Musings of the InsightLA teachers
Beginning this Monday, we’re excited to welcome you to practice with many generous friends and dedicated teachers at our new center, InsightLA East Hollywood.
Until now, we’ve been retrofitting diversity and equity into the existing infrastructure of our growing teachers’ group, office team and community at InsightLA. The birth of our new center celebrates the further steps in our practice of collective and societal flourishing. We’re making big efforts to explore implicit bias in many forms, such as institutionalized racism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, etc. This work is not separate from the teachings of awakening. This is a relational expression of our awakening hearts! Becoming more lovingly aware in the daily challenges of our lives is an integral part of supporting each other on our path.
To have our own center on the East side is a long-time dream come true. We’ll be posting the following welcome statement right on the front door. This is a fresh new place for us and we’re committed to making sure our center is a place where everyone can feel at home.
Welcome to InsightLA.
We’re glad you are here.
We offer practices of inner peace, compassion, mindfulness and love. We are open to all. Come in and join us!
Here is our commitment: In this world, with its great beauty and many difficulties, we will train our hearts in peace and kindness and courageously take a stand against all forms of greed, hatred, delusion, and cruelty. We acknowledge the implicit and overt violence that has been done to individuals based on race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, gender identity, religion, body size, ability, race and class. We recognize the violence that has been done to our planet and to the first nations peoples who stewarded this land before us.
We pledge to undo the forces of ill-will and isolation in ourselves and in our world. We will offer to all who come practices of mindfulness, compassion and wisdom. And inwardly and in our actions, we pledge to hold all beings in a circle of mutual respect, love, and unity.
May our resolve and our practice together benefit all.
Radical inclusivity and social justice was the hallmark of the Buddha’s teaching, too. Thousands of years ago, from the Dalit (untouchable) caste to widows, courtesans, convicts -- all those divided from society, discriminated, disinherited – if you wanted a new life of practicing mindfulness together, you were welcome to join. The Buddha referred to everyone in his community as “sons and daughters of noble family”. I hope that by working together, we, too, can be leaders in bringing mindfulness and compassion practices to serve an ever-widening swath of the communities where we live -- in Los Angeles and beyond.
All of us at InsightLA want to share our deep sadness for the tragic events that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue and the shooting Friday at a yoga studio in Tallahassee.
Places of worship, sharing, community, or just somewhere that we can simply sit quietly - are sacred spaces. These spaces, and all spaces, are infinitely worthy of safety for all.
The Buddhist teachings that InsightLA is founded on are strongly rooted in the principles of non-violence and non-harming. It is these principles that we wish to communicate with every act, thought and will of compassion.
At InsightLA we know that when someone shares in practice with us, they are meeting us in a place beyond words, through connection of the heart. When something tragic befalls a member of our community, it ripples throughout us all. We send metta to the community of the Tree of Life Synagogue and to the people of Pittsburgh. Know that InsightLA is here for you.
We resonate with the larger community of Jewish people around the world, and with all beings who have suffered unbearable loss. May we all find a safe and reliable refuge in our places of practice and prayer.
We send wishes for healing, and our hearts meet in the place beyond words. Here is a video of President Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, after the tragic shooting there.
Please remember to vote with your heart on Tuesday!
We hear every day how InsightLA changes people’s lives, bringing inner well-being, calmness, and wisdom. It is so important to keep love alive in these difficult times. We know how valuable this continues to be for all who join us.
Thanks to friends and supporters, we’ve been able to send our well-trained meditation teachers across our city, teaching mindfulness-based skills supporting people doing challenging compassion-based work. We call this innovative program Insight in Action.
We currently partner with 18 non-profits across Los Angeles -- serving the vulnerable kids who are experiencing homelessness at Safe Place for Youth, offering training for professional caregivers from area hospitals working with critically ill and dying children and adults. Helping people who are experiencing the unimaginable stress of displacement and homelessness -- whether migrants, refugees, or people down on their luck, helping veterans, firefighters, police officers.
Here are their words:
“I was able to reduce my medication for my pain. I can handle pain attacks much better and don’t panic so easily the way I used to.”
“My husband’s behavior changed in such amazing ways that I decided to take a class myself.”
“In some meditations I have a feeling of peace and utter serenity I used to feel on heroin. This is what I looked for all my life. Now I’m doing it on the natch and I ain’t spending no money!”
Our goal is to double the number of meditation and mindfulness classes we offer through Insight in Action in the next 12 months. We discover that whenever we put our practice into action by lending a hand to others, it helps us, too. This is the magic of generosity!
Your support makes a huge difference, keeping our programs open for all to quiet their minds, steady their hearts, and build a society of love. Please help us –visit https://insightla.org/Giving/Donate or simply respond to this email. We welcome a conversation with you.
Thank you again for your generous support over the past year. We’re glad you’re part of our InsightLA community.
May you be happy.
May you be peaceful.
May you live with ease.
P.S. There are still some seats available for our annual benefit tomorrow. Hope you can join us!
A couple weeks ago, our InsightLA teachers and office team gathered once again for further training about racism and equity; we’re learning more about our organization and ourselves. As we brainstormed ways we can better serve our diverse community in Los Angeles and beyond, the whole room felt bathed in loving awareness. It’s a demanding and worthwhile effort. We’ve got skin in the game.
Our new East Hollywood center, formerly Against the Stream on Melrose, opens its doors on Monday November 12th and will include different voices. You’ll meet a few new teachers (some you may know from ATS) and our dedicated regulars. We’ll have offerings in Spanish as well as English, and there will be affinity groups for People of Color (POC), Queer and Transgender people, as well as immigrants, to sit together and build community. As we design the schedule, our priority is providing many opportunities for our neighbors and friends on the East side to enter a safe and accommodating space that is welcoming to all. In this spirit, all offerings (except for Saturday workshops) will be 100% donation-based and mostly drop-in through the end of the year.
We invite your suggestions as the teachings at InsightLA East Hollywood take shape. When we’ve had a chance to practice together for a little while, there will be a town hall to listen to everyone’s input. Here is some of what our team has planned so far:
Buddha’s Path Community Sits - Sunday morning, Tuesday & Thursday evening
Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Community Sit - Monday evening
Mindfulness Community Sit - Wednesday evening
Guided Meditations - Monday - Friday / 7:15am, 12:15 & 6:15pm / Saturday - 11am
Saturday Afternoon workshops
Silent Sitting periods - Monday - Friday / 10am & 3pm
After hearing from all of you, we’ll build on what’s here. I’m overjoyed that we have an on-going place to practice on the east side where all are respected for our heart’s willingness to be present. Let’s have a joyful celebration and ceremony to bless our new center after the holidays, in the new year. I can’t wait!
The Buddha taught that we can develop loving-kindness by visualizing how a caring mother holds her beloved child. Love is our true nature, but it is often covered over by a protective layer of fear. The Buddhist path uses systematic trainings to cultivate love. These trainings are found throughout the Buddhist world. They strengthen our capacity for love, compassion, joy and peace. The practices that develop these qualities combine repeated thoughts, visualization and feelings. These trainings have been employed by millions of practitioners to transform their own hearts.
Loving-kindness is the first of these trainings. In loving-kindness practice, students visualize themselves and repeat four or five traditional phrases of well wishing, such as “May I be safe and healthy. May I be happy.” Along with the recitation, a bodily sense of love is established and the feelings of loving-kindness are invited.
Loving-kindness develops as we repeat these phrases thousands of times, over days and months…. I often recommend a year of developing loving-kindness for oneself. Because of the shame and unworthiness we carry, loving ourselves becomes a particularly powerful practice. It doesn’t create love. It opens the pathway to the gold of our natural love. Then it can spill over to bless all we touch.
Spend NEXT SATURDAY, November 3rd, with JACK KORNFIELD, for a day of practice at InsightLA's 2018 benefit, AWAKENED HEART.
Join us for a joyful day of transformative teachings, wonderful stories, heart practices, and awakening together. In these turbulent and divisive times, more than ever we need ways to steady our hearts, calm our minds, clear our vision and inspire our action. We will cultivate the qualities of courage and love, how to dwell in kind awareness, and how to enhance our natural capacity for care and connection, towards ourselves, our society and all beings. Metta and goodwill–combined with compassion, forgiveness, sympathetic joy and equanimity–are the revolutionary and necessary powers that can transform our lives and mend our world.
10 am - 4 pm
Saturday November 3rd
First Presbyterian Church
Santa Monica CA
For years when I was young, I struggled with a kind of low-level anxiety, as though something nameless and forgotten was always nipping at my heels. My relationships, passionate at first, always seemed to end in dissatisfaction. My mind jumped around, and I followed it. When I found this practice, it was hard for me at first. But even though I struggled to sit still and pay attention, just making that effort began to help me settle down and relax into my own being. For the first time in my young adult life, I felt at home in my own skin, in my own life.
This is why we practice mindfulness and meditation. Little by little, breath by breath, step by step, we learn how to be present and aware. Moment by moment, we develop and strengthen our power of attention so we can choose how to use our minds, how to open our hearts and live our deepest values. How we keep our awareness in this very moment is what really matters, for the present moment is actually the only one we have to live – the past is a memory, the future still a dream. The NOW moment is the most powerful. We learn how to be more steadily loving and kind so when we inevitably hit a rough patch, even though nothing may change in our external circumstances, our whole view and perspective on what’s happening can shift, bringing healing and relief.
We discover that the body is a rudder that can steer us through wild mind waves into the calm waters of loving awareness. And the more we can notice and be present with what’s happening, the more we quiet down and discover moments of stillness and peace that never seemed possible before. Loving awareness of the body is a great practice for busy people to calm down and release stress compassionately, even when there isn’t time to go away on meditation retreats or practice more intensively. Our body and breath are always with us and as we go through the ups and downs of life, becoming more joyfully conscious of the aliveness of the body, we realize our kinship with all life.
One of the great benefits of mindfulness practice is that we begin to understand: just as I go through hard times, everyone does. It’s part of being human. We make mistakes, we forgive ourselves, we learn that we’re not alone. This is what it’s like to be a human being, mindful of our unique, individual life happening in the vastness of all space and time. Being alive is an endless invitation to step into the magic of infinitely mysterious, ineffable being, manifesting as this very moment. I hope you’re enjoying the mindfulness practices that not only help you create a meaningful, purposeful life but also connect you to the immense current of creation flowing through you, as you.
I watched with awe and appreciation Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and the immense courage it took to share her painful history and trauma. I was floored by her commitment to her “civic duty” (her words). Let this just sink in for a moment: as an act of patriotism she bared her soul in front of the world for her country, knowing that without her story on the record, Congress’ decision in its selection of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court would not be fully informed. I also watched with deep sadness and horror as her brave truth-sharing was dismissed and undermined by fellow citizens, media commentators, and members of Congress. On display: an epidemic inability to hear and stay open to pain and consider the possibility that the story shared was for the common benefit, not partisan point-scoring.
I am reminded of similar acts of courage playing out on a much smaller scale in our meditation communities across the country. Meditation practitioners are standing up and speaking out about how the communities themselves have been formed that make them emotionally or psychologically unsafe. They are pointing out the ways the teachings are presented that prevent them from being universally accessible. As scary or daunting or even re-traumatizing as it is for them to share their truth, these courageous community members are speaking out with the intention to create more authentic, heartfelt spaces of shared practice and learning.
But unlike what’s happening on the national stage, those of us who meditate together learn how to turn towards our painful stories, stay steady and open to them. We have tools to help us when the going gets tough. When resistance inevitably comes up, we notice, ground, take a few breaths, and listen when someone says, “This is how it is for me.” It’s difficult to stay open to pain, especially when we may have wittingly or unwittingly played a part in it. With our commitment to loving awareness, these stories of suffering can be a gift – a wake up call, a precious opportunity to put our practices of mindfulness and compassion in action. We can explore ways of creating “a more perfect union” of practice and community (I am very much looking forward to David Treleaven’s upcoming teachings on trauma-sensitive mindfulness).
This work is not easy. To me, it is our “patriotic” duty towards our meditation communities to stay with it. We can be inspired by the courage of those of us who are willing to share their pain so that we can be better together. We can re-commit to opening our hearts. We can re-commit to turning tenderly towards suffering and using it as the path to transformation. We are not in a hurry. We are here to listen to each other. We are here to be kind – to ourselves and others - and to learn the truth of what is. We are here to awaken together. This is why we practice. This is what we are here to do.
On Rosh Hashanah Sunday, someone asked a poignant question. She wondered what to do? Yom Kippur is coming, the holiest of days of atonement, repentance, and she’s not ready to forgive - not at all. Her fear about facing this day without doing what is required reminded me of being a young girl and wondering if God would inscribe me in the symbolic “book of life” and allow me to live another year.
My family was not observant, so I only thought about God occasionally. I figured God didn’t have time to think of me too often, either, which was a relief. Being a little kid, I hadn’t done anything worse than fight with my siblings or steal candy, so I reckoned I’d get to live.
During the high holidays, observant Jews do the difficult psychological work of self-examination and spiritual change: asking for forgiveness, resolving not to repeat mistakes, wiping the slate clean of grudges and resentments to begin a fresh new year. God doesn’t sort out personal relationships; we humans have to do that – to apologize for hurting others, forgiving those who ask - so that we can bear to sit with ourselves in loving awareness meditation without having that body cringe of shame about who we are.
What if we aren’t ready to forgive? Forgiveness can’t be forced. We can have compassion for all the suffering without condoning unforgivable harms. We can have boundaries. It’s OK to protect ourselves from seeing the person who harmed us, even if they’re a family member. We can ask for help, like the questioner on Sunday. And little by little, we leave behind whatever separates us from the joy of our own aliveness. The book of life symbolizes our own aliveness here, the sense of being present and awake. To live is our birthright – to be at home in our lives, to feel worthy and appreciative of the life that has been given to us.
A Note From Trudy:
Over the decades since Larry Rosenberg founded the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, few people have ever been allowed the honor of being in residence there. For nine years my friend George Mumford lived there, practicing Vipassana (Insight or Mindfulness meditation) with great humility, steadiness and brilliant generosity. Later, as a sports psychologist, George was the mindfulness and meditation coach for the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers during the time they won six NBA championships!
When asked if Michael Jordan has the strongest concentration he ever witnessed, George responded, “Yeah, but it’s also mental toughness and will to win. I study excellence, and it doesn’t matter what domain a person who is excellent at what they do is in – there’s a meditative quality to their training and performance…certain qualities are there: wise effort, wisdom, concentration or faith, and confidence.
He added, “You can’t do it without the meditation practice. This is not just about being good in sports; this is warrior training. It’s a full-time job. Warriors have known this for a long time. You have to be able to deal with your emotions and be clear about what you are attempting to do and how you’re going to do it. Mindfulness develops this skill.“
George is one of the best and most versatile teachers I know. He has taught all over the country with his vast understanding and courageous heart. Now he’s training the Miami Dolphins, and this Saturday, coming to InsightLA. He teaches radical awareness: “Whatever is on your mind, that’s your meditation. Meditation is a way of life!”
We can live wisely only when we accept the reality of change. Where I lived as a Buddhist monk, impermanencewas central to the curriculum. We deliberately contemplated change, our moods, the seasons, the passing of visitors, our aging, and the movement of our breath until we could see life as an unstoppable river. When Zen master Shunryu Suzuki was asked to sum up all Buddhist teaching he offered this simple phrase: “Not always so.”
Indeed, it was in the forest monastery that I began to taste the beauty of change and transformation. I remember how vividly mindfulness practice awakened my senses. I grew up in a suburban intellectual family, and the outdoors meant the backyard. But in the monastery, the temple buildings were in a central clearing, surrounded by towering teak trees and tropical vines, by thick woods filled with wild birds and cobras. Our small huts were scattered throughout this forest.
In this forest I learned to feel the turning of the seasons, the sweaty robes and loud singing of the cicadas on hot summer nights, the muddy feet and endless dampness of the monsoon rains, the dry winds of the cool season when I would wrap my towel under my robe for an extra layer of warmth. This was the first time I could actually watch the slowly changing phases of the moon and the appearance of morning and evening planets at dawn and dusk. I came to love these rhythms.
Now I bow to change everywhere. I have learned to be gracious with it. Of course like everyone I have suffered my losses, deaths of dear ones, divorce, and certain failures. With compassion and clarity, we can see that every one of us participates in the constant cycles of life’s change and renewal, seasons of grief and suffering, as well as seasons of joy, celebrating life’s renewed marvels and beauty.