InsightLA Blog

When couples get married, the blenders, dishes, toaster ovens, and pots and pans flow in. During the past couple of months, people have thoughtfully asked me where Jack and I have registered, and my answer is “nowhere.” Over our lifetimes, we’ve accumulated enough stuff and, if anything, we are at the point in our lives of giving things away. And we give nothing away as happily and as passionately as the Dharma, the teachings of wisdom and compassion that guide our life’s work. Jack came to California almost 30 years ago and founded Spirit Rock Center — a beautiful, thriving meditation retreat and community center. His experience has also guided InsightLA; he has been on the Board of Directors for over five years. In the 14 years since I founded InsightLA, it has become a one-of-a-kind L.A. nexus for mindfulness education and deep Buddhist teachings. Our vision for the next 14 years is to put mindfulness-based social justice activism at the heart of our offerings. We’ve grown so fast in the past few years and the financial cost has been high. If I would ask for anything for our wedding present it would be that you continue to support InsightLA by signing up for a [...]
Sat, Sep 03, 2016
InsightLA Blog
It’s so tempting to place blame on others when things go awry. When something goes wrong at home or at work, we habitually look for someone to blame. What we don’t realize, is blaming others actually leads to more suffering. We find ourselves obsessing about what THEY did, and getting self-righteously angry and agitated about it. The practice slogan “drive all blames into one” doesn’t mean we blame and shame ourselves instead. This is the teaching; drive the energy of blame into awareness of how all things arise together, and are interconnected. No matter whose mistake or fault it may be, even when it’s disastrous for all concerned, there is a possibility of transforming shattered dreams and dashed hopes into wise understanding. Meditation helps, giving ourselves the gift of some quiet time to reflect and calm down. From where I am right now, teaching our annual Vallecitos Ranch retreat in the stunning southern Rocky Mountain wilderness of northern New Mexico, the view is so clear – ultimately there is no one to blame! Whatever happens is determined by countless causes and conditions intertwining in myriad ways, seen and unseen. By taking full responsibility, by working with our own reactivity, we can forgive [...]
Fri, Aug 26, 2016
InsightLA Blog
A few months ago I turned 40, and as I stand on the precipice of the next decade, I’m reflecting on life. I realize that, for some strange reason, my life doesn’t seem to be getting any simpler! I’m probably not alone and I suspect that you may know what I’m talking about. For many of us, it seems there are more and more responsibilities, and seemingly less and less time in which to tend them. I’ve got more passwords and login’s than I have fingers and toes. There are so many causes to help and support, and with work, family, friends and bills to pay, some days it just seems like an impossible task to balance it all. As I look back on my life, though, I can see the deep roots of mindfulness and meditation bracing me in the midst of these daily challenges, amidst the ceaseless responsibilities and tasks – “the floods of life.” But how? Although the pace of life today may be somewhat different than 2,500 years ago, when the Buddha was alive, for millennia people have been facing the difficult task of how to navigate daily challenges. At one point the Buddha was asked about [...]
Fri, Aug 19, 2016
InsightLA Blog
One Sunday morning at our sitting group we were talking about shame. Shame is one of the most common – and hard to bear – experiences we humans have. It’s different from healthy remorse. Working skillfully with our shame calls for the very qualities shame obscures: mindfulness and self-compassion. When shame arises, we instinctively turn away and cringe, curling into ourselves like cellophane in fire. The judging mind can be harsh and unforgiving, far worse than whatever mistake we’ve made. A social worker in our group talked about how she overcame her shame at judging a client whom she hadn’t seen for over a year, a lady who had spent all her money on drugs, stolen all her mother’s money, and lost her home. She spoke about using her own practice to tune in to the suffering of this scary, addicted woman: “She talks really, really loud and she’s really, really stressed out and enraged, and everything is everybody else’s fault.” This woman had made so many mistakes. She was upset, intimidating, and living in her van. Our group member was acutely aware of her judging mind, judging her client, then judging herself for being judgmental. She stayed close to her own [...]
Fri, Aug 12, 2016
InsightLA Blog
“WE PHOTOGRAPHERS DEAL IN THINGS WHICH ARE CONTINUALLY VANISHING, AND WHEN THEY HAVE VANISHED THERE IS NO CONTRIVANCE ON EARTH WHICH CAN MAKE THEM COME BACK AGAIN.” – HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON One of the great teachings of life is impermanence, the unstoppable flow of experience we call time and change. In time, tomatoes ripen, children grow up, and we know that every relationship we have will end. How we long to escape death and elude loss…When we’re happy, we don’t even want to think about it, we want to slip away from the inexorable embrace of time. When we’re sad, impermanence is our friend. We know that the way things are is not how they will always be. Mindfulness works in a flash, like photography. When we click a photo or take a screenshot of a friend’s disappearing snapchat, the cascading forms of constant perception stop for a moment, a moment that means something to us. In any instant of mindfulness, a flash of presence can calm us down. We return to our senses, opening up to receive the intensity of aliveness, the vividness of how life feels here and now – capturing the memory for someday, there and then, when that part of our [...]
Mon, Aug 08, 2016
InsightLA Blog