Dharma Talks at the Thursday Insight Meditation Group
The Art of Letting Go
September 30, 2016 MP3
Letting go is widely misunderstood in meditative circles. Thinking they are letting go, meditators often practice instead a subtle aversion to their experience, which ends up strengthening rather than weakening the ego. True letting go begins with mindfulness of ourselves exactly as we are, where we welcome all mind states, no matter how repugnant to ego, while recognizing that the stories we tell ourselves are often wildly untrue.
Principles of Spiritually-Informed Action
August 27, 2016 MP3
How do we stay true to our spiritual path and the longing of the heart to love deeply as we oppose actions we believe are harmful? The talk describes principles for doing so, such as: opposing actions not people, letting go of attachment to views and results, working skillfully with anger and making one’s privilege conscious to better understand and oppose oppression.
If You Are Thinking It, It Isn’t True
August 18, 2016 MP3
Because our thoughts are always representations of reality, they can never, in an ultimate sense, be true. At best, thoughts can be useful, in that they accurately indicate an element of reality. The view that objects have essences is the fundamental thought error and it leads to the perception that we are separate from everything else, which is the primary source of our pain. As meditation shows us the limits of thinking, we learn to let go of unhelpful thoughts and put energy behind helpful ones. This helps us construct a life aligned with our deepest wishes, while dissolving the veil of separateness that so afflicts us.
Taking Care of this Moment Takes Care of All Moments
April 9, 2015 MP3
Because our life is nothing other than a series of present moment experiences, the ultimate reality need is to know how to be aware and present. This skill is more practical, even, than having a good job, paying the bills, or upgrading one’s health insurance. When we shift our allegiance from the fabrication of past and future, which is the source of all stress, to the refuge of present-moment awareness, our life becomes less stressful, more workable, and more satisfying.
Fire Up Your Love Light, Part One – Principles of Kindness
February 12, 2015 MP3
While we want to feel loving towards others, we obstruct feeling friendly through mental habits such as judgmentalism; replacing being connected to someone with trying to get what we want from them; and focusing on trivial differences at the expense of remembering the deep humanity we share with others. With practice, we can become aware of and abandon these patterns of creating separation and experience much more warmth and friendliness. The talk continues in part two below with a guided meditation.
Fire Up Your Love Light, Part Two – The Practice of Kindness
February 12, 2015 MP3
This is the second part of the talk above, with instructions and a guided meditation on developing metta (lovingkindness) towards others, in this case a benefactor and a dear friend.
May 29, 2014MP3
While we tend to be driven by desire and longing, these states often don’t lead to fulfillment because the objects of our desire tend to be fleeting and unreliable. However, desire is a truly helpful spiritual force when it is directed towards what provides lasting happiness. Our passion and inspiration for spirituality sets our priorities straight, energizes our practice, and makes us more authentic and spontaneous. Ends with a guided meditation on what we most deeply want.
Spiritual Bypass, Psychological Bypass
February 16, 2014MP3
This talk explores two common pitfalls of the contemplative path: spiritually bypassing the shadow material of the psyche through meditative avoidance and psychologically bypassing the deep happiness of letting go through relentless self-analysis. The talk includes how to know when you are caught on either side of the equation, presents a vision for a path that integrates spirituality and psychology, and has instructions on meditating in a psychologically wise way.
The Many Scientifically Documented Health
Benefits of Mindfulness
April 4, 2013MP3
This talk reviews the extensive scientific documentation of the health benefits of mindfulness. The focus is especially on how mindfulness reduces the impacts of stress on the body, thereby improving conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, headaches, back pain, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and even conditions as serious as HIV positive. In essence, if you want to be more healthy, be more mindful.
Making True Contact
February 21, 2013MP3
Neuroscience has discovered that mindfulness uses the social circuitry of the brain. This is not surprising, since mindfulness is essentially wise and loving relationship with ourselves. Making true contact internally is a powerful practice for relating with others. And mindfulness goes even further, offering true contact with all of life, as we taste the deep sense of belonging that arises when our minds quiet down.
Urge Surfing: Freedom with Desire
January 17, 2013MP3
We can change unskillful habits without judging ourselves or getting into restrictive, control oriented approaches. Instead, we can employ a skill that addiction treatment specialist Alan Marlatt calls “urge surfing.” This involves refraining from compulsive behavior by accepting and being mindful of the desire that propels it. In the light of kind attention, desire can resolve itself and in the process we initiate real change in our habits.
Ethics without Right and Wrong
December 6, 2012MP3
Buddhist ethics avoid judgmental codes of right and wrong, by focusing, instead, on harm and benefit. This prevents guilt, which is just another kind of self-centeredness, and focuses on the real issue at hand – the effects of our actions. Since morality is essentially about relationship, ethical behavior can come from love and care, rather than shame. Buddhist ethical precepts, rather than commandments, are mindfulness bells that wake us up to our behavior.
Reducing Stress through “Don’t Know Mind”
November 15, 2012 MP3
Just as trying to control what we cannot control makes us suffer, so, too, does thinking we know something we do not know. Although sitting with uncertainty takes some getting used to, it has large payoffs in reducing our stress. It is actually a great relief to let what is uncertain be uncertain. Includes four simple principles for reducing stress.
Finding Peace in a Life Filled with Problems
November 8, 2012MP3
Meditation practice is not about going to some distant, enlightened cloud that floats above all the ordinary troubles of life. It is about finding peace amidst the very turbulence of our relationships, our families, and our work. The more we accept that life will always have problems, the less we stress about stress. As we argue with reality less, we begin to taste the natural peace and ease that is part of our true nature.
Got Freedom, If You Want It
October 18, 2012MP3
Imagine being at ease in a stressful situation, empathic toward a person with whom you are in conflict, compassionate towards your pain, and uplifted when you see joy in the world. These are expressions of the freedom of heart cultivated by meditation practice. Such freedom is available instantly and inexhaustibly, but only to the degree that you want it.
Sexism, Violence, and Other Buddhist Oxymorons
September 27, 2012MP3
While spiritual practice undercuts religious dogma, and such practice has historically held a central role in Buddhism, even this tradition has succumbed, at times, to fundamentalism, nationalism, and even militarism. The talk reviews historical and contemporary examples, such as the militarism of Japanese Zen in World War II, the support of Buddhist monks of the civil war in Sri Lanka, and the current controversy regarding the full ordination of Theravada nuns.
A Dialog on Tibetan, Theravada, and Western Buddhism
September 20, 2012 MP3
This is a question and answer session between Peter and group members on the misunder-standings between Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism, the promise and perils of the emerging Western Buddhism, the relationship of lay and monastic life, and the dangers of both spiritual and psychological bypassing.
Healing Trauma to Live in the Now
July 26, 2012 MP3
Since traumatic responses to past events are a key reason we lose touch with the present moment, healing trauma is an important spiritual task. Trauma responses occur along a continuum, from events as horrific as the Aurora shootings, to lesser disturbances such as being verbally abused. Describes the Somatic Experiencing approach to trauma, which emphasizes mindfulness of body. For the experiential exercise, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Trust the Difficult, Trust the Easy
July 12, 2012 MP3
As spiritual practitioners we need to learn to trust the power of difficult times to strengthen us, humanize us and wise us up. But since awakening is about relaxing on the deepest possible level, trusting the easy is just as important as trusting the difficult. The trick is knowing when to employ which kind of trust.
Integrating Psychology and Spirituality
February 16, 2012MP3
Spiritual opening for Westerners often requires attention to psychological obstructions. Western Buddhism is becoming increasingly skillful at integrating the healing domain of psychology with the liberating domain of spirituality, providing a powerful transformative combination for the modern psyche. The talk outlines a framework for the roles of the two domains in supporting awakening.