Spirit Rock recently activated the solar array that has been installed over the last several year. With the 350 panels, the retreat center will be generating more than enough power to run the center– from the sun! I am happy to be part of an institution that pays attention to renewable energy and our impact on the earth.
Nov 2014 Bhante Gunaratana has written a new book Meditation on Perception, based on the Girimananda Sutta. His other books, including Mindfulness in Plain English and Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness are among the books I recommend most when people ask for meditation or Buddhist book recs. Bhante G has been ordained since he was 12 and has lived in the US since the late 60s (I knew him when I was a child and he was head monk of the Washington DC Buddhist Vihara). He also runs a meditation monastery Bhavana Society in WV that holds retreats as well as training monastics. Bhante G has been supportive of female monastics, and though in his 80s, embraces new technology and modern life. Thanks for all your teaching and service!
Sept 2014 Amidst disturbing cases of violence against women by NFL players (which is actually not new, just being proven and publicized more), there are some hopeful cases of creative action to bring awareness of misogyny and violence against women. This performance art by a student at Columbia University, this SF woman’s play, this open letter from an NYC actress/bartender. May we all treat each other with respect, kindness and humanity.
June 2014 For those who are interested in reading the teaching of the Buddha directly, I would suggest beginning with the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Discourses) which can also be found online here or here . There are several other resources on the web that can be used as study guides, including Pressing Out Pure Honey by Sharda Rogell or these talks by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Try reading one periodically, or read one each day.
Feb 2014 I had a chance to go on a field trip to an anatomy lab recently with a class studying the nature of the human body. There are Buddhist meditation practices related to bringing us into right relationship with the body through contemplating the human body in various ways. One is a contemplation on the “32 parts of the Body”. More details can be found at the excellent website of my colleague Bob Stahl who teaches a class on this topic in Santa Cruz, CA.
Nov 2013 Developing mindfulness meditation can help you become more aware of subtle levels of communication that are going on. Here is an example of some people who have the ability to communicate with animals in a way most people do not, through tuning in to a different level of awareness. This film ‘The Animal Communicator” highlights some modern Westerners who have learned this ability as well as people from traditional communities that have lived close to nature for generations. Interesting to consider– stretch your idea of what is possible. Buddhist teaching is that we should respect life and avoid harming all forms of life, including animals.
May 2013 I have been fortunate to teach this year with some of the foremost Western scholars of Buddhism, including Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ayya Tathaaloka, and most recently Ven Analayo Bhikkhu, through Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioners Program. Ven Analayo is a German Buddhist monk who spent most of his training in Sri Lanka and is currently a professor at University of Hamburg. His most well known book is Satipatthana, about the sutta that is the basis of most insight meditation/Vipassana practices. He has also written a lot of articles on Early Buddhism, many of which can be found here, related to his comparative study of Chinese versions of early Buddhist suttas compared to the Pali versions. It was great to get to learn with him.
Mar 2013 One of the interesting contemplations you can do is recognizing your body as nature. The elements of earth, air, fire, water (or solidity, movement, heat, and liquid) can be felt directly in the body and seen in nature. Our bodies are made of these elements, supported by these elements, constructed by these elements. You can read my piece Urban Elements on doing this contemplation in an urban setting. I recently saw this dynamic wind map of the United States which shows the movement of wind currents over the country. It is mesmerizing to watch, but maybe can also help us to get in touch with the constant movement in our own body at the same time.
Jan 2013 Who do you think you are? When you were younger, what was your idea about what you would be like now? And who will you be in the future?This is related to the concept of tanha bhava, or craving for becoming, in the Buddhist teaching.
Here is an interesting article with some studies about how people see their identity as fluid in the past but fixed for the future. Perhaps due to fear of the unknown….
Dec 2012 I had the honor this past month to teach a study retreat with some fine scholars/monastics, including Bhikkhu Bodhi, translator of many of the most commonly used English version Suttas, and Ayya Tathaaloka, senior American Theravada Bhikkhuni and founder of Aranya Bodhi hermitage and Dhammadharini women’s monastic community in northern California. I learned of a great online resource put out by the Alliance for Bhikkhunis, a magazine called Present (great title!) Check it out!