A few thoughts on the interface of spirituality and psychoactive chemicals: the value that they can have, some of the dangers, and some tips for how to make psychedelic explorations be useful and safe.
For many people establishing a meditation practice, buying a sitting cushion of one’s own is a big moment. Many people find that there is something special about having their own cushion…
The California Vipassana Center (more formally known as ” Dhamma Mahavana”, or “Great Forest of Buddhist Teachings”) is a large meditation center in the wooded near Fresno, in central California. It is the place where I did my first intensive meditation retreat (in 1994), and I have sat two more there since then (in 1996 and 2003). The CVC is also the place where many of my friends have done their first (and only) meditation retreats. “To do a Vipassana” is a phrase that I hear fairly often, and it means to do a ten-day retreat at the CVC, or one of it’s affiliated meditation centers.
A few folks have asked me to let them know what I find out about long long-term yoga training opportunities while here in India. I haven’t done as many yoga intensives as I fantasized I would, but I do think that I have however learned good stuff about what the yoga opportunities are here – by taking retreats, and also taking individual classes, talking to yoga teachers and students, staying at ashrams, and reading things online
Years ago, a friend wrote home that he had reviewed the Landmark Education Forum personal growth course while traveling in Asia. At the time. I thought to myself, man that’s a great idea. Inspired by that, I just reviewed the Landmark Advanced Course this last weekend, here in Mumbai/Bombay India.
Shinzen Young is one of my two top Buddhist teachers (along with the inimitable Gil Fronsdal). It was Shinzen’s vision of the Buddha Way that first got me interested in Buddhism in 1989 (!), and his teachings are still, to this day, the most compelling and resonant vision of the Dharma for me out of all that I have encountered.
Some general themes of the book “Codependent No More” are cultivating boundaries, a healthy sense of separation, solid self-respect, saying “no”, paying attention to one’s own business, and being able to strong and brave in walking one’s path. It’s also about finding balance and general emotional health, and cultivating the ability to love and care for others for real (in a way that isn’t draining).
“Zen Mind, Begnner’s Mind” is mystical and otherworldly yet also day-to-day ordinary, it is philosophical and technical yet also beautifully poetic and literary, it is challenging and demands your best yet is also gentle and patient, it is traditional yet also modern, it is serious and sincere yet also light-hearted and easy, it is simple yet also deep, it is Japanese yet also American.
“Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” is a deceptively basic-seeming book that will actually will reward the reader with as much depth as they are willing to seek from it. Some themes in the book are developing a sense of purpose and intentionality in life, cultivating self-discipline and ethical behavior, and ways to create social networks that work (which, in the end, comes down to love). A big theme in the book is taking on practices and self-cultivations in the service of self-improvement.
Over the years, people have often asked me for recommendations for Buddhist meditation resources for beginners. Here is what I have been suggesting:
If you want to understand “enlightenment” not just as a concept, but actually learn how it feels to disidentify with yourself as a finite human being, and to instead experience yourself as an expressive action of the entire universe, then this may be the perfect book for you. Nisargadatta’s teachings are relentlessly confrontational and cosmically mind-blowing. If you are ready for them, the words in this book can take every belief (and perceptual) system that you have, and blow them out of the water, stretching you wider than you could have conceived possible. Some times in reading it, I have felt that this book is IT, the end point of the whole journey.
The cost of Spirit Rock’s programs are calibrated towards successful new-Prius-driving professionals with incomes from investments, and there is financial aid for, I guess, the non-profit changing-the-world-but-penniless and urban food stamps sets.
A straight up masterpiece. This book is filled with deep, true, authentic Buddhist wisdom, and yet is written in an easy, extraordinarily clear Americanized vernacular. It is a comprehensive introduction for mindfulness meditation practice, filled with clear instructions for the path. The book challenges the reader to go deep and to practice properly, but it also has a simple, patient, humorous, kind, smiling vibe to it. It covers a wide ground, and yet touches on each subject in depth.
Some of the main intentions of the course, in my words, are to get to the deepest heart of who we are, to have that be seen and celebrated in a community setting, to be aware of what stands between us and being connected to people and to help melt that, and to clear ourselves for getting on with whatever it is that we most want in life.
To me, the heart of Buddhist practice is daily sitting. I find sitting in general makes me less reactive and more aware in life. I tend to feel better about the choices that I make and how I interact with people when I am sitting regularly compared with when I am not. I also have noticed that I enjoy life, going about it more consciously and with greater choice, patience, and spaciousness, when I have been sitting.