If you’ve sent me an email recently and never got a response, it’s partially due to a streak of non-stop teaching of two intensives back-to-back. Michelle Dalbec and I led a 300-hour “Guiding Meditation for Transformational Yoga Teaching” through Kripalu Center. Luann Fulbright, owner of Dream Yoga in McLean, VA sponsored this event. Yoga with meditation is a perfect blend, moving from the gross to the subtle, to the subtlest. Graduates of the 300-hundred hour “Guiding Meditation for Transformational Yoga Teaching" program at Dream Yoga in Mclean, VA. The Spring IMCW Retreat is a full seven-days of silence and intensive practice with about 100 fellow practitioners. There’s nothing like the experience of ‘being alone together’ that occurs on retreat. Each morning starts with ChiGong and alternates sitting and walking meditation with a yoga flow in the afternoon and an evening talk each day. Your retreat is supported with two group interviews and one private interview with a teachers. I’ll have my two evening talks online soon and directions to catch the other talks and guided meditations. After seven days of silence, practitioners finally get to talk. The Retreat Team (Teachers and managers): Trudy Mitchel-Gilkey, Pat Coffey, Janet Merrick, Tara Brach, La Sarmiento, Jonathan Foust
EB White once said,
“I wake up each morning torn between a desire to serve the world and to savor it. This makes it difficult to plan the day.”
I’m just back form a nine-day intensive with co-director Larrisa Carlson, our great staff and a gathering of amazing teachers, practitioners and adventurers.
We did a lot of heavy lifting in this retreat. We cranked up the heat by practicing strict social silence for a number of days and each day was packed with hours upon hours of deep yoga, breathing and meditation.
And in the midst of the falling away, the letting go, the transformational journey, something arises that is both light and deep.
It’s a sense of connectedness and a quality of presence that is effortless.
With these days upon days of sustained freezing temperatures, there is less and less open water on the river. It's quite stunning to see such a wide variety of birds all clumped together in the open areas.
The above is an early morning shot of one open area at first light. 16 degrees. My camera started freezing up, along with my toes.
I'm just back from 10 days of unstructured silence at the Forest Refuge in Barre, Massachusetts.
Tara and I stopped in to visit my father in his Alzheimers unit on our way up. As I shared in my talk, I am getting more comfortable there with each visit. People sit in rooms together in silence and those who can walk, walk very slowly from place to place. There is a camaraderie in the silence, though everyone seems to live in their own inner world.
Once we arrived at this center dedicated to supporting people on long-term retreats, I could not help but notice:
- People sit in rooms together in silence
- Those who can walk, walk very slowly from place to place
- There is a camaraderie in the silence though everyone seems to live in their own inner world
I won't go into detail here, but a retreat like this is always deeply transformative.
If you'd like to hear more, you might listen to my talk from Monday night in Arlington. In it I share about the specific practices I used and some of the trials and insights that arose.
Here's the blurb:This talk is fresh from my return from a ten-day silent unstructured retreat at the Forest Refuge in central Massachussets.
We'll explore some specific practices I found helpful for developing concentration as well as how to look deeply into the the Three Characteristics of Reality. Along with techniques for arriving, we'll talk about strategies for riding the ever-changing waves and fluctuations of sensations, feelings, moods and mind states.
Just back from the New Years Retreat. Such a privilege to take a deep dive with over 100 practitioners and my fellow teachers, Ruth King, Pat Coffey, Tara Brach and Hugh Byrne.
Just completing a three-day Intensive called The Transformative Journey at Kripalu Center in Stockbridge, MA. Not to be too cliché, but I hope we burned off some of the psychic fog through the last three days of yoga, meditation, breathwork and inquiry. It's been ten years since I was president here and I'm delighted to see the place thriving.
I arrived here in Boulder at the tail end of the storms. I spent four days 'underground' in the Sounds True studios recording a six-CD set called Body-Centered Inquiry (due out next year). Huge thanks to everyone at Sounds True for making this such a great experience.
Boulder dried out pretty fast, but the surrounding area was truly devastated.
Back in the ashram, once a year, we had "Fun Day," a day dedicated to, well, fun. We slept in late, ate ice cream, did a lot of group adventures during the day and had an evening of skits and songs. Back when rap was just coming out, it was violent and rough. I decided to try my hand at a dharmic rap song and with my friend and colleague, Mark Kelso aka Hansaraj on synthesizer, we did it for about 350 residents, complete with a dance interlude.
I did it one more time in public, at Mark's wedding with Todd Norian on keyboards and Time Brenner on drums. With professional back up, it was almost passable.
At the retreat, I had no backup, so I slapped together a little rhythm loop on my iPad. Pretty rough, but pretty funny.
Imagine, during the chorus, Tara Brach, Hugh Byrne, Pat Coffey and Ruth King leaping out of their meditation seats to chant and pose.
This week's talk was on "The Power of Inquiry." (If you missed it, it's available on my podcast).
The questions we ask ourselves can dramatically reframe our experience. They can be used in the realm of self-improvement and problem-solving as well as inquiring into the nature of the self and accessing the non-dual.
All inquiry questions require a particular internal attitude:
- Drop all expectations of 'getting it right.'
- Inquire with a sincere desire to know the truth
- Be prepared for unexpected
- Look for a 'feeling tone' or an experience that is outside the linear mind
The Five-Problem Solving Questions have gotten me out of jams quite a few times. Credit to Tony Robbins, who turned me on to this. As promised, here they are. The following is my personal adaptation:
- What's great about this situation? What could be great about it?
- What's not perfect yet?
- What am I willing to do to resolve this situation?
- What am I no longer willing to do to resolve this situation?
- How can I resolve this situation and have a great time doing it?
While questions can help us in the relative, they can open up a sense of what lies beyond the mind itself.
Ramana Maharshi claimed that sincere inquiry into two questions could help reveal your true nature:
- Who am I?
- What do I really want?
Inquiry requires a curious blend of not just a high degree of sincerity and openness, but an intensity and desire to know what is true.
For more on inquiry meditation, check here.
Intention. It's a critical aspect of spiritual practice.
It's the volitional aspect of your life - deciding what is most important and then remembering it again and again and making decisions that reinforce what you most want.
Without a clear intention you are like a sailboat without a rudder. Where the wind blows, that's where you go. The forces of aversion and attraction take over.
With an intention, you can more consciously weather the natural challenges that arise.
Last night we ended our evening with the question, 'What one word summarizes your intention for this next year?'
(To listen to the talk, you can go to my iTunes podcast.)
That's a potent inquiry.
There is inestimable value in pausing and reflecting on what you most want out of this precious life.
Asking the right questions can draw you deeper to the core. Ramana Maharshi claimed two questions would lead to unveiling the true self, if you live into the inquiry:
Who am I?
What do I really want?
The courage to honestly reflect deeply into these questions can peel away layers and layers and reveal your true nature.
The following questions are from a teacher I've found most helpful in my life. David Allen is the author of Getting Things Done, a book all about, well, getting things done. He offers the following questions as a way to evaluate the year behind and the year ahead.
I hope you find them useful.
David's Food for Thought
Questions for Completing and Beginning the New Year
What have you actually finished, completed, and accomplished? If you haven't made a list in the last year, I would highly recommend that you give yourself a treat and review the year that just passed and look forward to the year ahead.
When I go through these kinds of questions I like to consider my answers in several areas:
Physical Emotional Mental Spiritual Financial Family Community Service Fun / creativity / recreation
Completing and remembering last year
- Review the list of all completed projects.
- What was your biggest triumph in 2011?
- What was the smartest decision you made in 2011?
- What one word best sums up and describes your 2011 experience?
- What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2011?
- What was the most loving service you performed in 2011?
- What is your biggest piece of unfinished business in 2011?
- What are you most happy about completing in 2011?
- Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2011?
- What was the biggest risk you took in 2011?
- What was the biggest surprise in 2011?
- What important relationship improved the most in 2011?
- What compliment would you like to have received in 2011?
- What compliment would you like to have given in 2011?
- What else do you need to do or say to be complete with 2011?
Creating the new year
- What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2012?
- What advice would you like to give yourself in 2012?
- What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2012?
- What would you be most happy about completing in 2012?
- What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2012?
- What would you most like to change about yourself in 2012?
- What are you looking forward to learning in 2012?
- What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2012?
- What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving in 2012?
- What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2012?
- What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2012?
- Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2012?
- What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2012?
Love, kindness, compassion and equanimity are considered immeasurable. A beautiful meditation on the exponential possibilities of kindness.