Musings of the InsightLA teachers
When I encountered Buddhist psychology and meditation teachings at age 26, I fell in love. It all felt so right and true. I definitely needed a “safe and reliable refuge.” At first, the awe that I felt for my teachers was about looking up to someone, to something outside of myself, hoping to enlighten myself through connection with who they were and what they resonated. After a few years, though, a sense of devotion grew—from knowing that there was, and is, something genuinely inspiring about that to which I was so drawn. This is the devotion that connects us to the more sane and calm and clear and good qualities of our own hearts.
Whenever we envision the possibility of awakening, and begin to trust that awakening can happen in this very life in this human form, we’re connecting with this innate wisdom within ourselves. In these moments, we’re not preoccupied with wanting our life to be better, different, more…you can fill in the blanks! These are stressful thoughts that make us unhappy. As a skilled teacher, the Buddha recognized that it was uplifting for people to contemplate his way of life and be in his illumined presence. His radically generous teaching is that each of us can walk in his awakened footsteps.
The infinite gratitude I feel for my teachers still carries an element of devotion—to this path of refuge in awakening, in the teachings, in community—devotion to going for refuge as we are doing together this Saturday.
I invite you to come join us as we celebrate what unifies us at InsightLA—the wise and loving intention to wake up, to learn together, and grow our capacity for friendship and community. Together, we dedicate our lives to the joy, compassion, and release of freeing our hearts.
As I sit here at Spirit Rock, where I am assisting Trudy and Jack’s retreat, I am reminded once again how our lives are not separate from our practice. What we are dealing with in our hearts and minds also comes on retreat with us. There is really no way out of what is happening, yet on retreat there is a structure and space to begin to let ourselves be more intimate with however it is for us and open in love.
This retreat is a unique opportunity to practice Mindfulness and Metta without the traditional dharma talks and structure. Trudy and Jack are offering a space for questions throughout the day, sharing and responding to the moment spontaneously. This form brings our lives into the dharma hall where we are questioning and exploring, how to love, how to practice with difficult emotions, with heartbreak, fear, loss, genocides, refugees, incarcerated children, and the political polarization of this time. The Zen master, the Guru—all of us—are speaking a truth of heart at this experienced student retreat.
Laughter echoes out of the hall, smiles beam bright, turkeys gobble loudly in the mornings, and the joy of our human spirit is fully visible. You know from your own experience that completeness of presence available to us when both shadow and light are allowed to dance and play in awareness. Just like our lives, this retreat asks us to ground the teachings of loving awareness and presence with how the world is, and how we choose to respond.
I look forward to, along with my husband Vincent, being a part of InsightLA’s teacher authorization in May.
With warmth and love,
Emily Horn is a meditation teacher. Along with Christiane and Beth, Emily is a graduate of the Retreat Teacher Training led by Jack Kornfield, Trudy Goodman, Phillip Moffitt, Joseph Goldstein, and others. Emily co-founded Buddhist Geeks and Meditate.io. She and her husband Vince taught at InsightLA; they now live in Asheville, NC with their son Zander.
One of the most joyous occasions in my life is passing on the Dharma to teachers I’ve mentored and loved. And one special and unique hallmark of InsightLA is our place in a lineage of Asian and Western teachers whose blessings and protection cascade down the generations from my teachers’ teachers to us.
This May 13th, we honor a new group of teachers: Paloma Cain, Celeste Young, Lisa Kring, and Emily Horn. In July, we’ll welcome the second half of this brilliant group, Maureen Shannon-Chapple, Diana Gould, Elizabeth Rice, Wendy Block, and Cayce Howe.
Jack Kornfield will preside with me at this important ceremony. In July, Sharon Salzberg, also one of the first lineage holders in the Theravada tradition in the West, will join me. We light candles representing the illumination of wisdom, and pass the flame of inspiration to each of our teachers—who embody many years of study and dedicated practice of mindfulness and compassion, of selfless service and excellent teaching at InsightLA.
We also celebrate Beth Sternlieb and Christiane Wolf, recent graduates of Spirit Rock’s Teacher Training, as they offer their blessing and support to the new trainees, Teresa Romano, Alisa Dennis, and Gullu Singh.
Come celebrate with us as we gather to honor the wisdom, compassion, and community spirit of our skilled and generous teachers!
There is a $10 registration fee for this event and everyone is welcome.
Today I received a delightful surprise, the delivery of a pretty certificate. It’s not something that I ever expected, but it turns out to be full of friendship, humor and love. It has a photo of a cute black baby goat standing in goat heaven—in tall green grass! Next to the little goat it says, “We hereby name this goat” then in big letters, “TRUDY.”
My friends at One Taste who sent this gift were watching the baby goats play on their new land in Philo when their founder, Nicole Daedone, said, “I want to name them after people who supported us before we were cool.” Nicole teaches a practice called Orgasmic Meditation, or OM-ing. She describes it as a consciousness practice fostering connection and intimacy. We met when I taught mindfulness practices and spiritual perspectives on sex and relationship at One Taste retreats.
I have supported the work at One Taste for years, grateful to know they are dedicated to teaching ever deeper understanding of sexuality and orgasm. Many years ago, I taught workshops exploring how we laypeople might integrate embodied mindfulness practice and deep Dharma into the realms of parenting, psychology, and intimate relationship. All too often, sexuality is confusing; set apart or dissociated from our practice, largely ignored in our centers. In the past, we’ve invited my friends Cheryl Fraser, an expert sex therapist and Dharma teacher, and Justine Dawson, who completed the Spirit Rock teacher training years ago, to teach about sex and relationship at InsightLA. I’m committed to bringing our sexuality too, into our loving awareness.
All the teachers I’ve met at One Taste express their love for humanity through meditation, mindfulness and spirituality, helping people overcome the sexual repression rampant in our culture. They wrote on the certificate: “In honor of your ongoing love and support for orgasm… we decided to name one of our first two goats after you.” What a fun tribute—to my work and to the open-minded spirit at InsightLA!
It’s Spring, the season of renewal; delicate baby leaves, blossoming trees, new birdsongs.
Here at our spring retreat in beautiful Lucerne Valley, we’re taking time to unplug, sit down, relax, and begin our life anew, breath by breath, step by step.
To sit is to renew ourselves. We can open our hearts to something bigger than our thoughts. The warmth of high desert sunlight, the crescent moon smiling in the cold night sky remind us we are far more than we think.
Our small “I” is a shadow of thought that follows us wherever we go, without ever being fully present in the reality it thinks about. Mindfulness invites us to step outside the shadow of thought into clear, bright presence of awareness. In the light of being present, this shadow can disappear into what Suzuki Roshi famously called “big mind”, the infinite luminousness of consciousness.
Then all the thoughts of I-am — how I am, how I was, how I will be, who I could have been, who I want to be, on and on –-simply pass through the mind, casting a fleeting shadow. Sitting, walking, standing, or lying down, when we’re being mindful, the shadow of thought fades away. We are renewed.
Thousands of years ago, the Taoist master Wu Hsin wrote:
There is a shadow that runs parallel to life.
This shadow is the thought I-am
The movement of life is shadowed by the movement of thought.
One must not forget that that which runs parallel can never touch
That to which it runs parallel…the reality of what is called life.
Science is catching up with the Buddha!
Neuroscientists are reporting confirmation of interdependence, selflessness and the holographic field of consciousness. This past weekend Trudy and I presented at the UCLA conference on Mind, Consciousness, and The Cultivation of Well Being along with 700 participants and a stellar faculty. Scientists like Elissa Epel showed how our cells and telomeres are listening to how we feel, responding to the whole environment and the society around us. Quantum physicists, cosmologists, and researchers like Menas Kafatos, Deepak Chopra and Dan Siegel described the field of Mind beyond the brain and how we live in probability, nonlocality, and entanglement—a play of form and emptiness.
I think of the 12-sided pavilion built by a Buddhist master for the ancient emperor of China, to demonstrate this. With mirrors on the walls and floors he suspended one candle and small crystal in the middle. As the Emperor looked into one tiny facet of the crystal he could see thousands of candle flames reflected into infinity in the mirrors. The smallest part contains and affects the whole.
What this means is that as you practice and illuminate your own heart and mind, you create healthy neural and epigenetic patterns and enhance your telomeres….and you positively affect the entire field of life around you. You know this already, but having science show it is like a cherry on top.
Here’s the best thing. These marvelous trainings in mindfulness and compassion are available for you year-round at InsightLA. Please come join in and let us practice together.