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.
Dec 2013 Nelson Mandela has passed away, a great leader in South Africa and the world, who spent 27 years in prison. Mandela was oriented towards meditation and self-reflection. Of his time in prison, he said:
“You may find that the cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself, to search realistically and regularly the processes of your own mind and feelings. In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education …. but internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being: honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, purity, generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow men – qualities within the reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life “
June 2013 I am teaching a series on the Eightfold Path this summer starting in July, so have been noticing inspiration for the different steps on the path. Here is an amazing video of a small girl embodying concentration and focus through her martial arts form. Heroes come in all sizes 🙂
April 2013 I am starting a regular dharma group in San Francisco Mission, which will start in May w a 6 session meditation class, and then continue as a regular dharma group (Monday Night Dharma).
Part of the reason for my starting the group is that it was pointed out to me that almost all of the Dharma groups in the area are run by male teachers, and it seems an imbalance that there are not more voices of women (or people of other genders) sharing the Dharma as well. This is a common pattern in most spiritual traditions, which I think is not good for anyone, and not reflective of the truth. So instead of just complaining about it, I am stepping up to the seat, 15 years after my teacher initially suggested I do this, and after 7 years of being a gypsy dharma speaker around town. Better late than procrastinating forever! The group is open to everyone, so please come join us. The group will meet at CIIS, 1453 Mission St in San Francisco on most Mondays at 7pm. Check the home page here for dates and details. See you there!
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.
July 2012 Walking meditation is an often underappreciated form of spiritual practice. I am a big fan of walking meditation, both on retreat and in daily life. Here’s a talk I gave about this at the Spirit Rock People of Color retreat, if you care to hear more! Walking as Meditation Practice including its importance in pilgrimage and social change movements.
June 2012 I’m currently teaching a meditation retreat up in Santa Sabina Retreat Center in Marin w the SF Insight Community, and am reminded of my spiritual ancestor Thomas Merton since they have pictures of him around this Dominican retreat center. A well-known quote from him “I didn’t become a monk so I would suffer more, I became a monk so I could suffer more effectively”. And a less well-known quote “In the night of our technological barbarism, monks must be as trees which exist silently in the dark and by their vital presence purify the air”. Whenever you meditate, you too are performing this function!
Feb 2011: This past month, a significant meditation master from the Thai Forest tradition died, Ajahn Maha Bua (aka Ajahn Maha Boowa). He was a student of Ajahn Mun, another significant Buddhist meditation master of this past century. Ajahn Maha Bua taught about the citta (heart/mind) and how we mistake the kilesas (defilements, like greed, hatred, delusion) to be who we really are.
‘Our real problem, our one fundamental problem—which is also the citta’s fundamental problem—is that we lack the power needed to be our own true self. Instead, we have always taken counterfeit things to be the essence of who we really are, so that the citta’s behavior is never in harmony with its true nature. Rather, it expresses itself through the kilesas’ cunning deceits, which cause it to feel anxious and frightened of virtually everything … As a result, the citta is forever full of worries and fears. And although fear and worry are not intrinsic to the citta, they still manage to produce apprehension there. When the citta has been cleansed so that it is absolutely pure and free of all involvement, only then will we see a citta devoid of all fear. Then, neither fear nor courage appear, only the citta’s true nature, existing naturally alone on its own, forever independent of time and space. Only that appears—nothing else. This is the genuine citta’.
If you would like to read some of his teachings, you can find them here.