Suffering and Happiness – Both are Present, Embrace Them ft. Steven Tierney, Ed.D.

Suffering and Happiness – Both are Present, Embrace Them

“Living Happily with things as they are (Drishta dharma sukha viharin) encourages an ancient Buddhist teaching. Those of us who have lived with addiction, struggled with recovery and found our common bonds: trauma and toxic shame, may find that teaching simplistic or even dismissive. As Buddhists, we know that suffering is part of life. We accept that. Then, right in the center of the Big Book of alcoholics anonymous (p 132) is a wonderful sentence: “We absolutely insist on enjoying life... we are not a glum lot”! How do we create a life that includes both suffering and happiness? Letting go! Gil Fronsdal writes: “Renunciation is one of the most beneficial, empowering, and freeing practices of Buddhism. As its purpose is to heighten the best qualities of our hearts and minds, renunciation is not meant to diminish our lives but rather to enhance them. Abstaining from intoxicating drinks and drugs—the fifth ethical precept—is an important Buddhist practice. So, we welcome suffering and delusion when they arise, we notice them, but we do not cling. We let them go and we acknowledge that happiness is also present. Not one, not two.”

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Letting Go of Our Stories

ft Mary Stancavage

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As soon as we’re born we’re faced with what life throws at us and we develop ways of coping that may or may not be beneficial. We’re also bombarded with messages from family, friends, school and society at large about who we are and what we should or shouldn’t be. These habits and messages become embedded and we may not even be aware of them, but they influence us on a daily basis. This is what the Buddha means when he talks about our conditioning. This conditioning can harden into the unwise stories we believe; craving and addiction are a destructive way of handling these beliefs.

In order to move towards freedom we have to wake up to our conditioning and disentangle it. Slowing down the mind and taking a step back to see the impersonal nature of the mind and developing a deep intimacy with our experience is how we move toward letting go of the craving and addiction. This talk will offer ways to examine our stories and the baggage we carry with us and investigate how to let them go in order to live a more liberated life.

Living Kindness

ft. Kevin Griffin

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In a time of great conflict and contention in our society, it’s helpful to look to the Buddhist teachings on loving-kindness for guidance. In this evening talk, Kevin will introduce the themes of his latest project, how to live with wisdom and open-heartedness in the world. Drawing from several early suttas he will talk about the challenges of living in harmony, free from ill-will and the suffering of attachment.

Mindful of Race

ft. Ruth King

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Racism remains one of the most rooted and painful impasses of our time. It is fed through unawareness and the misuse of power. Embedded in racism is the skeletal shape of all oppressions. To understand the dynamics of racism and the flesh we put on its bones is to also understand other forms of oppression and our relationship to differences, divisions, and diversity.

Too many of us want racial suffering to go away without first being touched by it or caring for it. Yet recognizing how we have been conditioned to think and react is at the heart of both racial distress and racial healing.

In this introductory talk, we discover how our inner life is reflected in the world through the Buddha’s teachings on Ultimate and Relative Reality and Distortion of Mind, and the three truths we must remember but often forget.

Ruth King Bio:

Ruth King is an international teacher in the Insight Meditation tradition, and an emotional wisdom author and life coach. She is on the Teacher's Council at Insight Meditation Community of Washington and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and is the founder of Mindful Members Insight Meditation Community in Charlotte, NC.

In former years, King managed leadership training and organizational development divisions at Levi Strauss and Intel corporations, specializing in culture change initiatives, including the behavioral implications of mergers and acquisitions.

A world traveler, King’s work has been influenced by many cultures. She has a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, Orinda, CA, and is the author of several publications including Healing Rage: Women Making Inner Peace Possible and Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism From The Inside Out.

Currently recognized as a heart activist, trainer of trainers, and consultant to consultants, King teaches the Mindful of Race Training program, which blends mindfulness principles and meditation with an exploration of our racial conditioning, its impact, and our potential. Website: www.RuthKing.net

Gratitude Turns What You Have Into Enough and More

ft. Gary Sanders

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Recovery and gratitude seem to go hand in hand. In the heat of our addictions, whether substance or process, we all tend to really focus on the hardships of our lives, our trials and tribulations and get stuck in the old comparison game, comparing our insides to others outsides, a line heard frequently in 12 step meetings. That's probably a big reason why we drink, use or act out. We get stuck in the unhealthy mental loop of "poor me", "why me" or "what's wrong with me"...those "Greatest Hits of Addiction", right? We start to believe those stories, we start to program these minds to constantly get hyper-focused on the difficult and painful. And we suffer. So, with this practice of gratitude, we can begin to rewire the mind to appreciate what is good and true and wholesome. This isn't a make-believe practice. As the internet meme says "there's ALWAYS something to be grateful for". Let's dive into this more, practice with it and find some freedom.

What’s Race, Gender, Skin Color, Sexuality got to do with Non Self?

ft. Vimalasara

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Exploring one of the seminal text in the Buddhist teachings -‘ Non-Self’. Paraphrasing the late Pat Parker – she once wrote ‘first you remember I’m a person of color and second you forget I’m a person of color’. What would it be like to be free from all our labels and not attached to the identities we give ourselves and identities forced upon us? Join senior teachers Shahara Godfrey – Vimalasara (Valerie) Mason-John for a day of meditation, dharma talks and compassionate inquiry.

The Pearl in Sorrows Hand

ft. Vince Cullen

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The Pearl in Sorrows Hand

I have recently been considering the nature of 'Dukkha' or 'suffering' or 'stress' in a Buddhist context, particularly how it plays itself out in my life.

One ancient talk goes along the lines... "Now what, friends, is the noble truth of stress? Birth is stressful, illness is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful..."

Birth, sickness, old-age and death are all unavoidable... and undeniably stressful.

I visited one of my favourite aunts in Cork last month. She has advanced dementia, so she doesn't know who anyone is, and she must have all of her personal care provided for her. She was being cared for by her 82-year old husband and surrounded and supported by a large loving family taking care of her every need.

It was inspiring to see her held in so much love. But it was equally sad to see a once vibrant wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and good friend as a mere shadow - almost unrecognisable - of her former ‘self’.

The truth of 'birth, sickness, old-age and death' is the usual description of universal suffering given by the Buddha, and I sometimes forget that the full definition of Dukkha is more than that, quite literally, the complete explanation goes...

"Now what, friends, is the noble truth of stress? Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful; not getting what is wanted is stressful..."

So, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful... again these are not really avoidable. To be human is to experience physical and emotional discomforts. But can I experience these without becoming overwhelmed by them? I suppose that is the practice.

"Association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful; not getting what is wanted is stressful..."

Daily life is inconstant, unpredictable, uncertain, it is woven together with impermanence. I cannot control what I get and what I don't get, but - whether I like it or not - this is my life. To argue with impermanence and uncertainty is to argue with the inarguable.

I have a recurring theme in my head lately. The closing verses from the long version of Rumi's poem 'The Guest House'...

"And if the pearl is not in sorrow's hand,

let it go and still be pleased.

Increase your sweet practice.

Your practice will benefit you at another time;

someday your need will be suddenly fulfilled."

So, maybe, that's what we all have to do... increase our sweet practice... and then, I hope friends, that someday all of our genuine needs will be suddenly fulfilled.

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