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.
View a brief video excerpt about Polyvagal Theory:
by Joe Loizzo
Recently I had the rare opportunity to interview one of the rising stars of the new neuroscience, Dr. Stephen Porges, the lone pioneer of the latest research on the unique role of the autonomic nervous system in human life. Many of you have heard me repeatedly try to convey the revolutionary impact of his work on the main neural governor of our body states, moods, mind states, and responses. So you can imagine how thrilled I was that he agreed to speak at our upcoming Annual Benefit, and to spend an hour of his time with me sharing his journey of discovery and reflecting on his work’s relevance to science, psychotherapy, contemplation, and contemporary life.
What I learned in that interview came as no surprise: Dr. Porges is the real deal, a rigorous researcher whose work is transforming our view of human physiology and health and will impact science for decades if not centuries to come. The surprise was to find that Stephen also happens to be a vital, creative child of the 1960’s—a humanist at heart who followed his passion for music deep into the evolutionary sources and innermost mysteries of human life: the healing, connective power of fearless presence, awe, and love. I’d like to share with you a few excerpts from our interview, and hope that they will whet your appetite to hear more from this inspiring pioneer at our 9th Annual Benefit on June 8th!
by Joe Loizzo
I am delighted to be able to share with you two excerpts from the exciting new book penned by our dear friend Dr. Pilar Jennings. Many of you know Pilar already from her incredibly clear and kind teaching as a core faculty member in our Sustainable Happiness Program and our Contemplative Psychotherapy Program, or from our last Annual Benefit.
In To Heal a Wounded Heart, Pilar has outdone herself, bringing her incomparably wise and nurturing voice ever deeper into the intimate realm where Buddhism and psychotherapy meet to turn trauma into wholeness. We know this taste of Pilar’s heartfelt reflections on her encounters with clients and with her guru will whet your appetite for the whole feast.
To Heal a Wounded Heart: The Transformative Power of Buddhism and Psychotherapy in Action is available on Amazon*.
Two excerpts from the introduction to To Heal a Wounded Heart by Pilar Jennings
Ten years ago I made a decision I could not have anticipated in my years of training to become a psychoanalyst. I brought my Buddhist teacher and best friend into treatment with my first patient. The idea was to offer Martine, a six-year-old girl I quickly fell in love with, a sense that even the worst losses can be survived. Lama Pema knew something about grizzly loss and extreme vulnerability. As a child living in Tibet, on the eve of the Chinese invasion, he lost his country, his parents, and even a sense of self still fragile and easily dismantled. Martine’s losses were more chronic—an addicted mother who flitted in and out of her life, who tantalized her with loving but unreliable attention, and an elderly grandmother who held on tight, determined to keep her from the outside world where danger lurked.
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 Roshi Joan Halifax
For much of my life I have worked with caregivers in the most challenging of clinical settings—end-of-life care—as well as with activists on the front lines of pressing struggles in social justice and social action. In the course of this work, I have witnessed firsthand the insidious impact of empathic distress in caregivers and activists.
by Joe Loizzo
In recent months and years, the young transplant of Tibetan Buddhism in the West has suffered several shocks that have shaken sapling communities in the U.S., and troubled the larger community of Buddhist orders around the world. Given the public controversy and deeply personal introspection stirred by these shocks, including the recent statement by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, I believe the time is right for us as a community to seriously reflect on what they can teach us about the global future of Tibet’s unique culture and its little understood Vajrayana form of Buddhism, also known as Buddhist Tantra.
[download the full article in PDF format]
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.