summer at Langs Beach, New Zealand 15 December 2013
winter in Massachusetts 4 January 2014
winter drought in California 15 January 2014
In the last month, I’ve moved between mid summer, deep winter and back to mid summer again, and had the opportunity to visit old friends in Auckland, Barre and San Francisco; spend an afternoon with the prison sangha in Massachusetts; learn how to perform a baby blessing, same sex wedding ceremony, and funeral; attend James Baraz’s Thursday night meditation group and hear the sustainability researcher Bob Doppelt speak about climate change; spend time with human cadavers in an anatomy lab in California; visit Gil Fronsdal’s new retreat centre in Scott’s Valley (which is entirely supported by dana); teach a metta day-long to a group of mostly young people in Santa Cruz; and stay a week in a retirement village with mostly old people in New Zealand.
Because these experiences were so varied and happened in a relatively short space of time, it could have been easy to feel unbalanced or ungrounded, but the quality of being present, of mindfulness, was what made it possible to navigate those changes without too much stress. And there was another dimension to that experience that I haven’t been able to articulate, until I recently read the transcript of a talk given by Gregory Kramer about love and wisdom. This talk was given in the context of an Insight Dialogue retreat, but his description of what can happen when we cultivate this quality of presence feels equally true in daily life practice.
He says that as we touch into our own human experience, “Something gets peeled away, either dropped or revealed or broken open, as we are touched by each other, as we are touched by wise teachings, as we are touched by the sensitization of this heart in meditation … Each time we come into the moment, each time we – let’s say – pause, or just look at things as they are, there is a strengthening of the quality of being present … So there is a kind of seeing things as they are rather than through so many of the stresses that close us off, through these filters that we usually wear to protect this tenderness … It’s just so easy to overlook or lose touch with or even be scared by that within us which is so responsive and so really sweet … Why do we look away from it so much? Why isn’t it always visible to us? Why aren’t we amazed and delighted most of the time? This is incredible, this brightness of the mind and being touched by the world … I guess wisdom and love name two doorways, and almost, you can choose your way … So wisdom unburdens the mind so that we can experience love. And love unburdens the heart so that we can experience wisdom.”
May we all experience unburdening of the heart-mind …
PS If you are interested in learning the practice of Insight Dialogue, which is a relational form of vipassana meditation based in mindful speaking and listening, there is an eight week online introduction starting 17 March 2014 with two senior ID teachers. More info here: