Eight-week online Dharma Study class series October-November 2020

Registration closes 10 October Cultivating resilience in challenging times:   Learning from the “heavenly messengers”  This eight-week online course offers an opportunity to develop and strengthen our inner resources of kindness, compassion, calm and clarity, through an exploration of what are traditionally known as “the four heavenly messengers.”  In Buddhist teaching, these are four archetypes that symbolise the existential challenges we face, and the way … Continue reading Eight-week online Dharma Study class series October-November 2020

April 2018 full moon – Retreat and post-retreat practice

Before and after A couple of years ago, I wrote a post titled “Retreat and pre-retreat practice“, which explored ways to navigate some of the anxiety and other challenges that often come up before we go on retreat. This month, I’m writing about another aspect of retreat practice that doesn’t always get a lot of attention, and that’s what happens after retreat.  This exploration feels … Continue reading April 2018 full moon – Retreat and post-retreat practice

January 2018 full moon – re-set

Sydney Insight Meditators 2018 New Year’s retreat

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Drawing by retreat participant Rena Czaplinska Archer

Making positive changes

The New Year is traditionally a time to try to make positive changes for the year ahead.  And yet most of us have had the experience of starting out with a rush of good intentions, only to find ourselves collapsing back into old habits very quickly.

Having recently finished teaching a seven-day retreat over the New Year, the same pattern can be seen after a period of intensive practice.  Many people experience a wave of inspiration, and have the intention, post-retreat, to renew their commitment to meditating on a daily basis.

Yet again, these intentions often don’t last very long.  The momentum of daily life re-asserts its hold on us, and we’re soon back where we started.  When one retreat participant was recently asked on their retreat registration form to describe their daily practice, they wrote that it mostly consisted of “looking at their meditation cushion and feeling guilty!”

Establishing and/or maintaining a daily meditation practice

Most of us can probably relate to that description, at least at times.  So this month, I’d like to focus on some strategies for establishing or maintaining a daily meditation practice.

Continue reading “January 2018 full moon – re-set”

December 2017 super moon – impermanence, vastness, and intimacy

Impermanence This month’s full moon post is a little late, because just this morning, I finished co-teaching the last six weeks of the three-month retreat at IMS in Barre, Massachusetts. The ending of any period of intensive meditation practice is poignant, but even more so when it’s been a longer retreat.  As this retreat was drawing to a close, I started to felt even less … Continue reading December 2017 super moon – impermanence, vastness, and intimacy

New neuroscience research on the lasting benefits of meditation

  Dan Goleman and Richie Davidson are both well-known names in the fields of psychology, science journalism and neuroscience, and they have recently co-authored a book laying out their most recent research on the benefits of meditation. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, published September 2017 To begin with, the authors make an interesting … Continue reading New neuroscience research on the lasting benefits of meditation

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

December 2016 full moon – Wise Action, Wise Non-Action

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Surf life-saving crew, Tamarama Beach, New South Wales

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddha’s prescription for completely curing ourselves of unhappiness.  And like any good medicine, it doesn’t only work in one way.  It’s a very holistic treatment that works on several different aspects of our lives at once – in fact, every aspect of our lives is included here, if we’re practising fully.

The way the path is laid out invites us to pay attention to three particular areas of development, traditionally known as sīla, samādhi and pañña, or ethics, meditation and wisdom.  These three aspects support each other like the three legs of a tripod, and all of three of them need to be equally well developed, if our practice is to keep deepening. Continue reading “December 2016 full moon – Wise Action, Wise Non-Action”

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

July 2016 full moon – Hatred STILL never ceases by hatred …

Rainstorm near Te Moata Retreat Centre, Coromandel, New Zealand Exactly two years ago in July 2014, I wrote a post based on some well-known lines from the Dhammapada: Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law. 1 Lately, that same post has been getting some views again, perhaps because there seem to have been just … Continue reading July 2016 full moon – Hatred STILL never ceases by hatred …

February 2016 full moon – Motivation, Respect, Resolve

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Woman reading on sea wall – Newcastle NSW

The rewards and challenges of technology

Earlier this evening, I gave my first dharma talk via video-link, from the YHA in Sydney to Auckland Insight in New Zealand.  Nothing too remarkable about that these days; but still, it was a delight to be able to connect with the group in this way, and I felt a new sense of appreciation for the benefits of computer technology.  We now have access to a wide range of dharma teachings from many different traditions, in many different forms.  And with almost no effort, we can instantly download or stream talks and videos, or sign up for online study courses.

In my own experience though – as both a teacher and a student – there can also be a downside to this instant abundance.  Without awareness, it can unconsciously reinforce a passive, materialistic, and at times even disrespectful relationship to the teachings.

So as technology helps meditation becomes more and more mainstream, it’s becoming increasingly normal to approach it with a consumerist mind-set.  In some ways, this makes sense.  When everything else around us is presented in that way, why wouldn’t we think about the practice in terms of what we can get from it?  And why wouldn’t we assume that it should be available on my terms: in the way I want it, when I want it, for the price I want it?  We can even mistake this kind of freedom (to consume) for the deeper freedom that the Buddha’s teachings point to. Continue reading “February 2016 full moon – Motivation, Respect, Resolve”