Continuing compassion

[Forest and wildlife officer Lachlan Clarke checks a koala for injuries – photo courtesy of the Guardian] In my last newsletter and last post here, I’ve been exploring compassion as a resource to navigate all the various global challenges happening right now. Just today there was a moving photo essay about all the efforts that are being made to help koalas injured in the recent … Continue reading Continuing compassion

Compassion for all beings affected by the Australian bushfires

Season’s greetings from Waipu, New Zealand I’m unexpectedly having to spend more time here in New Zealand, after my nine-day retreat outside of Sydney over New Year was just cancelled due to the bushfires in Australia. The Blue Mountains has been a kind of second home to me, so I’ve been staying in contact with friends there who have been sending me heart-breaking reports of … Continue reading Compassion for all beings affected by the Australian bushfires

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

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”

December 2015 full moon – In praise of trees

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New Zealand Christmas tree with native bird ornaments

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 pagan-influenced Christmas tree, the Coke-ad inspired Santa, the Christian Nativity scene – but even more so in the Southern Hemisphere. In Australia, women in Santa hats and bikinis body-surf on Bondi Beach, while groups of men work on their tans, standing around beer-filled coolers topped with battery-operated sparkling artificial Christmas trees. Continue reading “December 2015 full moon – In praise of trees”

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” *

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, compassion/karuna, joy/mudita and equanimity/upekkha. Practiced together, all of these techniques … Continue reading December 2014 full moon – wisdom and compassion

Reflections on the Brahma Vihara practices

This article (with minor amendments) was first published in the March 2014 BMIMC newsletter. Since returning to Australia and New Zealand from the United States eighteen months ago, I’ve been teaching several weekend retreats, day-long workshops and evening classes in New South Wales and Auckland.  Alongside the insight meditation practice, I’ve usually included some focus on the four brahma-viharas: the meditative development of good will, … Continue reading Reflections on the Brahma Vihara practices