March 2016 full moon – Retreat and pre-retreat practice

Planning to go on retreat? I've had a few conversations recently with people who are planning to go on retreat soon, and at some stage in the discussion, there's often an embarrassed acknowledgement of feeling some anxiety about it.  Even for people who have been on retreat before and have some familiarity with the set-up, …

Continue reading March 2016 full moon – Retreat and pre-retreat practice

February 2016 full moon – Motivation, Respect, Resolve

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 …

Continue reading February 2016 full moon – Motivation, Respect, Resolve

February 2016 new moon – sea anemone heart

Sea anemone by Virginia Draper http://www.virginiadraper.com/p822038089 Opening, closing, opening, closing ... Everything has its natural rhythm, including the human heart.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to understand this, but a childhood memory - of exploring rock-pools with my father while on holiday in Scotland - helped.  On family visits to chilly …

Continue reading February 2016 new moon – sea anemone heart

January 2016 full moon – Impermanence

This full moon post is a bit late again, partly because I've been on the move, travelling and teaching, and partly because a friend of mine is actively dying now.  Even though I'm not physically with her, the gravitational pull of death seems to dissolve any words that come into my mind, and I can …

Continue reading January 2016 full moon – Impermanence

December 2015 full moon – In praise of trees

This year, the full moon coincided with Christmas Day for the first time in 38 years. I'm in New Zealand visiting family for the holidays and even though it's the middle of summer, there are evergreen Christmas trees decorated with icicles and snowflakes everywhere. The symbols of Christmas have always been messed up - the …

Continue reading December 2015 full moon – In praise of trees

November 2015 full moon – gratitude

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 …

Continue reading November 2015 full moon – gratitude

July 2015 full moon 2 (blue moon) – anatta or not-self

'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.' 'There is nothing in the experience of the cosmos that fits the bill of being eternal, unchanging, or that deserves to be clung to as "me" or "mine.' In last month's post, I wrote about dukkha, the second of the three "universal …

Continue reading July 2015 full moon 2 (blue moon) – anatta or not-self

February 2015 full moon – freedom from the fetter of views

While in San Francisco recently, I had an opportunity to visit Alcatraz island, the former federal penitentiary, 19th-century military fortress, site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks.  As we walked through the decaying cell blocks, I was struck by the layers and layers of defence that …

Continue reading February 2015 full moon – freedom from the fetter of views

December 2014 full moon – wisdom and compassion

This December full moon I happen to be assisting James Baraz with a seven-day retreat in the Yarra Valley, outside of Melbourne, Australia.  Those of you who are familiar with James' teaching know that he infuses the traditional mindfulness practices that lead to insight, with the "heart practices" known as the four brahma vihara: kindness/metta, …

Continue reading December 2014 full moon – wisdom and compassion

November 2014 full moon – Right Effort and the Middle Way

Last month, I wrote about the quality of viriya, sometimes translated as "heroic energy," and how at times, just signing up for a retreat can seem to kick-start an inner process where qualities such as determination, dedication, commitment, effort, and trust begin to deepen - even before we actually arrive at the retreat itself. Also …

Continue reading November 2014 full moon – Right Effort and the Middle Way