy.  Wisdom may reveal to us that energy is finite and fluctuant, and needs to be shepherded carefully and cultivated with patience and sensitivity to our changing situation and sensitivity.  Don guided our reflections in this month’s in-person sit using a talk by Jill Shepard.

You can listen to Jill’s talk here:


Forgiveness – the Path to Freedom and Healing

Forgiveness is not a parami or a brahma-vihara. However, forgiveness is an important skill for us to develop along the Buddha’s path. Forgiveness requires love, compassion, joy and equanimity. As part of the human experience we will naturally be hurt and hurt others. If we cannot forgive others or cannot forgive ourselves, our suffering will only continue the cycle of harm. Forgiveness offers a path to freedom from this cycle.

This week, Jeff shared a talk given this year by Tara Brach titled “The RAIN of Forgiveness,” in which she moves beyond inviting us to forgive and lays out mindfulness-based tool to heal and free our hearts: RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture).

You can listen to the talk here:

  • Our “armoring” is tied to preventing further harm and represents an ancient coping strategy
  • Forgiveness begins when we start to sense the pain that comes from pushing others out of our heart
  • We cover our inane purity with our defenses and then we identify with the coverings
  • “Should” is an argument with reality
  • “If you want to see the brave, take a look at those who forgive.”
  • Our failure to know joy is a direct reflection of our inability to forgive
  • Forgiveness is a process
    • We bring compassion to the wounded place within us first
    • We see that the other person is also suffering
  • RAIN practice
    • Recognize the feelings within ourselves
    • Allowing the feelings to be there
    • Investigate the felt sense within our bodies
    • Nurture the wounded person within ourselves
  • When we forgive, we still protect ourselves against future harm
  • Tara also discusses forgiveness as a societal level, moving from a system of punishment (and banishment) to a system which includes forgiveness

What the Earth can Teach us about Equanimity

Eveline guided our reflections this Sunday, exploring how we can learn a lot about being equanimous by investigating our interbeing with the earth.
      The Buddha often remarked that the earth accommodates everything that happens to it without reactivity: it is whole and equanimous.  We often feel we need to find our way back to the earth, when really we have never been separated from it, as the wave is never separate from the ocean.
      If we want a peaceful world, we need to be peaceful people—to find inner quiet, with a heart as wide as the world.
      In honor of Earth Day, we explored these the deep, intimate, and expansive connections, drawing from Eveline’s framing perspective, excerpts from a talk by Howard Cohn, and our own shared inquiry.

You can listen to Howard’s talk here:

Earth Poem by Bhaswat Chakraborty:


The stories we tell ourselves

If we look at the stories that make up most of our mental chatter, we come to see that even if they seem to range broadly, they are mostly in fact about ourselves, and actually help to create and the sense of self.   This phenomenon, called mana papanca (mental proliferation around the sense of self), and is the subject of a talk by Christina Feldman, excerpts of which was be offered for discussion as Sam guided our reflections at this week’s sangha.

A link to the talk is forthcoming.


Short, Clear, And Surprisingly Profound: Buddha’s instructions to Bahiya

We reflected this week on the instructions that the Buddha gave to Bahiya about what is sometimes called bare attention, or sometimes mindfulness:  “In the seen, let there be just the seen, in the heard let there be just the heard”, and so on.  These ostensibly simple instructions are at the heart of the practice, and worth aspiring to implement, although doing that is not quite so simple. Margaret guided our reflections, drawing on the teachings of Sally Armstrong and others to explore this theme.

You can listen to Sally’s talk here:

You can read a translation of the teaching to Bahiya here:

Also read was this excerpt from the Malunkyaputta Sutta:


Seeking to not-know

When we study a natural phenomenon or a discipline, we usually seek to accumulate knowledge, hoping to find wisdom that will help us to grasp the situation clearly. With meditation, the approach may sometimes be reversed: we may seek to shed old ways of seeing, and genuinely attempt to not-know. Eric guided our reflections this Sunday, with the help of excerpts from Stephen Batchelor’s bringing to light his work in Korean Zen, and guiding us into the heart of Not-Knowing, freshly asking of whatever we may encounter, “What is this?”

You can listen to Stephen’s talk here:


Music, Surprise, and the impact of Impermanence

Darryl guided our reflections on the Surprise of Impermanence this Sunday, drawing on excerpts from a talk by Carol Wilson, and using a musical recording to explore our shifting response to impermanence itself.

Carol’s talk can be found here:

You can listen to the music that was shared from Plum Village at this link:

Darryl also read an excerpt from a poem called “Teijitsu’s Awakening” which is available here.

During the discussion, Eric shared a talk by neuroscientist Anil Seth, which you can find here. Darryl referred to the Mind and Life podcast which you can find at their website.


Inclining the Mind Towards What is Working

Surrounded by bad news, in media’s algorithmic echo chambers — how can we find and nurture the joy that is our birthright? The practice of Mudita gives us countless opportunities to savor happiness as we celebrate the good fortune of others.  And such cheering information is available if we seek it out.  Lorilee framed our discussion this week after we heard Brian LeSage’s recent dharma talk “Expanding Joy”.

You can listen to Brian’s talk here: