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Category Archives: Dharma Talks

This is it!?!

On Saturday morning, I watched the first 15-minutes of a talk by Sr. Thệ Nghiêm at Deer Park Monastery, given on September 15, 2017 (see Youtube link below). She spoke about something I’ve both experienced personally and spoken about in a talk I gave 3-4 years ago. At Deer Park Monastery, in southern California, behind the alter of orchids in the big meditation hall, sits a circular wooden sign that says: This is it. When I first encountered this calligraphy of Thay’s, I misunderstood its teaching and took it as a glib proclamation, as in: This is it, I guess. Whatever. Sigh.

As you likely imagine, this is not what it means. Back in the day, I knew I wasn’t viewing it as intended, I simply hadn’t developed my own insight about it’s intent just yet. Understanding unfolds over time, with practice in cultivating diligence and deep looking. Words/teachings can only take us so far. They can show us a new path to venture down, but we have to be the ones to move our feet and actualize the fruits of what it has to offer.

This is it is an invitation to look more deeply into every facet and fissure of our lives, really. To see life as ever-flowing, ever-changing, and ever-amazing. To understand the depths of This is it, means to see clearly that this moment – whatever moment we find ourselves amid – IS it, truly. This present moment is the foundation for the next present moment, and it’s up to us to sculpt it in the best way possible. To turn our lives into a living art form.

One of the main root teachings I receive nourishment of, by staying apprised of both local and world news, is in regards to the nature of life and death. In short: there are a lot of ways to live and there are a lot of ways to die. The more I learn and deepen my understanding of this truth – this nature of reality – the more it opens me to the preciousness of life, and the myriad of possibilities that exist.

This is it! is more than a teaching. It’s a way of living.

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Open Way Fall Retreat 2015 (Part 2)

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As I mentioned in my last post: Open Way Fall Retreat 2015 (Part 1), last weekend was our local Montana Open Way Sanghas fall retreat.  The pictures featured here were taken during our weekend together.  Dharma teacher Terry Cortez-Vega joined us from Austin, TX to lead our meditation retreat.  I took some notes during her dharma talks and wanted to share a few of them:

Everything we experience, everything we think is in flux, is impermanent.  It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer it’s that we think things are permanent when they’re not.  When we have the flu or are stuck in traffic we trust in the nature of impermanence that things will change.  Impermanence is not a philosophy, it’s a practice.

Non-self doesn’t mean we don’t exist, it means we are impermanent.

The buddha taught that there are 3 kinds of suffering: 1. 2nd arrow suffering, where we multiply the stress of an event that takes place.  2. Willie Nelson suffering (Terry called it), where we want to hold onto what we like and get rid of what we don’t like.  3. Looking for solid ground suffering, wanting guarantees and certainty in life.  Thay teaches that we need to let go of the little sufferings so that we can conserve energy for the big stuff.

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Deer Park, Day 6

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(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts.  Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay.  The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters.  The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart.  The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village.  While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities.  The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)

Day 6

Thursday January 15th, 2015

6:00pm

Every Sunday and Thursday are open days of mindfulness here at Deer Park so today was another day of mindfulness.  Not nearly as many people attend as on a Sunday since it is a weekday but still there were around maybe 25 people or so that came.  After morning sitting practice and stick exercise the brothers and lay friends from Solidity Hamlet joined us in our hamlet for breakfast.  At 9:00am the day of mindfulness started and we met in the big hall to watch a video of Thay giving a dharma talk from the 21-day retreat in Plum Village last June.  Before I include some notes I took from that talk let me include some notes I took at the Venerable’s class last night:

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Deer Park, Day 1

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(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts.  Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay.  The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters.  The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart.  The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village.  While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities.  The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)

Day 1

Saturday January 10th, 2015

Written in my journal this morning:

Last night as I walked back to my hut the air was so lovely.  It reminded of when I once went swimming in the ocean late one summer night when I was a teenager.  The water was a warm cool bath, still and serene – I felt safe and content and free.  I have had a lot of those types of moments here at Deer Park already since I arrived yesterday.  Moments that submerge you, encompass your senses, and penetrate so deeply that the present moment becomes alive and tangible.

Yesterday when I saw the 6 new seated buddha statues (pics above) in the oak grove their beauty illuminated me, when I first heard the sound of the bell at the start of meditation and the accompanying song one of the sisters sang I was filled with shivers as they washed over me, the sweet smell of the air, the sound of the crickets, owls, and ravens, the moon’s loving gaze – it is all here as I return to Deer Park.  My gratitude is immeasurable.

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Embracing & Letting Go

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This past Monday, September 29th, I gave a talk as part of our weekly Be Here Now Sangha meeting on the practices of embracing and letting go.  If you would like to give it a listen please go to: http://openway.org/audio – there are also other great audio files on our site from past retreats and dharma teachers that you can download as well.

Happy listening!

 

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Audio File – Cultivating Joy

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Hello dear friends,

I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago during a day of mindfulness on the topic of Cultivating Joy.  If you would like to listen to it please go to: http://openway.org/audio

:)

 

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Fall Retreat, 2013: Part 3 (of 3)

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While on retreat during one of our afternoon discussion groups I was reflecting on my first few retreat experiences years ago.  The first few retreats I attended were difficult.  I was constantly irritated by one thing or another and it was not uncommon for me to be crying about things I didn’t even fully understand.  My past would surface at unexpected moments and oftentimes I was filled with internal heaviness and sorrow.  For reasons I don’t recall, but am wonderfully grateful for, I kept going to retreats.  I suspect it had to do with knowing that despite the challenges I was facing deep down I understood it was part of the transformation process that needed to happen.

I don’t know how many retreats I’ve been on now and it really doesn’t matter.  What I do know is that I am filled with an immense gratitude and reverence for life and I fully credit this beautiful mindfulness practice for that.  Sometimes we need to trust that our inner guide will take us where we need to go, even when it seems we have no idea where the heck we’re heading.

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