I’m sitting in the Amtrak waiting area in Penn Station in New York, computer balanced on my lap, as I write to you on my way to an annual board meeting of the Lion’s Roar Foundation. Celestial classical music plays between announcements, long lists of far-flung towns and cities strewn along the coast. A few clangs, a sooty whiff of trains eager to streak across the country waft up from the tracks below. Endless streams of human beings clutch suitcases, children, backpacks, devices, quietly lining up to glide slowly down escalators to the trains. Occasional small groups of soldiers look so young and self-conscious that their camouflage uniforms could be elaborate Halloween costumes festooned with black plastic weapons.
A disheveled man with a scruffy beard limps by, talking to himself non-stop angry at someone who talks ‘every single hour’. He’s oblivious to his own behavior, reminding me how easy it can be to forget mindfulness about ourselves and slip into judging others. Yet, we human beings are all in the same boat! Or the same train, headed into the unknown… The comfortably dressed man slumped in his chair across from me, the tall grey-haired redcap schlepping luggage, the blonde lady eating [...]
In our early class this morning, Deepening Your Practice, several people spoke about having seen Sunday morning sitting group member Sylvie Rokab’s film, “Love Thy Nature.” Elizabeth Rice, our InisghtLA eco-dharma warrior-teacher, spoke on a panel there last night (trailer here: www.lovethynature.com). The class shared grave concern for our endangered environment, as well as ideas for global well-being, in a lively conversation about our connection to the natural world and to our own nature.
Given that we’re embedded in a matrix of relationships with the world of nature, it’s heartening to reflect on the importance of small, even tiny, changes – whether in a wing, a paw, or a behavior pattern. Evolution is a cumulative process of transformation happening over time, whose ripple effects can eventually alter the biosphere.
In the same way, changes happen imperceptibly, steadily, in our simple practice of mindfulness; step by step, breath by breath. Like water filling a bucket drop by drop, each fleeting moment of attentiveness gradually fills us with presence. Each gesture of kindfulness matters more than we may ever know.
Through calm observation of our bodies and our minds in meditation, we see moment-by-moment sensations, feelings, thoughts moving, flowing, appearing, vanishing, ever-changing. As we watch [...]
It’s an exciting time right now in our community. We are witnessing such a growing interest in the teachings of mindfulness, compassion, and liberation, with many opportunities to practice. The growth has been immense here at InsightLA and within the larger sangha (community of practitioners).
I’ve just returned from attending the inauguration of a new multi retreat study program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center called the Advanced Practitioner Program. As I looked around the room, I realized I was probably the youngest person there! Everyone was dedicated to intensive retreat practice, and many had been part of founding their meditation center decades ago. I was filled with a quiet appreciation to be part of a group of people who first nurtured the seeds of mindfulness teachings in the West…these seeds have now borne fruit in many forms that nourish us all today.
As the retreat came to a close, we visited the new community meditation hall. It is a wide open, empty space, full of possibility — the perfect metaphor for the changes rippling through our centers. We all felt awe that this building had come about through the great generosity and loving care of the community. This irreplaceable and precious outpouring [...]
As I gulped a drink of water, my granddaughter, Allie, said, “That’s my glass.” She’d been home from school with a cold and still had the sniffles. There was a moment of ‘uh-oh’, soon forgotten . . . Until later that week, when I get sick.
I watch my mind move from denial, “Oh it’s just a sore throat, sneezing, must be allergic to something…” to disappointment. “Oh no, I won’t be able to go to Seder or — (fill in the blank with whatever you were counting on doing over the next few days). Then the mind tries to cut its losses: “Well, if I can’t go teach the last Sunday for a while, then I’ll stay home and catch up on some email, shave off a few inches of paper piles, start re-organizing my files.”
Finally, reality takes over. I wake up unable to breathe, unable to swallow without pain, or stop coughing. My head is stuffed with dripping, soggy cotton. I surrender. I’m sick. Misery. Staggering up to make ginger & turmeric tea, I give up any notion of doing anything useful or anything at all. Being sick is too demanding, even when we know we’re going to get [...]
Tonight is the April full moon, and the first night of Passover. This full moon is supposed to be a perfect time to plumb our depths, release fears, and commit to embracing life fully — freeing our demons so we can participate in the deep, abiding goodness of life itself.
As the moon was waxing this week, Jack proposed to me at noon, in mid-air, on top of the Santa Monica ferris wheel. I love that 300’ majestic, multi-colored wheel; it spins kaleidoscopic light patterns at night and has comforted me many times since I first moved to LA. This week it became a wheel of JOY!
I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of mudita (unselfish joy) coming our way as you learned of our engagement. Your sympathetic joy melts the walls of loneliness, isolation, and doubt that can separate us humans. My heart overflows with delight in how we reflect each other — this shimmering full moon of happiness shining from you to us, and from us beaming back to you.
Thank you for your smiles and love, for being part of our InsightLA community, for joining Jack and me as we widen our circle of joy. It’s never to late to [...]