In June, we celebrate LGBTQI pride — our visibility, our human dignity, our truth, and we celebrate love. Pride is a time when we come together for collective healing from deep wounds of generations of discrimination and violence. Sadly, that violence exploded last weekend in Orlando. As you awoke Sunday to the horror that took place earlier that morning, I woke up at Spirit Rock Meditation Center on the second day of their annual LGBTQI retreat, in silence with 70 queer brothers and sisters who came together to celebrate pride in a unique and beautiful way. Together, we took refuge: looking to the Buddha to see our potential as humans; looking to the Dharma to see the truth of our existence; and looking to our sangha – our community – for support on our path. The Buddha was one of the first to teach about equality. He said we are all interconnected and One. For me as a gay man, it makes sense that I’ve found safety in temples where his images surround me.
On Wednesday, as the retreat was closing, the teachers, Anushka Fernadopulle and Pascal Auclair, told us with great care about Orlando. Spending time in silence can make [...]
Today two of our beloved InsightLA teachers, Christiane Wolf and Beth Sternlieb, will stand up, each holding a candle in her hand, and receive Dharma Transmission. They will share their enlightened intention for carrying the lamp of the Dharma in front of the assembled community at Spirit Rock.
In 2011, in a Teacher Authorization ceremony at InsightLA, Sharon Salzberg and I honored Beth and Christiane as they joined a noble lineage of countless generations of teacher-practitioners. Today we honor their great devotion in continuing their study and practice through four more years of this current teacher training.
Both Christiane and Beth are dedicating their lives to embrace and embody the practices of mindfulness, wisdom, and compassion. They’ve studied both ancient Buddhist traditions and ways of integrating current Western forms that are more diverse, democratic, feminine, ecological, informed by Western psychology, and engaged with social justice.
And while we can joyfully celebrate with them, the lamp is in our hands as well. Whenever we learn ways to tame our minds and open our hearts, a bit of that light is held in our hands. And we get to grow from its power and to nurture its flame so that it benefits us and all [...]
The late musical genius Prince once wrote these lyrics: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” I can imagine that was part of Trudy’s vision when she founded InsightLA almost 14 years ago, to create a nourishing community of practitioners, sharing the practice of mindfulness together and supporting each other through both difficult and joyful times.
Given the size and scope of our programs today, it is hard to imagine that InsightLA began so small, just a little sitting group in Susan Kaiser Greenland’s office…Trudy has worked tirelessly, often seven days a week, growing this community, training teachers, expanding the offering of mindfulness into the wider community. She has told the story of her first retreat in LA; only two people showed up. Then, over the office partition, the voices of a seminar of mold inspectors wafted into the silence! She regularly hosted non-residential weekend retreats in a local park facility, did the arrangements, publicity and registrations, brought the cushions and all the supplies, set up the room, always including fresh flowers, taught all weekend, and even made a big pot of soup for us all so that we could practice into the evening [...]
This was a historic Vesak. For the first time ever, the White House sent a message for this holiday! From President Obama, “Michelle and I and our family extend our warmest wishes to Buddhists.…(on) Vesak, a day honoring the birth, enlightenment, and passing of Buddha. During this season, we reflect on Buddha’s universal teachings of peace, service, and recognition of common humanity — shared values that also bind us all as Americans…This occasion gives us an opportunity to recommit ourselves to building a brighter future for all communities, cultures, and religions…”
And Governor Jerry Brown, who studied Zen Buddhism seriously for many years, offered his salute to the diverse range of Buddhist citizens who have been part of California’s history, building railways, defending our country, cultivating the land… As he says, Buddhism celebrates “the practice of compassion, wisdom, and mindfulness, providing comfort, encouragement, and support for those facing life’s challenges.”
What exactly are we celebrating on Vesak? What does Vesak mean for people on the path of mindfulness quite separate from Buddhism? Why did we gather last week at InsightLA to observe this holiday — sitting together, enjoying refreshments, making offerings to those in need, and to our center? We do this [...]
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 [...]