insights

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    The Balancing Buddha Paid Member

    THE MIDDLE WAY is achieved when one reaches that point of cosmic balance between austerity and the creature comforts of the world. The ascetics who were with the Buddha were critical of him because he was no longer living an austere lifestyle. They considered his life too “cushy.” He was eating beautiful food and wearing a fine robe, while they existed on a few grains of rice and slept uncovered on a bed of nails.The ascetics asked the Buddha, “What kind of teacher and yogi are you? You are soft, weak, indulgent.” More »
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    31 Flavors of Craving Paid Member

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    What to Expect When You’re Reflecting Paid Member

    I CAN'T count how many would-be meditators have come to me in despair and admitted that they just don't get it. Meditation is beyond them, they say. Their minds are not suitable receptacles. As a teacher I try to maintain a certain distance, but whenever this happens I want to jump up and hug these people—not out of consolation but from the pride of seeing them take their first baby steps, even if they don't know it. It's one of the great rewards of teaching to know they're turning tentatively inward. It makes all my efforts worthwhile. More »
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    Equanimity in Every Bite Paid Member

    NEITHER the coarse feeling of unpleasantness nor the agitated feeling of pleasure, equanimity, the Buddha said, is one of the highest kinds of happiness, beyond compare with mere pleasant feelings. Superior to delight and joy, true equanimity remains undisturbed as events change from hot to cold, from bitter to sweet, from easy to difficult. This neutral feeling is so subtle that it can be difficult to discern. More »
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    Talk When You Talk, Cry When You Cry Paid Member

    I STUDIED with Allen Ginsberg in 1976 at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. It was a six-week summer course in Boulder, Colorado. I was twenty-eight years old and the path of my life was set, even though I didn't fully know it. About fifteen years later I had the privilege of teaching with him in L.A. And the following year I taught a weekend course and forum with him again for Pacifica College in the same auditorium in L.A. There were six hundred students. We each taught half the room and then switched. I gave a talk about practice. He read his poems. On the last morning we had breakfast together in the hotel. He ordered only low-cholesterol food. He said it was his doctor's orders. I called my friend Barbara Schmitz, whom I had met in his class so many years before. "Imagine," I said, "I'm teaching with Allen Ginsberg." More »
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    Riding the Wave Paid Member

    ONE AFTERNOON in 1986, while I was on a two-week mindfulness retreat on the coast of Hawaii, the bell to end the meditation period rang only ten minutes after the session had begun. The retreat manager announced that she'd been notified by the Civil Defense office in Hilo that an earthquake off the coast of Japan had caused a tidal wave. The wave was crossing the ocean in our direction and was projected to arrive in three hours. "We have seventy people here," she said, "and only one car. Since there are no available buses to send from Hilo," she continued, "and we can't leave, the Civil Defense told us to take high ground and organize our supplies in case we get stranded." We were living in two-story bungalows on a beach ringed by thick jungle. More »