Mindfulness for your whole life

You know how sometimes you agree to do something and then when that time rolls around, you’re really sorry? A while ago I said I’d teach an online video course for Conscious2. Teaching this way was definitely an edge for me… How do you act animated and natural when teaching to a glassy black camera lens in a studio empty of students?

The course title is “Everything Is Your Path.” Which means doing videos now must be my path if I’m walking my talk, taking whatever happens as a chance to learn and overcome fears, I simply did it. Guess what?— mindfulness works LOL! It felt completely natural. I even enjoyed teaching the way I do when you’re in the room with me. And I think the course is well-designed and good. It’s not for complete beginners, but for people who have some practice and want to go further.

In this course, we look at bringing mindfulness and kindness to your whole life, to body, heart and mind.

One of the thoughts I had to work with arose when I looked at myself in the mirror. Why couldn’t I have recorded video teachings when I was 20 or 30 years younger!? I smiled with loving awareness. We all want to look good …. awww…. this is tender, poignant vanity. And it actually looks pretty good as it is.

This Sunday, there’s a free 2-hour Livestream so you can sample the teaching and decide if the more in-depth class is for you. It’s a very generous offering, and I thank the students who participated. For all of you who’ve longed for some online Sunday sitting group, I hope you’ll come join me.

Love, Trudy

A Revolution of Tenderness

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Yesterday in our early morning Deepening Your Practice class, I found myself quoting not the Buddha, but Pope Francis. The Pope recently gave a clear, moving talk about interconnectedness, lovingkindness and compassion. It was a TED talk! He sat at a desk in the Vatican and spoke to the whole world about a revolution of tenderness, “la tenerezza.” This is the love that is close, intimate and real. As he looked us in the eye, the power of love that connects, comforts, and cares was conveyed kindly and firmly. “Tenderness means using eyes to see each other, the ears to listen to the children, to the poor, to those who are afraid of the future, to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth.”

This is true strength, as we learn in Mindful Self Compassion class, the bravery it takes to open our hearts in genuine compassion for ourselves and our world. At this point in my practice, I feel so porous and permeable that everyone’s suffering permeates my heart, both human and nonhuman beings. It takes both fortitude and joy to bear the openness that comes when we don’t separate ourselves from all that is.

On this day, it’s good to be reminded that governments are only part of the picture. Our fate is in our mindful hands and strong hearts. It’s good to hear words of hope blooming in the midst of humanity’s tragedies. As Pope Francis says, “A single individual is enough for hope to exist and that individual can be you. And then there will be another you and another you and it turns into an us. When there is an ‘us’ there can be a revolution.” Let’s make it a revolution of tenderness, and bring all our courage and love into actual, concrete actions to protect all beings and a planet our human future can live in!

Love Trudy

My Tears Fall With Yours

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Tuesday morning when I took out the recycling, I saw several people up and down the alley bending over the big bins searching through the trash. I’d never seen so many people—all looking like homeless grandparents—foraging in the alley. The bottle and can collectors and the homeless folks were quietly working to gather whatever they could find to redeem, sell, or eat. Seeing this, my heart was heavy. I remember when homeless people were a rare sight on our streets.

The night before, I’d learned about the terror attack in Manchester. With immense sorrow, we mourn the loss of innocent lives—and the loss of carefree concert-going. Can we ever let our kids go to concerts again without worrying? When did concerts and public spaces become known as “soft targets”? How do we stay present and brave in the face of poverty, violence, and fears for our home, planet Earth?

With a little bit of mindfulness training, we learn how to use our right as human beings to choose how and where to direct our attention. When we notice that our attention is caught by frightening images, stuck on anxious or angry thoughts, or sinking into despair, we free our hearts by shifting back to our practice, over and over again. Mindfulness and compassion can go anywhere! Even when the hurt seems too huge, and overwhelming, loving awareness can be strong enough to hold it with clarity and understanding. We learn how to meet suffering and tragedy without closing our hearts. We’re all together here.

This means, my tears fall with yours. Our tears fall with all the tears in Manchester.

Love, Trudy

Our Extended Family

When I took my first ordination vows as a shy young Zen Buddhist with Soen Sa-Nim 43 years ago, I could never have imagined sitting side by side with my teacher/mentors empowering a succession of wonderful teachers at a beautiful meditation center I founded. I feel infinite gratitude for the ancestors who passed on the practices of wisdom, love and compassionate participation in this mysterious, intimate, universal life.

How did this happen? Through the blessing of countless generous ancestors who came before me, and the work of many hands here at InsightLA over the past 15 years. It happened because of your study and practice, your wanting a spiritual home in Los Angeles in the lineage of both early Buddhism and modern mindfulness. Evoking our ancestors as a source of wisdom and support is a well-known practice in Buddhist and indigenous cultures, often sadly missing in the West.

Lineage refers to a succession of generations—it’s our family tree! In the tradition of my ancestors, family is meant to be a sacralized center of spiritual life. In Buddhist tradition, the community becomes our family. The continuity of love and wisdom from teacher to student, from each to all, is alive for us at InsightLA. We are connected to a whole extended family of previous generations of practitioners, whoever they were and whenever they might have lived, all the way back to the Buddha.

Love, Trudy

Devotion and Refuge

When I encountered Buddhist psychology and meditation teachings at age 26, I fell in love. It all felt so right and true. I definitely needed a “safe and reliable refuge.” At first, the awe that I felt for my teachers was about looking up to someone, to something outside of myself, hoping to enlighten myself through connection with who they were and what they resonated. After a few years, though, a sense of devotion grew—from knowing that there was, and is, something genuinely inspiring about that to which I was so drawn. This is the devotion that connects us to the more sane and calm and clear and good qualities of our own hearts.

Whenever we envision the possibility of awakening, and begin to trus​t that awakening can happen in this very life in this human form, we’re connecting with this innate wisdom within ourselves. In these moments, we’re not preoccupied with wanting our life to be better, different, more…you can fill in the blanks! These are stressful thoughts that make us unhappy. As a skilled teacher, the Buddha recognized that it was uplifting for people to contemplate his way of life and be in his illumined presence. His radically generous teaching is that each of us can walk in his awakened footsteps.

The infinite gratitude I feel for my teachers still carries an element of devotion—to this path of refuge in awakening, in the teachings, in community—devotion to going for refuge as we are doing together this Saturday.

I invite you to come join us as we celebrate what unifies us at InsightLA—the wise and loving intention to wake up, to learn together, and grow our capacity for friendship and community. Together, we dedicate our lives to the joy, compassion, and release of freeing our hearts.

Love, Trudy

Shadow & Light

As I sit here at Spirit Rock, where I am assisting Trudy and Jack’s retreat, I am reminded once again how our lives are not separate from our practice. What we are dealing with in our hearts and minds also comes on retreat with us. There is really no way out of what is happening, yet on retreat there is a structure and space to begin to let ourselves be more intimate with however it is for us and open in love.

This retreat is a unique opportunity to practice Mindfulness and Metta without the traditional dharma talks and structure. Trudy and Jack are offering a space for questions throughout the day, sharing and responding to the moment spontaneously. This form brings our lives into the dharma hall where we are questioning and exploring, how to love, how to practice with difficult emotions, with heartbreak, fear, loss, genocides, refugees, incarcerated children, and the political polarization of this time. The Zen master, the Guru—all of us—are speaking a truth of heart at this experienced student retreat.

Laughter echoes out of the hall, smiles beam bright, turkeys gobble loudly in the mornings, and the joy of our human spirit is fully visible. You know from your own experience that completeness of presence available to us when both shadow and light are allowed to dance and play in awareness. Just like our lives, this retreat asks us to ground the teachings of loving awareness and presence with how the world is, and how we choose to respond.

I look forward to, along with my husband Vincent, being a part of InsightLA’s teacher authorization in May.

With warmth and love,

Emily

Emily Horn is a meditation teacher. Along with Christiane and Beth, Emily is a graduate of the Retreat Teacher Training led by Jack Kornfield, Trudy Goodman, Phillip Moffitt, Joseph Goldstein, and others.  Emily co-founded Buddhist Geeks and Meditate.io. She and her husband Vince taught at InsightLA; they now live in Asheville, NC with their son Zander. 

Passing on the Light

One of the most joyous occasions in my life is passing on the Dharma to teachers I’ve mentored and loved. And one special and unique hallmark of InsightLA is our place in a lineage of Asian and Western teachers whose blessings and protection cascade down the generations from my teachers’ teachers to us.

This May 13th, we honor a new group of teachers: Paloma Cain, Celeste Young, Lisa Kring, and Emily Horn. In July, we’ll welcome the second half of this brilliant group, Maureen Shannon-Chapple, Diana Gould, Elizabeth Rice, Wendy Block, and Cayce Howe.

Jack Kornfield will preside with me at this important ceremony. In July, Sharon Salzberg, also one of the first lineage holders in the Theravada tradition in the West, will join me. We light candles representing the illumination of wisdom, and pass the flame of inspiration to each of our teachers—who embody many years of study and dedicated practice of mindfulness and compassion, of selfless service and excellent teaching at InsightLA.

We also celebrate Beth Sternlieb and Christiane Wolf, recent graduates of Spirit Rock’s Teacher Training, as they offer their blessing and support to the new trainees, Teresa Romano, Alisa Dennis, and Gullu Singh.

Come celebrate with us as we gather to honor the wisdom, compassion, and community spirit of our skilled and generous teachers!

Love, Trudy

There is a $10 registration fee for this event and everyone is welcome.

Click here for more information.

We named a goat after you. Is that okay?

Trudy the goat

Today I received a delightful surprise, the delivery of a pretty certificate. It’s not something that I ever expected, but it turns out to be full of friendship, humor and love. It has a photo of a cute black baby goat standing in goat heaven—in tall green grass! Next to the little goat it says, “We hereby name this goat” then in big letters, “TRUDY.”

My friends at One Taste who sent this gift were watching the baby goats play on their new land in Philo when their founder, Nicole Daedone, said, “I want to name them after people who supported us before we were cool.” Nicole teaches a practice called Orgasmic Meditation, or OM-ing. She describes it as a consciousness practice fostering connection and intimacy. We met when I taught mindfulness practices and spiritual perspectives on sex and relationship at One Taste retreats.

I have supported the work at One Taste for years, grateful to know they are dedicated to teaching ever deeper understanding of sexuality and orgasm. Many years ago, I taught workshops exploring how we laypeople might integrate embodied mindfulness practice and deep Dharma into the realms of parenting, psychology, and intimate relationship. All too often, sexuality is confusing; set apart or dissociated from our practice, largely ignored in our centers. In the past, we’ve invited my friends Cheryl Fraser, an expert sex therapist and Dharma teacher, and Justine Dawson, who completed the Spirit Rock teacher training years ago, to teach about sex and relationship at InsightLA. I’m committed to bringing our sexuality too, into our loving awareness.

All the teachers I’ve met at One Taste express their love for humanity through meditation, mindfulness and spirituality, helping people overcome the sexual repression rampant in our culture. They wrote on the certificate: “In honor of your ongoing love and support for orgasm… we decided to name one of our first two goats after you.” What a fun tribute—to my work and to the open-minded spirit at InsightLA!

Love, Trudy

The Shadow of Thought

It’s Spring, the season of renewal; delicate baby leaves, blossoming trees, new birdsongs.

Here at our spring retreat in beautiful Lucerne Valley, we’re taking time to unplug, sit down, relax, and begin our life anew, breath by breath, step by step.

To sit is to renew ourselves. We can open our hearts to something bigger than our thoughts. The warmth of high desert sunlight, the crescent moon smiling in the cold night sky remind us we are far more than we think.

Our small “I” is a shadow of thought that follows us wherever we go, without ever being fully present in the reality it thinks about. Mindfulness invites us to step outside the shadow of thought into clear, bright presence of awareness. In the light of being present, this shadow can disappear into what Suzuki Roshi famously called “big mind”, the infinite luminousness of consciousness.

Then all the thoughts of I-am — how I am, how I was, how I will be, who I could have been, who I want to be, on and on –-simply pass through the mind, casting a fleeting shadow. Sitting, walking, standing, or lying down, when we’re being mindful, the shadow of thought fades away. We are renewed.

Thousands of years ago, the Taoist master Wu Hsin wrote:

There is a shadow that runs parallel to life.

This shadow is the thought I-am

The movement of life is shadowed by the movement of thought.

One must not forget that that which runs parallel can never touch

That to which it runs parallel…the reality of what is called life.

Love, Trudy

Illuminating Interdependence by Jack Kornfield

Science is catching up with the Buddha!

Neuroscientists are reporting confirmation of interdependence, selflessness and the holographic field of consciousness. This past weekend Trudy and I presented at the UCLA conference on Mind, Consciousness, and The Cultivation of Well Being along with 700 participants and a stellar faculty. Scientists like Elissa Epel showed how our cells and telomeres are listening to how we feel, responding to the whole environment and the society around us. Quantum physicists, cosmologists, and researchers like Menas Kafatos, Deepak Chopra and Dan Siegel described the field of Mind beyond the brain and how we live in probability, nonlocality, and entanglement—a play of form and emptiness.

I think of the 12-sided pavilion built by a Buddhist master for the ancient emperor of China, to demonstrate this. With mirrors on the walls and floors he suspended one candle and small crystal in the middle. As the Emperor looked into one tiny facet of the crystal he could see thousands of candle flames reflected into infinity in the mirrors. The smallest part contains and affects the whole.

What this means is that as you practice and illuminate your own heart and mind, you create healthy neural and epigenetic patterns and enhance your telomeres….and you positively affect the entire field of life around you. You know this already, but having science show it is like a cherry on top.

Here’s the best thing. These marvelous trainings in mindfulness and compassion are available for you year-round at InsightLA. Please come join in and let us practice together.

Metta, Jack