A different way to respond to suffering

This Sunday, Payton guided the Sangha discussion on the topic of how we experience injustice and dissatisfaction in our minds, and if there is a way to take action in the world without greed, aversion, or delusion.

Payton played a talk by Andrea Fella which is available here:


Some of the notes from the talk follow.

When anger is not present, our mind can see suffering and we can more naturally act out of compassion rather than acting out of anger or fear.

Our minds are confused. We see only the greed or aversion, rather than what’s actually happening and we want to resolve the greed or aversion, not the thing that’s happening.

It’s not a mistake or a problem that things are unreliable and always changing, it’s actually just the way things are. We are confused because of our desire for reliability and the sense of being able to control things.

Wisdom wants us to allow both truth and wanting for happiness without craving for a particular outcome.

“If we use scissors to cut a tangle out, we are left with a whole in the fabric.”

Ajahn Sumedho’s insights into life and practice

This week Patrick guided our reflections around Ajahn Sumedho’s talk titled “Watch Your Mind.” Sumedho is one of the great elders of the western Buddhist movement. His free ranging discourse weaves together insights on mental formations, concentration, monastic life, and suffering in his characteristic down to earth style.

The talk is here:


And here’s a pdf of one of his books, as a way to explore more of his writing:


Cultivating Samadhi

Joey led our meditation practice this week with guidance by Chris Cullen in how we can gather our attention and enjoy cultivating spacious awareness while still being grounded.

From Chris Cullen’s instructions for collecting and gathering the attention:

Insight comes from cultivation of collectedness. The six Jhana factors are tools in collecting the heart-mind.

  • Viveka: Stepping back from busyness of the day, disentangling, withdrawing the investment in thoughts and re-investing in the body, grounding.
  • Vitaka: Re-directing the attention into what is more steady: feet, seat, hands, the in-breath. Prioritizing, re-positioning the attention like saying to a puppy: Stay.
  • Vichara: How to stay? With receptive sensitivity, receiving, sensing, listening in, tuning into the level of effort in doing this.
  • Pitti: Appreciative fullness, fullness of enjoyment, hosting the pleasantness of the in-breath, fully receiving the quiet OK-ness of the hands, filled with expanding awareness, fully to host the body even if some areas feel unpleasant.
  • Sukkha: Ease, relaxation, contentment, letting go. Smoothing the nervous system’s energies; tuning into contentment.
  • Ekhagata: To become one, cohere, harmonize, allowing and integration of body, awareness, present moment.

The talk Joey played is on Reflections on Anatta/Non-Self https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/371/talk/51232/

Right Effort

During this week’s Sangha, Jeffrey facilitated the topic of Right Effort. A talk by Ayya Anandabodhi and the discussion focused on improving one’s practice through pursuit of Right Effort, the 6th element in the Eightfold Path.

Right Effort addresses the quality of effort, proper amount of effort, and finding the appropriate approach to each situation. All of that constitutes skillfulness. The Buddha laid out Four Tasks or Exertions that constitute Right Effort:

  1. Preventing the arising of unwholesome states
  2. Abandoning unwholesome states that have arisen
  3. Cultivating the arising of wholesome states
  4. Maintaining wholesome states.

Jeffrey chose the topic because he felt his practice was stagnant. A vibrant practice includes curiosity, energy and joy. The group discussed their experiences in meditation and how curiosity, energy and joy can be cultivated.

– Talk on Right Effort by Ayya Anandabodhi: http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/379/talk/49511/
– The Joy of Effort – Thanissaro Bikkhu: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/joyeffort.html
– “Right Effort” in The Noble Eightfold Path – Thannissaro Bikkhu: https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/eightfoldPath_150211.pdf

Practicing Justice

This past week Ginny guided our reflections, exploring the deep connections that arise between our formal practice and our engagement with our communities, large and small. How does our practice on the cushion support our vibrant presence amidst a challenging world? She played excerpts from Angel Kyodo Williams and Natalie Goldberg to provide different perspectives on the question.

in search of SANGHA

When I came to Vermont – almost 10 years ago, it was in search of sangha – of community that was bringing together the practice of meditation with the work of creating a more just society. In retrospect – I think I was searching for respite from the pain and challenge that facing injustice required.
Waking up to ideas around privilege, what it means to be a white person in this country with its history of stolen land and slavery, I found myself tapping into a well of shame and fear that was paralyzing.

“It is probable that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

My early response was to “be good”. To do the “right” thing (nothing new here – a lifelong pattern). And really that was about my own comfort and sense of self, and my need for belonging and approval. In my early meditation practice I was seeking peace, goodness – relief from suffering. It was separate from work, another path, in part because the spaces I was in did not integrate spiritual practice and work for justice.

My practice has become one that allows me to be with suffering, deepening understanding, being with what is, rather than seeking to avoid it.


Today my practice has become one of continuing to welcome the feelings and stay with them, rather than turn away or avoid the fear. To create space for the exploration of history – to create space for the pain and experience of others – to create space for the enduring tensions that cannot be solved or fixed in my lifetime. To turn toward, rather than turning away from the truth of suffering.

“Welcome the very thing that we don’t want…SO that we don’t prevent the healing that might occur when we give it space and time.” Gil Fronsdal
Audio Dharma – https://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/9120.html
Gil’s Talk – Dharmette, Welcoming from 7.18.2018 – through 9:40


Vibrant presence – moment by moment – welcoming all of it.
The gift of being present – to ourselves and one another. Instead of needing to fix things, taking on the responsibility of centuries of oppression and harm.
This is relevant in the smallest things – and in the enduring challenges of our time.

Page 98 Radical Dharma

“It turns out that far from dragging you down, one of the most liberating things you can do is the come to terms with the fact that some form of you suffering will always be there. To really be present with that unhooks us from the constant anxiety of trying to make it go away. Paradoxically, one we release the proposition that we are going to get rid of suffering, then the potential to alleviate the suffering becomes possible.” Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sensei

Tenderness – and compassion come in when I am able to allow myself to fully experience something. To be fully present to it. By not turning away from the history of injustice, from the terror and pain that has been wrought by the dominant culture – there is the potential for healing, and liberation.
Again – that idea from Gil
“Welcome the very thing that we don’t want…SO that we don’t prevent the healing that might occur when we give it space and time.” Gil


“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word love here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” James Baldwin

The Place Where We Are Right
~ Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood


This week Stephen led our Sangha’s discussion, examining the depth of the concept of “Avija”.

Early Buddhism sees Avijja (Ignorance/Misunderstanding)/Confusion/Delusion/’Not Getting It’) as the root cause leading to suffering. Avijja is seen as including misconceptions regarding the nature of reality, especially regarding Impermanence, Suffering, and Non-Self/Emptiness. Such misunderstandings lead onwards to the pursuit of grasping and clinging as (ultimately ineffectual) strategies for obtaining happiness.

Although the normal, mundane, everyday mind can intellectually grasp the doctrines of Impermanence, Suffering, and Non-Self/Emptiness, and can understand the validity of the Noble Four Fold Truths as the path leading to the end of suffering, it is not freed from such suffering. Only when the mind is cultivated to manifest the Awakening Factors can it truly grasp the truths that can free it.

Therefore, practitioners must train in ways of living that lead to non-regret and ease, and then utilize that ease to support and further develop mindfulness, stillness, concentration and clarity. Only when developed thusly can the mind ‘see things as they really are’ and be freed

The talk Stephen played was by Akincano Marc Weber, titled ‘Flavors Of Not-Knowing’. It is available here: