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.