The recorded dharma talk that we listen on the self-led day retreats enriches the day and stimulates reflection and deepening of our practice.
The talks are provided through an organisation called Dharmaseed. While they are free of charge we are invited to express our gratitude for the recorded teachings by offering donations (Dana). The tradition of Dana in Buddhism is an acknowledgement of our interconnectedness and interdependence. Details on how to give Dana can be found at www. dharmseed.org/donation
September’s talk looked at the tools that support meditation. The talk was given by Rick Hanson’s on the four core factors of awakening. He explained these with the latest neuroscience. By relating these somewhat esoteric factors to the everyday working of our brains, he makes them very attainable. The talk is called Nowness, Wholeness, Allness, Oneness. The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre’s Evolving Together: Mindfulness, Meditation and Modern Science Retreat. It lasts for 62:38
What is the role of metta meditation in relationship to the Vipassana practice? How do we take the practice home? On the cushion? Daily practice? What’s the role of gratitude in embracing all of life? August’s talk was called Embracing it all: taking the practice home with gratitude (58:53) and was given by Nikki Mirghafori at the Insight Meditation Society – Retreat Center : Metta: Lovingkindness Retreat.
David, a sangha member says “Gratitude can be a powerful practice. Just noticing or writing down things to be grateful for makes people happier (and kinder). Niki explains with how to work with this powerful method. And how to take this practice home to enrich your life.”
July’s talk was given by Tempel Smith and was called Meditative Steps in Mindfulness of Breathing – Anapanasati. In many discourses the Buddha gave very detailed instructions on how to develop Mindfulness of Breathing from our first awareness of breathing in and out through calming the mind into samadhi (concentration) and then steps to cultivate liberating insight. These 16 steps also include the cultivation of happiness and contentment as an aspect of the path to freedom. It was given at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center : February Monthlong.
David, a sangha member says “Being aware of breathing is the core meditation technique … easy to describe … hard to stay with. Tempel explains with humour and insight how to work with this powerful method. He takes us step-by-step to a calmer and more centred place. Keep (noticing your) breathing!
This month’s talk was given by Christiane Wolf and is called Shame, Self-compassion and the Body (57 mins). It was given at her retreat Finding Freedom in the Body at The Spirit Rock Meditation Center in September 2018. Awareness of the body can bring up strong emotions, like shame. Compassion and self-compassion are antidotes to shame.
“Shame is one of the most difficult feelings to be with. Even though it is a widely shared experience it often leaves us feeling isolated. Christiane talks in a lively and insightful way about this, disclosing her own experiences around her body image. She describes how body awareness and self-compassion offer a route through shame. This talk leads nicely on from last months on the inner critic.”
May’s talk was given by Sally Clough Armstrong and is called Responding with Kindness. Many of us learn to be judgemental and critical, especially towards ourselves. Metta is a powerful practice to diminish and even transform the tendency towards judging. The talk was given at the Spirit Rock Meditation Centre and lasts an hour.
David, from our group writes: This is a fascinating talk on developing Metta as an antidote to our critical thoughts. We tend to constantly criticise ourselves and pretty much everything around us. This tendency is so ingrained we barely notice we do it! Sally shows us how metta and mindfulness practice can reduce this tendency.
April’s talk was given by Susie Harrington and is called Impermanence is a doorway to Freedom. It lasts 57 minutes. The Buddha taught that the recognition of arising and passing away (anicca) is the doorway to freedom. In this talk she explores impermanence and its relationship to dukkha. To let go of our argument with reality – with the way things are, to the nature of changing phenomena, opens to the possibility of ease and freedom:
“All things are impermanent.
They arise, and they pass away.
To live in harmony with this truth
Brings great happiness.”
David, from our group writes: “Even though we all know that everything in life constantly changes, do we really get this? Susie explores how understanding this basic truth can dramatically improve our lives. She is a light hearted speaker who uses personal stories and poems to convey her message. Constant change is all around us, all we need to do is notice it.’
March’s talk was given by Rick Hanson and is called The Neurology of Awakening Part One. It covers the relationship between the mind and brain; strengthening neural factors of mindfulness; the role of concentration in Buddhist practice and practical help from brain research for steadying and quieting the mind and bringing it to singleness.
David says: “How can we deepen our experience while meditating? This talk introduces Rick’s latest workshop on this theme. His work on the intersection of meditation, neuroscience & personal development is both innovative and practical. It includes some guided practice which is optional.”
February’s talk was given by Mark Coleman. It is called Taking your practice home. It explores how we integrate practice into daily life. The talk explores how the eight fold path and the five precepts support us in life. The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Center: Natural Radiance: The Liberating Power of Awareness. It lasts for 56:40 minutes.
David, from our group writes: A retreat can offer a refuge from daily life where we may experience some deep periods of calmness. But the real challenge is to maintain this amongst the many challenges of daily life. This follows our earlier talks on ethical living.
January’s talk was given by Angie Boissevain and is called ‘Refrain from Intoxication’. It is the first talk in a six-week series titled “Ethics, Action and the Five Precepts”. Her talk addresses the fifth precept: refraining from intoxication. She discusses the impact of drug and alcohol use on relationships and how restraint can promote harmony. The talk was given on 7th July 2016 at the Insight Meditation South Bay Centre and lasts for 59:50
David, from our group, says: “The start of the year offers an opportunity to begin again. This could mean include having a “dry month”. Buddhism offers some recommendations on refraining from intoxication and other addictive behaviours. This follows our previous talks on ethical living.”
Talks listened to in 2018
December’s recorded talk was given by Joseph Goldstein and is on ‘Right Speech’. David from our group who chose this talk says: “Buddhism offers some recommendations on ‘right speech’. It also suggests that practicing these is central to all aspects of our life. But applying right speech to our personal lives is not easy. How do we communicate with care, honesty & meaning? This follows our November talk on ethical living.” The talk was given at Insight Meditation Society – Forest Refuge : May 6th 2009 at IMS – Forest Refuge and lasts for 56:39.
November’s recorded talk was given by Donald Rothberg. It is called Ethical Practice 1 – An Introduction. The talks explores the meaning of ethical practice – its relationship to meditation and wisdom practice, how it is more a training than a following of external principles, how there are individual, relational, and social dimensions to our ethical practice, and how it can deepen for us. There’s a brief overview of the five lay precepts and a taking of the precepts.
David from our group chose this talk and says, “Buddhism offers 5 principles for an ethical life. It also suggests that practising these principles is as important as practising mediation. But applying ethics to our personal and social life often brings up many challenges.”
The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre on 01.10.14 and lasts for 58:11.
During our past retreats people often report sleepiness and an over busy mind. Are these obstacles to true meditation? Or can we appreciate their real value and function. By simply noticing what is happening we can relax these energies.
October’s talk was given by Pat Coffey and is called Challenging our energies: our organism loving itself. Pat writes: Survival warrants the arising of certain energies. They are not our enemies. If we treat them as such we are continuing the internal warfare and struggle. By seeing energies like lust, fear, hatred, worry, sleepiness and doubt as our organism loving itself we elicit self-compassion and understanding….the perfect healing energies and perspective to then move forward into greater ease and connection with all life. It was given at the Insight Meditation Community of Washington DC’s 2014 Spring retreat: Intimacy with life and lasts 60:12 mins.
This month’s talk was called Is your meditation practice a circle or a line. It is given by Rebecca Bradshaw. It is given by Rebecca Bradshaw. One of our sangha Lesley says: I listened to this talk late one night while in my camper van in the Rockies. Given that at the time I was definitely practising in a ‘circle’, it gave me a lot to think about, especially how much of my/ our lives are lived in ‘lines’. Rebecca is an engaging, humorous and warm speaker and hopefully the talk will spark some useful reflections. The talk lasts for 60:58 and was given on 15.02.2017.
This month’s talk was called ‘Embodied awareness’ and is given by Lila Kate Wheeler. The talk is about the importance of mindful awareness of the body. It was given on 11.02.17 at the Insight Meditation Society’s Retreat Centre. It lasts for 51:43.
This month’s talk was given by James Baraz. It is called Titrating our Dukkha. James asks can meditation heal past traumas? What are the dangers of working directly with difficult emotions? James provides some helpful and practical suggestion on how to take it one step at a time. He provides a simple toolkit for healing traumas both big and small.
Though mindfulness meditation instructions generally suggest paying attention to what is predominant, focusing on overwhelming emotions especially those rooted in trauma is often not beneficial. This talk, which includes the Buddha’s teachings on working with difficult emotions as well as theory from Somatic Experiencing (SE)—an approach to working with trauma—explores how to work with intense emotions by touching them a little at a time.
The talk was given at Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley on 13.09.12. It lasts for 54:40.
June’s talk looked at the tools that support meditation. We listened to Rick Hanson’s fast-paced talk on the four core factors of awakening. He explains these with the latest neuroscience. By relating these somewhat esoteric factors to the everyday working of our brains, he makes them very attainable. The talk is called Nowness Wholeness Allness Oneness. The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre’s Evolving Together: Mindfulness, Meditation and Modern Science Retreat. It lasts for 62:38
May’s talk was by Temple Smith. It is called Kindness, Harmlessness and Generosity. A meditation retreat is a great way to recharge our batteries. But retreat days are very different from our normal lives.
This talk looks at how we can keep practicing at home while remaining compassionate with ourselves and others. Temple is a witty and entertaining speaker who draws on his personal experiences. The talk was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre’s July Metta Retreat on 21st July 2016. It lasts for 64:50 mins.
April’s talk was a discussion between Ed Catmull of president of Pixar and Disney Studios and Vipassana meditation teacher Phillip Moffitt. They discuss working with creativity, intention and learning. They explore how mindfulness and Buddhist principles can be applied in two different organisations; Spirit Rock Meditation Centre & Pixar Studios. How can individual practice be integrated into an organisation? Can this build a culture that embraces learning and creativity?
March’s recorded talk was by Catherine McGee is was great way to welcome the Spring. It is called Embodying the Heart of Wisdom. Catherine guides us into living more fully in the body. We often desire to be more in touch with our bodies, both in life and in practice. But this can be surprisingly elusive. In this inspiring talk Catherine points the way. There are some optional short guided exercises that help explore our relationship with our bodies. It was given at the Insight Meditation Society – Retreat Center’s New Year’s Retreat 2016.
In February we had something different. In this recorded talk, Rick Hanson introduces his fast-paced workshop during this talk. It covers the relationship between the mind and brain; strengthening neural factors of mindfulness; the role of concentration in Buddhist practice and practical help from brain research for steadying and quieting the mind and bringing it to singleness.There are guided exercises on the factors that strengthen mindfulness. It includes current brain research into the benefits of meditation. Plus, lots of tips on how to develop concentration and compassion. A great way to move forward in 2018.’ It is called ‘The Neurology of Awakening’ and was given at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre.
January’s recorded talk was January Living and given by Leela Sarti. The talk explores the nature of love and the implications of loving whatever arises. When we feel love for our own being we are also at the receiving end of our own emotional support and can begin to unravel self-judgements. What is the nature of the heart, beyond images and ideas? To open one’s heart may be the greatest contribution we can make to life on earth. ‘Leela talks with great depth and insight about living and practicing from the heart. She encourages us move away from sentimental ideas about love. And then explore how opening our hearts can change our lives. Sounds like a great way to start 2018!’
Talks listened to in 2017
December’s recorded talk was by Joseph Goldstein. It is called Deepening Insight into Impermanence. It was given at Spirit Rock on 16th July 2017. Joseph talks with great authority and presence about impermanence. ‘Even though we all know that everything in life changes, do we really get it? He explores how insight in to this basic fact can dramatically improve our lives. Constant change is all around us, all we need to do is notice it.’
November’s recorded talk was by Tempel Smith. It is called Developing Samadhi/Concentration with Metta (63:18) given at Spirit Rock on 10.07.2017.
There are many beautiful reasons to develop loving-kindness meditation and one of them is deeper samadhi/concentration. By developing the Five Jhana Factors in Metta meditation we can come to know wholeness and focus within our own hearts, minds and bodies.’In this talk Temple explains how meditation improves concentration, particularly when doing loving-kindness meditation. We all have the innate ability to focus our minds. But we often feel distracted while meditating. Tempel explores how meditation helps concentration, even when we struggle with our monkey mind.’
October’s recorded talk was by Mark Coleman. ‘Mark is an engaging speaker. Developing compassion for yourself and others in the midst of everyday challenges is a big ask! Mark explores Metta not only as a practice but as an attitude to life.’ Mark’s talk Path of metta explores the journey of the heart. What happens as we cultivate metta practice, both the obstacles, challenges, gifts and fruits?
September’s recorded talk was ‘This is being known’ by Mark Numberg. 2017-06-04 This is Being Known 1:27:21 given at the Common Ground Meditation Centre
August’s recorded talk was by John Peacock. It is called “What is in ‘The Present Moment'” It is an examination of what it means to be in the present moment and the content of that moment.
July’s recorded talk was given by Tara Brach. It is called “Landlocked in Fur” – Three Domains of Formless Presence.
‘Tara explores with humour and insight how we can find the space behind our habitual behaviour. She brings this to life with poems and anecdotes. Some about cats! Tara writes: While we have evolved to experience a defining sense of separate self, our potential is to awaken to the formless dimension – the pure awareness is our shared source. This talk explores how we can undo the identification with thoughts, emotions and feelings that keeps us landlocked and unable to trust and live from our naturally loving and radiant essence.’ NOTE: beginning poem is “Landlocked in Fur,” by Tukaram, from “Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West” (Ladinksy, 2002)
This month’s recorded talk was given by Mark Coleman. It is called Mindfulness, Technology and Social Media. ‘This talk was selected after the sharing at end of the May retreat. People expressed their concerns about how digital technology is affecting their lives and practice. Mark explores the rapid changes caused by phones, email, social media, websites etc. He suggests how meditation can help us fully engage with technology yet remain present.’
May’s recorded talk was called ‘Whole Life Practice’ by Tempel Smith. ‘Temple’s talk is about meditation in daily life. Retreats provide a temporary refuge, but the challenge is to apply what we learn in a wider world. Tempel describes with humour and insight how he returned to ordinary life after being ordained.’
April’s talk was by Martin Alyward. It is called On Fluidity, Uncertainty and Inconceivabilit. ‘The talk explores bringing the fundamental truth of life’s fluidity, and the familiarity of teachings on impermanence, right into the heart of every-moment practice.
David, who helps organise the Self Led Day Retreats says: Martin talks with great presence about dealing with life’s transitions. He encourages us to look at how we think about the past, present and future. I found this a very useful talk about everyday impermanence.’
March’s talk was by Ann Cushman. It is called The Four Foundations of Creativity. ‘It is an exploration of how mindfulness supports creative expression and how art-making can be mindfulness practice.This talk is from a retreat for painters and writers. Anne describes how the foundations of meditation can also be applied to creative expression. Anne’s inspiring talk contains some lovely poetry readings. It helped me with my work as a painter.’ 48:54 Spirit Rock Meditation Center
February’s talk was by Alan Lewis and was given at Gaia House on 01-02-2014 and is called The Compassionate Space
On the world stage we are entering uncertain times. But uncertainty is a basic aspect of life. ‘Alan describes with humour and insight how we can grow to accept this. Compassion and creativity can then follow.’
Talks listened to in 2016
Love, Sexuality and Awakening 61:40 by Ajahn Thanasanti given on 2014-10-09 ‘The talk is about sexuality and romantic attraction. It is great to hear a (celibate) Buddhist nun talk about sexuality! A topic that is often ignored. She does it with wisdom and humour.’
Embracing it all: taking the practice home with gratitude 58:53 Nikki Mirghafori given on 2016-05-24 What is the role of metta meditation in relationship to the Vipassana practice? How do we take the practice home? On the cushion? Daily practice? What’s the role of gratitude in embracing all of life? ‘This is a very heartfelt talk. Nikki talks about the benefits of gratitude in everyday life. It helped me maintain my home practice.’
The Instinctual Body – Sex, Survival and Social Drives 40:14 by Martin Aylward given on 2015-01-24
We are bound by our biology, and our health, longevity and death are largely out of our control. ‘This talk explores the way our biology impacts us, including the influences of the sex drive, the survival drive and the social drive. Martin looks at how we can explore and understand our biology in such a way as to inhabit it freely. I really enjoyed this talk. Martin has great presence as a speaker. It is great to hear a Buddhist talk that looks at our basic drives, including our sex drive.’
The Science Of Meditation 58:57 by Diana Winston given on 2008-06-25 This talk discusses the current research in mindfulness, including the areas of physical health, attention, mental health, self-compassion, and brain research. ‘I really enjoyed this talk. It looks at the research that backs up meditation. It is also fun & inspiring.’
The Self and Its Search for Security 61:39 by Rob Burbea given on 2009-09-11. ‘This talk investigates some of the ways the ego mistakenly seeks security in different places, particularly exploring our complex relationship with money, and with self-view, and then also inquiring into the very structure of that self.’
Trauma and Freedom 66:23 by Jack Kornfield given on 2012-10-15 Using the cloak of mindfulness and compassion to heal trauma and awaken freedom.
Opening Talk for Transforming Self, Transforming World 67:12 by David Loy given on 2011-06-03. This is an opening talk for a retreat that explores the relationship between personal and social transformation. There are profound parallels between our individual predicament and our collective situation, and this retreat explores their nonduality. If the self is an insecure construct haunted by a sense of lack, we gain insight into our preoccupation with attachments such as money, fame, power and romance, and how the ‘three poisons’ (greed, ill will and delusion) have become institutionalised.