The Police Killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Wherever you are in the world, you may have seen the recent video from 26 May of police officers standing over an unarmed black man lying on the ground. One of those police officers kneels on the neck of the black man, George Floyd, for at least nine minutes, preventing him from breathing. He dies on the way to hospital. How to respond? At the … Continue reading The Police Killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Karuna-virus

In the Buddha’s teachings, karuna is a Pali word that means compassion. There’s a lot going on around the world right now, and due to coronavirus, many people are navigating intense suffering on multiple levels simultaneously: The suffering of health challenges, food insecurity, financial distress, longer-term economic uncertainty, separation from friends and family – or having to be with friends and family in ways that … Continue reading Karuna-virus

Insight Meditation Society 2020 Registration Now Open

Just letting you know that the Insight Meditation SOciety in Barre, Massachusetts, has just announced its 2020 retreat schedule and registration is now open. Based on previous years, most retreats tend to get fully booked within a few days, so if you’re interested in practising at IMS, best to register as soon as you can to avoid missing out. I’m scheduled to teach a five-day … Continue reading Insight Meditation Society 2020 Registration Now Open

Retreat as rebellion

Resisting the tyranny of productivity Over the last few months, I’ve been having conversations with students – and with myself! – about what feels to be the increasingly relentless busyness of our lives. People often say to me that they don’t have time to meditate every day, and they certainly don’t have time to go on retreat, because of work or financial or family pressures. … Continue reading Retreat as rebellion

September 2017 full moon – Taking A Stand

Stand Against Suffering: A Call to Action by Buddhist Teachers “‘As long as a society protects the vulnerable among them, they can be expected to prosper and not decline.’ The Buddha, in the Mahaparinirvana Sutta Buddhism does not align itself with any party or ideology. But when great suffering is at stake, Buddhists must take a stand against it, with loving-kindness, wisdom, calm minds, and courage.” … Continue reading September 2017 full moon – Taking A Stand

November 2016 full moon – Turmoil

almost super-moon, Newcastle Beach NSW Australia 13 November 2016 Turning towards and turning away Whether it’s global political upheaval, worsening social injustice, natural disasters, personal stress, emotional pain, relational crises, or health challenges, we seem to be in a phase of intense turmoil right now. Many of the communities around the world that I care about are struggling in relation to recent political developments in … Continue reading November 2016 full moon – Turmoil

June 2016 full moon – Inspiration and taking refuge in sangha/community

graduation group by Ben MarshallGraduates of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock four-year teacher training programme, 10 June 2016 – photo by Ben Marshall

In my last international newsletter back in April, I wrote about inspiration, an aspect of spiritual practice that surprisingly, doesn’t seem to be talked about very often.  As I discovered back then,

“… the root of the word “inspiration” comes from late Latin, and it’s related to the act of breathing, specifically breathing in, in the sense of giving life to, or animating – just as expiring is related to breathing out, and dying …
Inspiration, then, is literally life-giving.  When I feel most inspired, I feel most alive, in touch with some kind of life-energy that feels much vaster than just my own individual human vitality.”

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been appreciating the power of community to help kindle that sense of inspiration and connection to an energy bigger than just my own.  And I feel to have understood a little more clearly why the Buddha referred to sangha or community as the third of three jewels, three treasures that we can “take refuge” in.  Continue reading “June 2016 full moon – Inspiration and taking refuge in sangha/community”

November 2015 full moon – gratitude

red berries close

A few slightly random reflections on Gratitude

“These two people are hard to find in the world. Which two? The one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful and thankful for a kindness done.” AN 2.118

 As the three-month retreat at IMS comes to a close, there’s a definite shift in the overall mood of the meditators.  Each day, the ones I meet with are expressing more and more gratitude for the opportunity they’ve had to be here, practising intensively for six weeks or three months.
It’s definitely not easy to do this, and yet perhaps because of the challenges, there’s a corresponding depth to the gratitude.  I’ve noticed this in other situations, too – that there can be an unexpected ability to connect with gratitude even in the midst of difficulty.

Continue reading “November 2015 full moon – gratitude”

July 2015 full moon – dukkha

In last month’s full moon post, I wrote about impermanence.  Impermanence or anicca is one of the three “universal characteristics” recognised by the Buddha as being inherent in all experience; the other two being dukkha (usually translated as “suffering,” but more accurately, unsatisfactoriness), and anatta, or not-self.  Deeply understanding these three characteristics leads to the highest freedom, the freedom of heart and mind that is … Continue reading July 2015 full moon – dukkha

April 2015 full moon – “awakening community” *

Last weekend I ran a one-day workshop in Auckland, New Zealand, on the theme of “spiritual friendship,” and just a few days ago I facilitated a small group discussion in Australia at the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, on the theme of “awakening community.” These two topics feel very alive for me at the moment, partly because of spending so much time visiting different insight … Continue reading April 2015 full moon – “awakening community” *