We talked about the possibility of doing nothing; of resting in a place of quiet, with no “should” and “shouldn’t.” Sometimes we forget that the essence of meditation is to (eventually) get to a place where we are at ease.

Everyone shared some very tender and sensitive places where we don’t often go, and I and I believe everyone appreciated that. We talked about what a strong inclination we all have to being distracted by our cell phones and other devices, and how driven we are to feel we need to “get things done”, unless illness or pain force us into stopping. I suggested this article. 

Warning: this article is written (and titled) in such a way as to assure you if you do this you will still be “productive.” The authors are still deeply fixated on our powerful belief that only if you are “doing” something, is it viable.

I also found another article about the Buddhist technique of samadhi, or just being aware of your thoughts. Samadhi practice is basically doing nothing!

I also shared a book which discusses our fear or resistance to rest and lying in bed, doing nothing!

I just want to end with saying that our final meditation was not a meditation at all: it was resting. My instructions were to do nothing or whatever each person wanted. So, was it a meditation?

Oodles of Empathetic Joy for this week!

I wanted to offer the group some Dharma-type support for how to survive the upcoming elections. I found an article that I forgot to include in our class last week on Empathetic Joy, and thought it would be good to refer to it.  Using the delightful film, “Groundhog Day” it illustrates the potential for finding happiness by appreciating the goodness in others:

I also gave the group a list some of the things I go to as a relief for anxiety; they offered some ideas of their own (which included appreciating the good circumstances in their lives, remembering impermanence, happiness that people are actually out voting, and the joy of a real groundhog)!

Here is another antidote to anxiety:

Bach’s Double Violin Concerto:

Neither good nor bad

We had a rather “interesting” talk today, in the wake of all the sadness and agonies going on in the world right now. I thought it might be useful and maybe could give us some ease by noting or looking at the quality of equanimity. It’s not easy to do, because it might seem that equanimity is saying that everything is great the way it is. But it’s not about being blind to the suffering of the world at all, it’s recognizing that we can’t change the way things are at this moment and sitting with the suffering with compassion, love, and a sense of calm.

There’s a lot more to it than that, of course. Here’s the link to the article in Tricycle magazine. It’s a really helpful article, so if you don’t have a subscription, send me an email!

If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? –Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Feedback loops

Well, it looks like this week I re-used an article from Tricycle which I mentioned in another post. However, this is because I focused on a different aspect of the article, so that’s my excuse! Better excuse: I forgot!

I wanted to use it because I loved this paragraph:

Meditation interrupts the endless feedback loops between consciousness and language, between consciousness and being, not disrupting them as one might with a drug or madness, but opening a space, a pause, a higher order function of attentive compassion. In practice, one learns to accept finitude, mortality, and the great ending, and in practice, one learns to cultivate the patience, compassion, and peace that lead to freedom.”

The article is based on the book: “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene”

We had a talk that we agreed was much too extensive and deep to do in 15 minutes! Here’s the Rumi poem I promised:

This is a verse from the poem:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”

Facing what is true

Today was sort of introspective for me, and I brought some of that to the class. It’s been a hard week for a lot of us, maybe for the same or different reasons. I wanted to talk about how we are encouraged by the Buddha to “take our seat” and accept the present moment. This doesn’t mean we go along with what we may see as moral bankruptcy in our government, or  don’t recognize our world’s ecological problems. It means allowing ourselves to be fearless in the face of our suffering, and to remember that we share this suffering with all other beings. Can we sit and accept the suffering without being drowned by it?

Have a good week, everyone! 

I used a few quotes from a Tricycle article from Jack Kornfield.

Between these two my life flows

‘Love says “I am everything.” Wisdom says, “I am nothing.” Between these two my life flows.’–Nisargadatta

We had a discussion on how different flavors of Buddhism and the more popular forms of mindfulness deal with spiritual matters like ethics and non-self. It was all very interesting and heartfelt, and sort of difficult to sum up in a few words. 

Instead, I’ll direct you to a link that I used:

“The Illusion of Self”–a set of readings from

I also mentioned two books:  “Buddhism Without Beliefs” by Stephen Batchelor and Sam Harris’ “Waking Up.”

Finally, the sun came out this afternoon over Lake Superior. Autumn is just beginning.

De-stigmatizing Suffering

Thanks to the group for a very heart-felt session today.  I introduced a charming little article by Philip Moffitt:

How Suffering Got a Bad Name

This is about how we tend to think of our suffering as “wrong” and that somehow if we suffer we are losers or weak. Moffitt points out that other cultures tended to understand that suffering can make us stronger and acknowledging our suffering allows us to fully engage with the richness of all of life’s experiences.

Someone in the group pointed out that it’s easy to understand these things when we talk about them in the group, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to deal with our suffering when it really arises. One of us pointed out that listening to another’s suffering can be hard, but it also can be an act of caring that can enrich our lives. Someone else pointed out that the way toward happiness may be available by opening up to our own and other people’s suffering. Everyone was bringing their understanding and experience to the teaching. In other words, I didn’t need to do much other than sit back and listen!

Also: for those of you who like Phillip Moffitt, or just to check it out, Heather gave me a link to his page, specifically a talk on regrets:

Knowing Regret

Enjoying Imperfection

We are all really hard on ourselves, and today I was telling the group that I was feeling a little blue this morning and being hard on myself. A little part of myself was expecting that I should always be in a good mood. Needless to say, this is a ridiculous expectation and everyone in the group could understand and laugh at this. We wondered if we can still accept ourselves as imperfect, normal human beings?

I presented a New York Times article called “How to Be Happy.” I like a lot of the author’s ideas, but I didn’t like the fact that they recommended, “conquering” negative thinking. I think we have to be a lot easier on ourselves than thinking about conquest and fighting. Much better to accept the way things are in the present moment and then see what might help us to relax our negative feelings about ourselves. 

The wound is the place where the light enters you—Rumi

Here’s the Times article:

Watching awareness

We had a lively discussion on different modes of awareness, as I asked the group to contemplate the differences between the meditative state and the more everyday alert and thinking mind. What’s the difference between being aware of our thoughts and being aware that we are aware? Here is the article that we worked with; it’s a very practical guide with some excellent ideas on how to work with intense emotions.

The Aim of Attention

Distracted Life

After our first meditation, I returned to the idea (from last week) that we lose attention (or our conscious mind goes offline) 4x a second. This might not have been a problem in our ancestors’ prehistoric world, where we needed to be distracted in order to re-focus on potential dangers, but it is a problem in our modern world. Social media, advertising, and entertainment are all designed to attract our attention, and it’s no wonder hours can go by with us unable to remember how we just spent our time surfing the web.

It’s no wonder that we find it so difficult to practice mindfulness. We had a lively discussion about how many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by the demands of emails, messaging, and cell phones.

Here’s a good article with tips on how to control our online habits:

Dropping Distraction