Burning the Journals by Robyn Sarah

The past is useless 
to me now:
an old suitcase
with mould in the lining,
heavy even when empty–

heavy empty,
like the bronze bell
of the Russian church,
in the grass;

so I shall have to go
on from here with less
to bank on. My peeled eye.
The way things sing 
in the sun.

Holiday Schedule

Please note the following dates we will NOT have Zoom Sangha:

  • Thursday, November 26 – Thanksgiving
  • Thursday, December 24 – Christmas Eve
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Eve

In addition we will meet without Tuere on Thursday, December 3 when we will all be sending Metta for her dental procedure.

Smart Cookie

Tonight Tuere closed with this poem:
Smart Cookie by Richard Schiffman (after Wallace Stevens)

The fortune that you seek is in another cookie,
was my fortune. So I’ll be equally frank — the wisdom
that you covet is in another poem. The life that you desire
is in a different universe. The cookie you are craving
is in another jar. The jar is buried somewhere in Tennessee.
Don’t even think of searching for it. If you found that jar,
everything would go kerflooey for a thousand miles around.
It is the jar of your fate in an alternate reality. Don’t even
think of living that life. Don’t even think of eating that cookie.
Be a smart cookie — eat what’s on your plate, not in some jar
in Tennessee. That’s my wisdom for today, though I know
it’s not what you were looking for.

Schedule notes
Tuere will be taking next Thursday, October 29 off but there will still be Zoom Sangha as usual. However, please note that on Thanksgiving we will not have Zoom Sangha, which is Thursday, November 26.

Facing Feeling Tones: The Glue That Keeps Us Together

This month we will be exploring the 7th link in the cycle of dependent origination – Feeling Tones. Feeling tones are not emotions. They are mental evaluations or tags applied by the mind to experience. They can be random and not necessarily related to the experience. They are of the mind but are experienced in the body as pleasant, unpleasant and neither pleasant nor unpleasant (more commonly referred to as neutral).

Most of us are used to practicing with feeling tones as the 2nd foundation of mindfulness. Within dependent origination, I think of them as what glues consciousness, name/form, six senses, and contact together. This is what bolsters our identification with experience.

I’ve come to a weird relationship with feeling tones. I believe feeling tones are what allow human life to be engaging and seem real. We don’t want to just go through the motions of living. We want to feel alive. We want our life to be inspiring and even complex. We want this from a mind that basically exists in habit. Can you see the problem?

Dependent origination shows us that what we actually get from a mind designed for habit is simply experiences of the memory of a previous feeling. We then replay these memories over and over again every time we experience anything the mind can associate with the feeling no matter how remote. The more glued we are to the feeling tone, the more habitually we act.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The trick is to not get identified with or caught up in the feeling tone itself. When we can see the tone as just an aspect of experience which may or may not be an accurate expression, we can experience the genuine mystery and aliveness of life. I believe this is why we have profound experiences on retreat, even with something as simple as walking to the dinning hall, drinking tea, watching a row of ants walk across the path.

This month we want to watch how tied we are to our feeling tones. Do we automatically push away or avoid anything unpleasant. Do we grab or hold on to the pleasant and ignorance anything neutral. Can you even consider feeling tones as mental judgments? What would it take to begin to question what it would take to allow a feeling tone to exist with needing to respond to it or change the circumstances? We’ll talk about all this and more, as we attempt to unstick ourselves from yet another link on this cycle of samara.


We’re Picking Up Steam Now: How Contact Personalizes Our Lives

This month we are exploring the 6th link in the cycle of dependent origination – Contact. Contact in it’s simplest form is the connection between a sense door and an object. Practice is often looked at in terms of bare awareness but often this type of practice can seem pretty abstract. It’s hard to see the value and wisdom of just knowing one is hearing, or smelling or seeing, etc. It may be relaxing but doesn’t seem to hold much wisdom.

We experience billions of sensory contacts throughout the day. It makes sense that we don’t have a lot of interest in bare awareness at the sense door. I mean what does that have to do with Covid19 or our current social unrest. The answer – plenty. It may make more sense if you recognized that contact is another way if saying “personalization”.

Contact is the first step in personalizing our world. It’s about what we give prominence and what we ignore. In fact, I believe contact is the first opportunity to actually see and experience practice. We can see whether we are living out of greed, hatred and delusion or whether we are living out of mindfulness and clear comprehension. Whenever we are living out of G,H&D, we are just trying to get our wants and don’t wants. We don’t really see anything else.

Learning to see our wants and don’t wants is the beginning of freedom. As we pay attention to our actions we can also see what is pushing us; our assumptions, beliefs, expectations – basically G,H&D. Living out of G,H&D means we are also trapped in the hindrances because G,H&D feed the hindrances and the hindrances feeds ignorance, which feeds the whole chain of dependent origination.

This all starts with contact – our personalization of the moment, our experience or the situation. This has everything to do with how we live in a world that includes Covid19 and social unrest. We embrace it and do what we can to make the world a better place or we push against it in an effort to fit the world into our assumptions, beliefs and/or expectations.

Contact is about practicing wise attention vs unwise attention. Wise attention prevails with restraint, mindfulness, clear comprehension and faith. Unwise attention prevails when there is a lack of restraint, lack of mindfulness, lack of clear comprehension and a lack of faith. Paying attention to how we personalize our day to day life is our first step.


Jonathan Mark’s Memorial

Jonathan cared about his friendships with you all deeply, and as such, his family is inviting you to join them for Jonathan’s online memorial. You can use this link to attend the memorial, using the password “jonathan”: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86711475315?pwd=SW1ucFJ2VG13QlU4Q3EvaXRMRUZmUT09.

This Saturday – June 20 at 11am to 12pm PDT. Everyone is welcome.

We will open the Zoom call at 10:45am PDT so everyone can have time to join the call, make sure their technology is working, and enjoy a slideshow of photos of Jonathan with music.

I hope you can join us. Tuere

Some Sad News…

Dear Sangha

Jonathan Marks passed away in the early morning hours of June 1, 2020. Jonathan was a long time member of Seattle Insight. He was a very loving and supportive person. He lived on Capitol Hill and attended our group here and there. His health took a dramatic turn last year so he began attending our Thursday night group regularly. Those who attended the meditations may remember him.

He was special to me and I will miss him. To support his transition from life to death, I will be chanting (or sending) metta to him for the 49 days after his death. If you would like to join me, please pick a time that works for you each day. Have a little silence, chant some metta (or merit) for Jonathan and leave a little silence afterwards. The practice would end on July 19th.

I will let you know when a memorial service will be offered.


Tonight’s Meditation

Apologies for the technical difficulties. We have fixed the situation. Please use the zoom button on the right side.

Learning To Sense Anew – Cultivating Respect For The Six Senses

I know, another “better late than never” post. 😉. This month we will be exploring the fifth link in the cycle of Dependent Origination – the six senses. The six senses are a pretty phenomenal link. All the previous 4 links are, what I would consider, hardwired in us. They mostly occur pre-awareness. It is this link that changes everything. The six senses are the first opportunity to interrupt the flood of suffering into our lives.

There are 3 important aspects to practicing with the six senses and the cultivation of wisdom from them. First and foremost, it’s the recognition of mind as a sense door. We don’t normally think we are what we sense. We don’t think we are what we see, hear, smell, taste or touch. But when it comes to the mind, we definitely think we are what we think. Holding thoughts as objects of mind, like a tree is an object of the eye will allow a sufficient gap for mindfulness to enter.

Second, each sense gate has a medium that allows for us to perceive through the sense gate. So there is the eye medium for seeing, etc. These mediums include more than just the physical organ. They include objects, consciousness and contact. Together, they make up our sense gates. What we want to do is learn to get curious about or interested in how it is that this medium can create pleasure, distress or ease such that we would simply ignore the sense gate all together. The organs themselves don’t have any interest in the objects – so where does it come from? And, what is our relationship to that?

Third, the six senses are our the first doorway into truly understanding existence. We live with a lot of “not knowing”. We rarely notice the sense gates unless something happens to them. We don’t see the drawbacks of this “not knowing”. We don’t even understand that there are drawbacks or that we should consider looking for drawbacks around our senses. This “not knowing” is the through line between ignorance and suffering. The six senses can operate as a sealant that keeps us within the cycle of Dependent Origination (or samara) or the way out, when we use mindfulness to look for/pay attention to the drawbacks. The six senses are also like the fuel for the suffering engine, keeping us cycling into one difficulty after another. Practice is like putting on the brakes. It’s what helps us interrupt, slow down and eventually stop the automatic flow into suffering.

Join us this month as we explore the six senses in a whole new light.

See you soon – Tuere

Tonight’s Meditation Is Canceled

Tuere has been involved with a family emergency today a d will be unable to lead the sit tonight. We will resume next week. Thanks for your patience.