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“You Have to Burn Through It”: Remembering Robert Hall

I first met Robert Hall in an interview room at Spirit Rock, during the February part of the 2-month retreat in 2000. I had just started practice there the previous summer, and this was my first long silent retreat. I had found my way to Insight Meditation the way lots of folks did, by stumbling across Jack Kornfield’s book, A …

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How [and why] to have hard conversations! (Family holiday edition)

Here come the turkeys. It’s time once again for the increasingly ragged American tradition of sitting around a cluttered dinner table with people you love but have issues with, trying to make the occasion about gratitude, and trying not to trip any of the land mines nestled between the cranberries and gravy. Chief among the nestled dangers for many of …

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Speech like flowers, speech like honey: The discipline & art of Right Speech

We begin looking at speech — the first aspect of the 3 Limbs of ethical action, or sīla. For many of us, speech is one of the most overt ways we find the practice of the ethical precepts challenging. It’s certainly one of the places where our actions very clearly can be seen to have effects in the world and …

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Cultivating Home in Our Hearts: For Adult Adoptees, Fostered, & Child Welfare System Survivors

This page houses the talks and meditations given by Sean Oakes and Lev White at our Nov 2, 2019 daylong workshop at East Bay Meditation Center. This class was for us who experienced separation from birth families at early ages to explore the heart of the Buddha’s teachings: that pain and loss are built into life and are the seeds …

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“The ford where all the Buddhas cross”: Ethics as the ground of liberation

Continuing in our exploration of the Noble Eightfold Path, we’re entering the limbs of Right Speech, Action, and Livelihood, collectively known as the Ethics (sīla) section. A discourse called “The People of Sālā,” offering a standard list of the elements of Buddhist ethics, breaking down the limbs of Speech and Action into their subgroups, is at the bottom of the …

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Ancestral Trauma & the Insight into Previous Births

The Buddha’s insights into the nature of identity and its relationship with pain and distress are expressed in three important concepts: Dependent Origination (paṭiccasamuppāda), wandering (saṃsāra), and selflessness or insubstantiality (anattā). These are among the most challenging teachings in the tradition partly because they are based in phenomena that few practitioners can observe directly: past lives, the process of cause …

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Embodiment & Appropriate Response: An evening with Rev. Daigan Gaither

We were blessed this week to be guided and inspired in practice by Rev. Daigan Gaither. He wrote this about his talk with us: “Zen Master Dogen said, ‘To expound the Dharma with this body and mind is foremost’. How do we move what we learn on the cushion into our complex lives? What does it mean to embody our …

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Reflections on/of the Heart Sūtra

I began formal Zen practice in 1993, in a tiny rural monastery in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico known as Bodhi Mandala (now Bodhi Manda — hippie era mistranslation finally corrected after 30-some years). They gave me a cot in a rickety old ex-Catholic dormitory, a black robe in two pieces called kimono and hakama that I had …

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