Contemplative Practice

I use the ancient word “contemplative” as a way to talk about the whole realm of life that involves intimate witness of our personal experience and skillful cultivation of qualities within it. Religion, art, philosophy, and psychology, as well as romance, relationship tending, community tending, and world-tending all have aspects of the contemplative to them. The spectrum of contemplative practice weaves between two types of action: observation and cultivation. Some practices teach us to see clearly, to come out of denial, to wake up, to observe changing experience without fear and judgment. Other practices teach us to cultivate our strengths, act on our deepest beliefs, and stay engaged in the wild process of life unfolding. Both are necessary.

Contemplative practices have been the focus of my adult life, first as a practitioner and then as scholar and teacher. I was drawn to a mysterious inner silence through Zen and Insight Meditation; to the bright, sensate body I found dancing Contact Improv, Butoh, and Release Techniques, and then in Haṭha and Vinyasa Yoga; and to the flow of impulse and image in the embodiment disciplines of Authentic Movement, Somatic Experiencing, and Organic Intelligence. When I turned to formal study and academic work, these were naturally my subjects.

In addition to academic work, I teach meditation and Theravāda BuddhismOrganic Intelligence (OI), Haṭha Yoga, and Authentic Movement (AM), and meet with students of all of these for individual sessions. Though these are historically separate traditions, I work with them not as completely separate disciplines, but as related tools for seekers on paths of inner growth that are either Buddhist or Buddhist-influenced and/or compatible. At the same time, I try to keep the disciplines’ instructions distinct, especially in relation to the specific Views (diṭṭhi) that support practitioners’ intentions behind engaging in practice. I hold a Theravāda Buddhist perspective as my own primary View, working with Yoga and Authentic Movement as Skillful Means (upāya) in relation to the body and energy, and Organic Intelligence as a basic physiological and complex systems framework for unwinding the symptoms of trauma and the cultivation of resilience.

As a Performance Studies scholar, I consider my decades in contemplative practice, including a period of ordination as a monk in Burma, and as co-director of a contemplative dance company, as a very intimate preparatory fieldwork. Few academics in the Humanities engage in research from a position of deep personal practice and membership in the communities they study, with notable exceptions in Religious Studies, where increasing numbers of academics are also teachers and serious students of the religion or contemplative system they study. Estimable practitioner-scholars such as Anne Klein (Tibetan Buddhism), Ven. Bhikkhu Anālayo (Theravāda Buddhism), and James Mallinson (Haṭha Yoga) all embody a powerful integration between adept and researcher. Some distance between researcher and subject is invaluable in many fields, of course, including mine. But there is also a growing recognition of the power of immersion, of dual relationships, of complex positionality. I could not do the scholarship I do without being a member of the communities and disciplines I study, and consider my time in the field of these disciplines one of the greatest privileges of my life.

In these pages you’ll find information on each of my primary disciplines, and how I offer them to students. You’ll also find here some resources for Buddhist and Yoga practitioners. Blessings for your practice.

Primary Disciplines

Insight Meditation
Organic Intelligence
Haṭha Yoga
Authentic Movement

Resources for Practitioners

Texts, handouts, & syllabi for study
Recorded talks & guided meditations
SF Bay Area Meditation Groups & Retreat Centers

In the Bahuka and at Adhikakka,
At Gayā and in the Sundarika,
In the Sarassati and at Payaga
Or in the Bahumati River,
The fool, though entering constantly,
Cannot wash away his evil deeds.

What can these rivers do?
They cannot purify the bad person
Or one who is intent on evil.
For the good person, every day is special.
For the good person, every day is holy.

The good practice good every day.
Bathe in that and you will protect all beings.

If you speak no lie, do no harm,
Steal not, if you believe and are generous,
What can be the good of going to Gayā?
The water at Gayā is the same as the water at home.

Vatthūpama [Vattha], Majjhima Nikāya 7