Musings of the InsightLA teachers
This poem, Thanks, from W. S. Merwin, reminds me of the
last lines of Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah:
“And even though it all goes wrong
I stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah”
Listen with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
in the faces of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is
This GIVING TUESDAY, we invite you to help us grow our Insight In Action Program. Put your COMPASSION into ACTION by giving the gift of mindfulness this year.
DONATE TODAY and a generous InsightLA donor will match all donations up to $25K.
One of the core principals of InsightLA is compassion, and by its very definition, compassion is not just an emotion it is accompanied by a strong desire to take action and help those who are suffering.
By offering mindfulness practices to people affected by homelessness, poverty, illness, as well as caregivers and first responders, we have learned that meditation can provide profound healing and refuge to those directly affected.
INSIGHT IN ACTION is comprised of three main components:
In 2019, through our INSIGHT IN ACTION program, we aim to:
Your support makes a huge difference. Please help us by visiting our website and donating. You can support people from diverse communities, backgrounds, and experiences.
Let’s make sure that nobody is left out.
This is from the introduction to my new book, No Time Like The Present:
“…After more than forty years teaching mindfulness and compassion, the most important message I can offer is this: You don't have to wait to be free. You don't need to postpone being happy.
When Nelson Mandela walked out of Robben Island prison after twenty-seven years of incarceration, he did so with such dignity, magnanimity, and forgiveness that his spirit inspired the world. Like Mandela, you can be free and dignified wherever you find yourself. Freedom is not reserved for exceptional people. No one can imprison your spirit.
When your boss calls and you feel fear or anxiety, when someone in your family is in conflict or duress, when you feel overwhelmed by the growing problems of the world, you have choices. You can be bound and constricted or you can use this difficulty to open and discover how to respond wisely in this unfolding journey. Sometimes life gives us ease, sometimes it is challenging and painful. Sometimes the whole society around you is in upheaval. Whatever your circumstances, you can take a breath, soften your gaze, and remember that courage and freedom are within, waiting to awaken, and to offer to others. Even under the direst conditions, freedom of spirit is available. Freedom of spirit is mysterious, magnificent, and simple. We are free and able to love in this life—no matter what.”
This year marks InsightLA’s 15th Anniversary and we have much to celebrate. Thanks to your loyal support, InsightLA has taught thousands of people skills that bring compassion and joy to the forefront of life. Over the past year, amidst the divisivenenss in our world, InsightLA has been a refuge. You’ve helped create spaces across the city that sustain us Angelenos, places to steady the heart and learn powerful practices of loving awareness, insight, and wisdom.
I meet remarkable people all over who tell me how much the teachings from InsightLA have changed their lives. In line at the movies, Jerry tells me how grateful he is for the mindfulness training that gives him a foundation of well-being for his intense and stressful work in business and entertainment. Pushing my shopping cart at the Co-op, Marisol stops to thank me for the lovingkindess meditations and sense of community that helped ease her pain after the loss of her husband.
Carol is a woman experiencing homelessness. When someone steals her things and threatens her, she arrives at her mindful writing group at StepUp in Santa Monica scared and desperate. After she reads her story to the group, two kind men in the mindful writing group offer to find her a safer place to sleep -- under “their” bridge.
Carol is part of our programs “Insight in Action”. We need your assistance to continue bringing healing mindfulness skills to professional caregivers who serve the most vulnerable – those who critically ill and dying, our veterans, the clients of organizations including: The Downtown Women’s Shelter, Safe Place for Youth, and GreenDot Public Schools. We can’t do this beautiful work without you. We need the support that comes from your goodness and caring for humanity so we can send teachers to underserved folks as well.
I’m so proud of the community we have created together. Our many classes, trainings, and free meditation groups, our well trained teachers and renowned visiting speakers, the financial aid we offer are all here for you, for the wellbeing of LA and the wider world -- changing lives with each breath!
Please give generously. Not only will your generosity make you feel happy, you’re making sure we can keep serving those who need us and reach out to many more. Consider giving $50, $100, $500 or more. Your gift now means our survival into the future.
Over and over again, heart-warming stories show me the difference InsightLA can make in all our lives.
We rely on your gifts to be able to continue the life-changing work we do. Together, we can make the world a more compassionate place for our children and all beings
With deepest gratitude,
Click HERE to donate.
During this month our friend, and board member, Bill Resnick, has generously offered to match all donations. Please give today and double your contribution.
To find out more about Insight in Action, please click HERE to watch a video.
Once when I was teaching at a Spirit Rock retreat years ago, Jack was giving the evening dharma talk, I was so tired that I fell sound asleep like a child listening to a bedtime story. I was sitting up straight in perfect cross-legged posture on the stage right in front of everyone in the meditation hall. This is a strange ability one can develop after years of meditating!
It was interesting to fall asleep and wake up there. This is the sleepiness that can hinder meditation, quaintly called “Sloth & Torpor” in the ancient texts. Along with mild embarrassment, I felt surprised that I’d let myself relax that deeply sitting up in front of 100 retreatants. It was sweet to realize I felt safe enough to do that. I’m not recommending sleeping during meditation, but when it happens, we can appreciate being in a place where we feel protected enough to let down our guard and rest.
Today I’m tired again, filled with a kind of political exhaustion from the corrosive onslaught of negative news. This is a time to ground myself in the wisdom of what I deeply trust in our practice. It’s a time to find the stillness within that reveres all people for their powerful potential to be caring and good. It’s a time to gather in kindness and community, so the worldly winds don’t buffet us as much - time to lend each other our spiritual strength and feel the value of simply coming to practice with others. What a gift to have a spiritual home where we can rest our weary minds right here at InsightLA!
We live in scary times and we easily get caught in the primal reactions to fight, flee or freeze. Being in those states is miserable; we feel angry, fearful or numb - or all of the above. And it will taint our interactions with the people we love and the wider community.
Where to turn for support? Two spiritual leaders who I think have had a lot of practice with violence, suppression, heartbreak and loss are His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. One living in exile for nearly 60 years now, his country still occupied, his culture and language still violated and suppressed. The other has been fighting years and years against the Apartheid system in South Africa and since its fall the many still ongoing after-effects.
Yet both of them, spiritual leaders for millions of people for decades, have been described time and again as some of the most joyful and happy people around. Which is no coincidence. What can we learn from them?
In his book with the Dalai Lama psychiatrist Howard Cutler describes research on unhappy versus happy people: “In fact, survey after survey has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and socially withdrawn, brooding and even antagonistic. Happy people in contrast are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative, and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily than unhappy people. And, most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.”
Desmond Tutu says: “Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.” What uplifting and hopeful words. And the Dalai Lama has been famously quoted as saying: “Why be unhappy about something if it can be remedied? And what is the use of being unhappy if it cannot be remedied?”
This is so much easier said then done – and yet. As mindfulness practitioners we have an idea how to do that. How to use our practice on and off the cushion to put this into action, one step at a time, one breath at a time.