Breaking Out from the Shell

The plum tree near my driveway has a nest of robins--the eggs hatched a couple of days ago. The bird box that I hung on the eucalyptus tree outside our kitchen last year now is home to a family of small blue birds. Spring is a time when many creatures are diligently nurturing their young. [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:57-08:00May 12th, 2011|Enlightenment, Jhanas, Meditation|

Just Relax

I opened last night’s dhamma talk with a quote from the eighteenth century Tibetan master Shabkar: “One must remain in the vastness, alert and lucid, letting one’s gaze encompass the infinity of the sky, as though seated on the summit of a mountain open to all the horizons.” This simple instruction invites a spacious, non [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:58-08:00April 13th, 2011|Daily Life Practice, Meditation, Not-Self|

Contemplating the 32 parts of the body

Tonight I will introduce the practice of contemplating the thirty-two parts of the body at our weekly meditation group. This traditional way of investigating the body supports the development of both concentration and insight, and dispels attachment to concepts about the body.  This blog post provides a basic list of the parts and a reminder [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:58-08:00April 5th, 2011|Body, Meditation|

Vipassana–Buddha’s contribution

One of the most obvious element of meditation that Buddhism brings to the table at the interfaith symposium is the practice of insight meditation (vipassana). At this interfaith symposium, each mystical tradition offered meditative practices, but most seemed to be within the category of practices that Buddhism would define as concentration training. When we use [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:58-08:00March 28th, 2011|Enlightenment, Meditation|

Christian Meditation and Silent Prayer

Perhaps the richest moments for me at this interfaith symposium have been dialogs with Rolf Fernandez, who lived as a Franciscan monk for over 40 years and now serves in the capacity of a lay minister.  His down to earth devotion to the divine, acceptance and friendliness toward all whom he meets, and disciplined daily [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:58-08:00March 27th, 2011|Meditation|

Put a retreat on your calendar

By now you probably have a new calendar for 2011. Have you blocked out time for retreat? I like the old fashioned paper calendars myself. I've got bold lines through the weeks that I have reserved for my own retreat practice. If we don't schedule our retreats in advance, the trivial busyness of life all [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:59-08:00January 3rd, 2011|Meditation|

Dhamma in Texas

I just returned from teaching the New Year's retreat for the Mariposa Sangha near Austin, Texas. What a lovely meditation community it is! I first taught in Texas in 1998 as a last minute substitute teacher when a colleague suffered a sudden accident and could not travel. I have returned several times since then, and [...]

2011-01-03T22:53:22-08:00January 3rd, 2011|Loving Kindness and Compassion, Meditation|

Reflections on Sangha

Last night’s discussion centered on the reflection on sangha. It is a meditative practice in which we reflect on qualities that are worthy of respect in the community. This Pali term, sangha, literally means gathering or community. Historically the term sangha has been used to refer to the ordained community of monks and nuns. Contemporary [...]

2010-12-16T23:13:39-08:00December 16th, 2010|Daily Life Practice, Meditation|

Stumbling into Jhana

Frequently I meet students who excitedly tell me about experiences they have had in past retreats where they believe they have “stumbled into jhana,” or “slipped into jhana.” It may be so. Blissful states are not uncommon in meditation. But whether or not it was an actual accomplishment of the deep absorption states called jhana, [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:59-08:00November 25th, 2010|Jhanas, Meditation, Not-Self|

Judging, success, and failure

After a jhana retreat some students may feel pride at the rate of their development, and other students may feel sad, angry, or depressed. I have found that student's feelings about the significance or insignificance of their own progress is usually inaccurate. The ideas that students hold about what constitutes a successful achievement are often [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:59-08:00November 10th, 2010|Emotions, Jhanas, Meditation, Not-Self|


I’ve been quite impressed by the power of diligence. It is inspiring to see the transformation in students who have been returning year after year for our annual jhana retreat. Some have travelled across many state lines, or simply preserved the time in their local schedule to spend these ten days doing intensive samadhi practice. [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:59-08:00October 28th, 2010|Jhanas, Meditation, Uncategorized|

Breath meditation is not just for beginners

The instruction to observe the breath may sound too simple. A student told me today that he thought mindfulness with breathing was only a beginners practice and wanted the advanced meditation instruction. Although the Theravada tradition offers a great variety of meditation objects, including a traditional set of 40 concentration subjects, the breath is not [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:59-08:00October 26th, 2010|Breath, Jhanas, Meditation, Mindfulness Practice|

Feeling the breath today

Meditation teachers often speak about the breath, encouraging students of anapanasati samadhi to carefully observe the breath with a continuity of mindful attention. How closely are you observing your breath as you eat breakfast, walk down the stairs, drive your car, and also when you meditate? I enjoy highlighting mindfulness of the breath once in [...]

2017-02-16T09:34:59-08:00October 21st, 2010|Breath, Daily Life Practice, Meditation, Uncategorized|


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