Walk with Me

Movie time comes to the sangha. This Sunday, Patrick hosted a notable departure from our regular routine.  We spent almost the entire meeting watching the movie Walk With Me, a documentary about Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings and the lives of the monastics at Plum Village. Here is a synopsis of the film:

“Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. The sun rises. Everything is calm and still. Life is beautifully serene as Benedict Cumberbatch’s composed, meditative voice reads an extract from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals. So begins Max Pugh and Marc J Francis’ (Black Gold, LFF2006) fascinating and immersive exploration of what it means to devote one’s life to mindfulness. With unprecedented access to the famous secluded monastery of Plum Village in the South West of France, Walk With Me captures the daily routine and rituals of monks and nuns on a quest to develop a deep sense of presence. It is an insightful rumination on the pursuit of happiness, living in the present and our attachment to material things – a welcome remedy to the stresses of city life and a world in turmoil.”

The film is available here:



Jeff H guided our reflections this past Sunday, focusing on mudita, usually translated as appreciative joy, drawing on talks by Jill Shepherd and Jaya Rudgard, as well as his own exploration of this joy in practice.

Jeff opened with a poem he wrote for the sangha:

Turn to my joy,
Like the dove turns to the wind
And let our joy lift us together
On wings of Love, Compassion and Peace

Joy is often taught as the third of the four brahma viharas, or divine abidings. In order of appearance they are metta – lovingkindness, karuna – compassion, mudita – appreciative joy and upekkha – equanimity. They do not need to be approached serially, but are often presented in this way.

Joy can be invited to be the antidote for particular challenges in our lives. We can open our hearts to joy when faced with sorrow, with envy, and with jealousy.

Jeff selected excerpts from two dharma talks which focus on mudita. He took clips from a talk by Jill Shepherd on sukha, or happiness, and mudita from August 2019. Jill talks about mudita as the love that celebrates. She emphasizes that mudita should also be directed at ourselves, not always directed at others. He also took the introduction to a guided meditation on mudita given by Jaya Rudgard given in November 2019. Jaya notes that the definition of appreciate is to add value. Appreciative joy enables happiness to grow without needing anything new to happen. Jaya also emphasizes the benefit of balancing mudita for oneself with mudita for others. We segue into a 30-minute meditation at the end of Jaya’s talk.

To Refrain may be the Greatest gift

As the year draws to a close, our culture often implies we should be doing more and giving more and being more than we would otherwise be. During this week’s Sangha meeting, Payton explored how non-doing and refraining from actions can be just as powerful a practice and may even have a larger effect than we would think.

He played a talk by Kate Munding from just 10 days ago entitled “Letting Go Of Busyness”. That talk is available here: https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/305/talk/59894/

The inspiration for this talk came from a talk by Gaelyn Godwin Roshi entitled “Refrain From Evil” from December 25, 2016. That talk is here:

Relaxing into our awakened state

     Zac led our session this Sunday, centering on Tilopa’s Mahamudra Instruction to Naropa, also known as The Ganges Mahamudra, which elucidates the path of relaxing into clarity, wisdom and our innate awakened state. 

The clip we listened to was  Jaya Rudgard reading Naropa’s Song to Tilopa from 2019-11-13 Doors To The Deathless 43:52   

The door of non-clinging is always open. Readings from verses on the Faith Mind and Tilopa’s “Song Of The Maharudra”

Insight Meditation Society – Retreat Center :  Three-Month Retreat – Part 2


We started listening at minute 28

The text of Naropa’s Song to Tilopa can be found here http://wearebuddhamind.blogspot.com/2008/07/tilopas-song-to-naropa-from-mother-of.html and here http://wanderingstarrs.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Tilopas-Song-to-Naropa.pdf

Some definitions of Mahamudra:

Mahāmudrā literally means “great seal” or “great imprint” and refers to the fact that “all phenomena inevitably are stamped by the fact of wisdom and emptiness inseparable”. (Gampopa’s Mahamudra: The Five Part Mahamudra of the Kagyus by Tony Duff – via Wikipedia)

Mahamudra: The special nonconceptual meditation that is a specialty of the Kagyu lineage. Mahamudra was developed by the Indian mahadissas Saraha, Shacvaripa, Maitripa, and Tilopa (Modern Tantric Buddhism by Justin von Bujdoss)

Mahamudra: Literally, “Great Seal”; meditation on the mind’s innate clarity (Psychology of Buddhist Tantra by Rob Preece)

Meeting uncertainty and anxiety

On Sunday we reflected on the current uncertainties and anxieties in the US and worldwide, and the role of our practice in helping to navigate these, and in providing refuge.  

Margaret guided our reflections, and used a talk by Thanisara to guide our reflections.  Thanisara was cofounder of a retreat center in Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa, and has done extensive work in the area.  She incorporates the wisdom of indigenous people in her analysis of the problems of our times.  And living in South Africa, she has lived through the extremes of national uncertainty and anxiety.    

Links forthcoming.

Death as an Advisor

As we move towards winter and the turning in of the natural world, we can draw from the season’s qualities of stillness, introspection and dormancy to contemplate death as an advisor. When we attune to the reality of death, we can illuminate what is most important to us and strengthen our ability to come into presence and wakefulness. Carina guided us through an exploration of impermanence through personal story, an excerpt of Tara Brach’s talk, “The Four Remembrances” and discussion.

The following resources were offered:

The Four Remembrances – Tara Brach: http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/175/talk/55486/

The Wisdom of No Escape – Pema Chödrön (Carina read a passage from the chapter, “Joy”)

My Opinion, Your Opinion, the Truth

Considering our current political climate, and the upcoming holidays where people who have very different opinions may be gathering, Denise guided our reflections to focus on Views and how much they impact how we interact with our internal selves as well as others. Excerpts from Shaila Catherine’s talk titled “Opinions and Truth” provided useful perspectives for the discussion.

The talk is available here: https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/163/talk/19183/

Discovering Beauty

An under-appreciated but deeply valuable theme in the dharma of early buddhism is cultivating the ability to see the world, others, and oneself as beautiful. 

Practices that cultivate opening to the experience of beauty were the theme of our explorations on Sunday, and we explored them in several ways, ranging from reading, listening to recorded teachings, experimenting with Sensory Awareness, and discussion. 

Michael guided our reflections, with help from Gil Fronsdal, Jack Kornfield, Galway Kinnell, and Charlotte Selver.

Here are links to the media used:

Re-shaping Karma: the power of intention

This past Sunday, Evelien drew from a talk by Sally Clough Armstrong on Intention.

Sally Clough Armstrong led an IMS talk about Equanimity, Intention and Karma. “We are the heirs of our actions” is a liberating realization that our choices along the way have led us to be right where we are. With wisdom and compassion we can understand how we got here and with intention we can choose how to respond, rather than react, to it.

“All beings are the owners of their own actions/karma.  Even though the past may account for the suffering and inequalities in life, our measure as human beings is not in the hand we’ve been dealt but in the way we play the had we’ve got.” 

The talk is available here: