By Helen Park
On an unseasonably warm November night, current students and alumni of the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program (CPP) in New York City gathered to receive teachings from Lama Rod Owens. Lama Rod is one of the most exciting and inspiring Dharma teachers of our time, having received teaching authorization by the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism after completing a three-year silent retreat, and drawing upon his own very personal life experiences as a Black, queer man raised in the South. He held space with us for close to three hours, inviting us to be in contemplative presence together that was intimate, playful, ‘triggering in a positive way,’ and deeply restorative.
Lama Rod Owens teaching about skillful ways to work with compassion and anger for the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program in New York City.
by Geri Loizzo
One of my favorite stories found in the Jewish tradition was told to me by my dear teacher, Yogini Mary Reilly Nichols. It’s a story of a young man who goes to see a famous rabbi and is asked by a friend, “are you going to hear the rabbi speak?” “No,” replies the young man, “I am going to watch the rabbi tie his shoes.” He did not mean this as a joke, and he understood that the embodied qualities of enlightenment which the rabbi exuded in his very being, could offer powerful inspiration that he could intuit.
By Scott Tusa
The day I became a Buddhist monk was one of the best days of my life. If I had to compare it to something, it’s sort of like a wedding day, but you are marrying yourself! I had been preparing for it for over 7 years, and it felt like the fruition of a lot of hard work and aspirations.
When the day arrived, myself and a group of 150 novices from around the world sat in front of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to formally take our monastic vows. After a beautiful and moving ceremony I was motioned by an attendant to approach His Holiness.
by Mary Reilly Nichols
I was speaking about non-dual awareness with a friend when she rightly pointed out that the phrase ‘non-dual’ itself is dualist. That is why i like the term samadhi to describe the non-dual state. The word samadhi derives from the Indo-European root, sam, which is also the source of the English word ‘same’. It connotes unity, evenness, equality. Samadhi, the perception of oneness, is the true bread of life. The visceral experience of union we get from yoga practices is a delicious recharge of the nervous system.
by Fiona Brandon
During our recent Mindfulness Year fall retreat, Joe Loizzo emphasized to the cohort that the development of the self is “a creative project,” but one that is not always in our favor. “There is a tendency once we make an interpretation [about ourselves or an experience]…to forget it was an interpretation. [We] just stamp it with the seal of reality because for one moment [the interpretation] was serviceable.” It can be shocking to look under the hood of this habitual pattern and see that we create lifelong fundamental beliefs about ourselves, and the world around us, based on interpretations that may have been true in one moment, but are inaccurate for subsequent moments in our lives!
The year begins with an understanding of the webs we weave. Pictured on retreat are San Francisco students with Dr. Joe Loizzo (second in top row) and Fiona Brandon (second in bottom row).
by Fiona Brandon
When Sharon Salzberg lead San Francisco’s 2017 Spring Mindfulness Year retreat, she playfully challenged the notion that Mindfulness, “Seems to imply a complacency: be in the present moment without reacting. Sounds dull!” The students laughed. I appreciated how Sharon addressed the popular misunderstanding that the goal of mindfulness meditation is to have no thoughts and sit in some kind of fixed non-reactive state. When in reality, the four foundations of mindfulness — the main meditation practices taught during the Mindfulness Year of the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program — are anything but static.
Sharon Salzberg with Mindfulness Year faculty Joe Loizzo, Linda Graham and Fiona Brandon.
by Mindy Newman
If someone had suggested to me a few years ago that it would be a good idea for me to publicly share my experience with meditation by writing about it in a blog post, I frankly would have thought that they were insane and considered politely urging them to seek mental health treatment. My stream of consciousness probably would have gone something like: “I am a terrible meditator. I don’t have any discipline. My mind is an absolute mess. I don’t even like meditating. What is wrong with this person — isn’t is obvious that I am awful at this?” I really believed there was something wrong with me — a Buddhist practitioner who hated meditation, and I felt tremendous shame about it.
Students of the Contemplative Psychotherapy Program practicing meditation while on retreat at Menla Mountain House. Photo by Darren Ornitz.
For years, I sat in meditation classes and imagined that everyone else on the cushion was having some kind of better experience. I’d heard enough instructions from different teachers about the ubiquity of the “monkey mind” to accept that distraction was normal, but surely my amount of distraction was too much — much more than normal — and definitely more than anyone else’s.
by Geri Loizzo
There’s a reason why I’m so excited about our upcoming Meditation Teacher Training in Compassion. Though we benefit greatly from Mindfulness as the way of personal freedom, or the vehicle for not getting caught up in the stresses of everyday life, it is compassion practice that takes us back to Mindfulness’ ethical roots. Historical Buddha, after all, declared that every mind is noble regardless of race, class or gender. In that sense, his remarkable insights, the four noble truths, were radically compassionate at their very core.
Students and teachers gather for graduation photo at the conclusion of our last training. Congratulations everyone!
Compassion Training is a treasure of practices that have the potential to soften the heart, protect from stress, and bring us closer to our fellow human beings in an ever-widening circle of kin. They are a social gift that keeps on giving.
by Miles Neale
At the conclusion of teaching the second iteration of Nalanda Institute’s four-year Sustainable Happiness Program, I lead a group weekend retreat and graduation ceremony at Ananda Ashram. All of the graduates expressed a hunger for more learning and adventure. In short-order, we collectively conceived of a group pilgrimage to the sacred sites of Buddhist India. In October 2016, I led sixteen students to India, along a route that is sometimes referred to as “In The Footsteps of the Buddha” as it traces the power spots associated with the major milestones of the Buddha’s own life. I called our odyssey the “Hero’s Pilgrimage,” based on the Altruistic Hero or Bodhisattva idea, the Buddhist archetype of the individual who strives to awaken others, and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, the “Hero’s Journey,” specifically its narrative arc of leaving home, slaying demons, finding treasure, and return home with the elixir for others.