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7/24 – 8/2/2020: Inner and Outer Nature: Part I Ecodharma Training Retreat (Camping Only)

Date: Friday, July 24 – Sunday, August 2, 2020

Location: Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center, Jamestown, Colorado

Buddhist teachers David Loy and Johann Robbins will be leading this retreat and I will be assisting them.

This is a ten-day experiential immersion into ecodharma, specifically for dharma teachers, dharma leaders, and committed practitioners. Our sense of separation from nature is at the root of the ecological crises our civilization faces, and ecodharma is a path of deconstructing that separation, reuniting our inner nature with outer nature. Ecodharma practice is about healing our relationship with the rest of the natural world, so that an appropriate and authentic response can arise, which unifies our personal and spiritual transformation with social engagement. In this time of pandemic, and ecological and social crisis, the earth calls upon us to do what we can in response.

This training retreat is not about teaching or learning a prescribed method. In fact, with the pandemic and social distancing, a lot of the program and forms will be experimental and flexible. Both individually and collectively, we will respond appropriately to the situation at the time we gather. Our goal is to support and catalyze deep personal learning that you can apply to your own dharma leadership and teaching, in order to develop ecodharma in your own way. The uniqueness and authenticity of our own experience shapes how each of us practices, leads and teaches dharma, and this training will incorporate into that process as well. Our hope is that this experience informs, motivates, and empowers you to bring ecodharma into your dharma and your life.

The daily schedule will include instruction and practice in both sitting and walking meditation in nature, Q&A, discussion and sharing, a dharma talk, individual one-to-one meetings with the teachers, and open practice time as well. The intention is to co-create an ecodharma lab, where we are all experientially learning together and discovering the best ways to do this crucial work.

It is highly recommended that Ecodharma Training Retreat participants stay for the second week, if possible, so that you have more time to integrate and deepen your experience. People attending the entire two weeks will continue camping on a supported self-retreat from Sunday, August 2 to Thursday August 6. This time will include individual meetings with the teachers, and some group interaction. The weekend nature retreat (Aug 6-9) will be much quieter and simpler than the training retreat, making it an ideal space to let the training’s potent energy continue transforming in its own way and time.

Register and find out more detailed information here.

Mon. 7/13/2020, 7pm: Sacred Earth Sangha – Climate, A New Story (Online)

Sacred Earth Sangha at New York Insight Meditation Center

Meets 2nd Monday evening of every month

Join us for an online book club exploring the latest book by Charles Eisenstein, Climate: A New Story which you can read online for a donation here.

For our second meeting, we will be reading through Chapter Four (up to page 104 in the book and through the section “Five Thousand Years of Climate Change” online). Please feel free to join us for practice and discussion even if you have not completed the reading.

We will still have time during our gathering for meditation, small group checkins and plenty of discussion. More info about the book below as well as Zoom Guidelines for our meetings.

We look forward to post quarantine where we will be gather outdoors for safe and profound practices in nature.

Climate — A New Story
Flipping the script on climate change, Eisenstein makes a case for a wholesale reimagining of the framing, tactics, and goals we employ in our journey to heal from ecological destruction
Read the book online for free here

Zoom Guidelines:
Please use your video and show your face. Using video allows us to connect fully.
Please join from a computer or tablet. Since we will be using video, it will be easier to participate form a computer rather than a phone.
Please come only if you can be fully present. Our practice is about intention and attention.

Teacher Schedule:
Monday, June 8th – Sebene Selassie, Lin Gordon, Jon Aaron

Available online by Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/170106838

Or, dial by your location
+16465588656,,170106838# US (New York)

Meeting ID: 170 106 838
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aeGCOAr8uX

Fee by donation: Suggested starting donation is $15.

Register through NYIMC.

Sun., 8/23/2020: Cultivating Wisdom and Resilience Through Nature-Based Mindfulness Practice (Online and Outdoors)

As we go through an intense year of pandemic and social transformation, how do we access our inner resources regardless of external circumstances? Whether it is through a tree or sky meditation, listening to sounds of the birds or walking on grass barefoot, we can learn from the intelligence and wisdom from our natural environment, and reconnect and renew our body and spirit.

Through this day you’ll be guided through nature meditation practices that connect to your senses and explore your internal and external experiences intimately. You can do these nature practices on your rooftop, porch, backyard, stupa, a neighborhood garden or park, anywhere that you can meditate outdoors. You don’t need to seek the most beautiful place to meditate – it is more important that it’s a place that you can easily access and that it can be in your routine so you can develop a regular nature-based practice on your own if you wish. We’ll also explore an indoor nature practice at the end of the day.

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2020

Time: 9:30am-4:45pm

Tentative Schedule:

  • 9:30am Zoom Video: Introduction to Nature Meditation and Group Meeting
  • 10:00am Walk or drive to your place in nature for the day
  • 10:30am Zoom Phone: Nature meditation instruction
  • 11:00am Break
  • 11:15am Zoom Phone: Nature meditation instruction
  • 12:00pm Sitting and walking in nature practice on your own, lunch, rest (Zoom off)
  • 1:30pm Zoom Phone: Nature meditation instructions
  • 2:00pm Break
  • 2:15pm Zoom Phone: Nature meditation instructions
  • 3:00pm Walk or drive home
  • 3:30pm Zoom Phone: Nature meditation instructions (Indoor)
  • 4:00pm Zoom Video: Small groups discussion and large group sharing
  • 4:45pm Program ends

What to wear and bring:

  • Wear a mask and maintain social distancing in public.
  • Lunch: Prepare a brown bag lunch to bring to your place of nature practice.
  • Bring rain gears (hat, rain jacket, umbrella, etc.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent

Share your info with an emergency contact so someone knows where you would be and know how to look for you in case of emergency.

Voice from a Tree

March 14, 2020 – Stuyvesant Park, NYC

This was a freewriting exercise that came out of the Breathe.Read.Write workshop offered by Lisa Freedman. I gave an instruction of a 10-minutes tree meditation. After we meditated with a tree, Lisa read the poem “I Trust the Wind and Don’t Know Why” by Wyn Cooper, then she asked us to write from the voice of the tree that we just spent time with.

“I am not a sissie. I’ve been standing here in this noisy, bustling urban environment for a long time. Even though they’ve tried to contain me at roots, put hard concrete on top on my roots, I keep expanding. I go deeper, finding water and nutritions where human don’t reach and interrupt my natural freedom. I dig deeper into them and I bring them back through my body and reach upward.

Yes, it’s hard sometimes. The wind blows, and I don’t get support from my fellow tree family in a natural way, but I am growing and thriving. Even if it means I have to stretch sideways, and be twisted. Yes, I am growing and defying gravity, like a snake slithering in air. I branch out in the direction of the sun. I ask for help. And here I am, while humans are panicking over a new virus, I’ve stood here and watched many pandemic come and go. It shall pass too.

Ah spring, yet another winter survived. How nice to feel the birds singing again on the branches. I can’t wait for summer to come and flower. Oh sweet spring rain, help me grow stronger and taller…”

Sacred Earth Sangha: Talks and Guided Meditation

Sacred Earth Sangha at New York Insight Meditation Center

Meets 2nd Monday evening of every month

Here are the recordings from the past meetings:

DateTitleTeachers
3/9/2020Eightfold Path: Wise Speech – Part I (coming soon)Lin Gordon, Jon Aaron
2/20/2020Eightfold Path: Wise Intention (coming soon)Lin Gordon, Jon Aaron
1/13/2020Eightfold Path: Wise View (coming soon)Sebene Selassie, Lin Gordon
12/9/2019Four Elements: Air/WindLin Gordon, Jon Aaron
11/11/2019Four Elements: Fire – Dharma Talk

Guide Meditation: Fire Element
Sebene Selassie, Jon Aaron, and Lin Gordon
10/14/2019Four Elements: Water

Guided Meditation: Water Element
Sebene Selassie

Sat. Mar. 14, 2020: Stuyvesant Square Park Volunteering, Nature Meditation and Writing

“This is really why I made my daughters learn to garden—so they would always have a mother to love them, long after I am gone.”

― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

This event is sponsored by Breathe.Read.Write.

Did you know that increased sunlight triggers birdsongs? As the days get longer and life wakes up from the winter slumber, it’s time to go outdoors and enjoy the aliveness of  Earth’s renewal.  Join us for our pre-Equinox celebration  with a day of park volunteering, nature practices, poetry, and free-writing.

Come at any time between 9:30am-1pm to volunteer and celebrate this local park by helping with gardening and maintenance. Come see early spring blooms and learn about composting. No gardening experience needed and there will be light refreshments provided by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA).

After volunteering, you can join the Breathe.Read.Write workshop from 1-3pm. We will begin with a nature meditation guided by Lin.   After that, Lisa will read a short poem and invite you to free-write (just let the pen move, non-stop) in response to it.  Then we will listen to each other. Close listening is the day’s main activity — listening to the plants, the garden, the sky, the poetry, ourselves, and each other.

Who: Lisa Freedman

When: Saturday, March 14, 2020

9:30am-1pm: “It’s My Park” Day – Volunteer at the park. Gloves and tools provided, no experience necessary. Refreshments served.

1-3pm: Breathe.Read.Write – Bring paper/your favorite journal and a pen or pencil.

Where: Stuyvesant Square Park (West Side), 16th Street & 2nd Avenue, picnic tables on the south side of the park

In case of rain, we will go to Sunburst Cafe (206 3rd Ave, corner of 18th St. and 3rd Ave) for Breathe.Read.Write. at 1 pm.

Public Transportation: Take the 4, 5, 6, N, R train to 14th Street Union Square

Registration Fee:  No prior registration necessary. We requested a suggested donation of $20 at the event.

No prior meditation or writing experience needed.


Teacher’s bios

Lisa Freedman received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the New School, where she now offers courses including “It Starts in Silence: A Meditation and Writing Workshop” (in collaboration with the Rubin Museum) and “Writing and Activism.” She started her writing practice about 30 years ago as a way to make sense of confusing events in her life and in the world. When she got serious about her daily meditation practice five years ago, she started to feel more at ease with mystery.

See LFWritingCoach.com or reach out to lisabfreedman@gmail.com for more info.

Practice: Fire Meditation on a Winter Night

Sitting, singing, and sharing stories around a bonfire is how humans connect with each other for millenniums. In this winter, build a fire in your yard or a camp ground. Invite your friends and neighbors over to join you in taking in the warmth and light.

To begin the practice:

Take in the gratitude into our heart.  The warmth of friendship.

Let’s first close our eyes and tune into our senses.  

Can we hear the fire? The crackle of sparks.  
Can we smell the fire?  The burning wood, the smoke.
Can we feel the fire?  Can you put your hands or feet near the fire? The warmth, the flickering flame that goes here and there.

After a few minutes, when you are ready, you can open your eyes.  Notice how bright the fire is.  How ephemeral are the flames, how the smoke swirled.   Notice the bright red wood coming through the blackness, shimmering.

Contemplate that what we think of being burned and destruction of the wood, is actually the release of the sun’s energy from the wood.  It’s part of a process, a change of state, that is no different than snow melt into the river. It’s the sun giving us warmth and energy in a different form.  In nature, we see that death and life are intimately linked.  There is no separation.  

Consider that we are made of this element.  We have the fire in our belly.  We convert the sun’s energy into our own warmth through the food we eat – plants that we grow.  The sun is within us, sustaining us. See if we can take the warmth of fire and sun into our body and feel it in our cells.  Remember that in the long, dark winter nights, we still have the sun to give us warmth and sustaining us.  It’s still giving us light through the fire. 

Fire is an element of transformation. You can use something that symbolizes what you would like to let go of, and throw that into the fire. Alternatively, you can also generate a list of your dreams. Call in your ancestors and spiritual guides, visualize your dreams and feel into your body what it’s like bring those dreams to life. Ask the element of fire to light the path that would lead to your dreams, then place that list into the fire physically or symbolically.

In the final moments of this meditation, let’s take in the warmth and light of the fire, take in the gratitude that in the cold winter nights, even when the sun is not present as long during the day, we always have the sun within us, and remember that the universe is life giving and life sustaining. 

Sat. Nov. 23, 2019: We Are Nature: Remembering Our Sacred Connection to Earth

Who: Sebene Selassie, DaRa Williams, and Lin Gordon 

Date: Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 | 10:00am to 5:00pm

Location: New York Insight Meditation Center

Many of us speak of nature as if it is something external, having nothing to do with us except when we “visit it”. Nature is “out there” or in “the wilderness.” Dharma, which is often referred to as truth or teachings, can be translated as nature. Dharma as nature is everywhere, in and around us. Whether we are aware of it or not, We are always in connection to this truth, that we are this sacred earth.

In this daylong program, we will take time to reconnect to our bodies, hearts and minds remembering that we are nature. Centering land and ancestors, we will cultivate meditative awareness to sense the sacred connection to earth that is always present when we open to it. We will explore how this understanding can support us in our lives, in relationship/connection, our work, and especially in our response to our current planetary crisis. We will use the elements (earth, fire, water, air), movement, music, poetry and relational practices to support healing our wounds of separation.

Drawing on the indigenous wisdom of the Buddhadharma as well as from other traditions, participants will be invited to share their innate and ancestral ways of knowing the truth of our undeniable interconnection.

Sun. October 20, 2019: Fall Foliage Hike to Hook Mountain, Rockland Lake State Park (on the Long Path)

“In every walk in Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir, naturalist

Enjoy a fall day in the peaceful beauty of the Hudson Valley with a guided, meditative hike to connect with nature and ourselves. This hike takes the scenic route along the Long Path—into the Rockland Lake State Park and up Hook Mountain. Enjoy expansive vistas only 1.5 hours outside of the city, and an extraordinary space designated by the New York Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area.

Much of the hike will be observed in silence but we will integrate meditation practices throughout the day — allowing our senses to come alive and our sense of separateness fall away. Turning our attention inward allows us to become receptive to both of our outer and inner experiences. The dynamic outdoor conditions will be a perfect container for mindfulness practices.

The hike will be approximately from 10am – 3pm.

Who: Lin Gordon

When: 8:15am-3pm, Sunday, October 20, 2019

Where: Rockland Lake State Park, South Entrance on Route 9W and Lake Road (parking lot #4). Valley Cottage, NY. (299 Lake Rd. Valley Cottage, NY, 10989). There is a picnic table under a big tree near the toll booth of the parking lot. 

Length and Elevation: Approximately 5.8 miles, 698 ft elevation – Relatively moderate hike, but there are sections of ups and downs, pls bring hiking poles and wear proper hiking shoes.

Public Transportation: Coachusa.com (Weekend schedule)

From 42nd St., Port Authority: Leave on the 8:15 am bus going to Rockland Lake.  Gate 220.  You can buy tickets on the bus if you ran out of time to buy it at the ticket window.

From George Washington Bridge Terminal: Leave on the 8:40 bus going to Rockland Lake.

Destination: Rockland Lake (Lake Road and Route 9W) in Valley Cottage, NY

Please make sure that you leave ample time to get to the bus gate.  You can get ticket on the bus or from the window on the ground floor.

Arrival Time: Bus arrives approximately at 9:35 a.m.  After arriving, walk across the street (Route 9W) and walk into Rockland Lake State Park, South Entrance.  Keep walking along the path for 2 minutes, we’ll meet a picnic table right next to the park lot.  Restrooms will be available.

Return Trip: Aim to take the 3:30pm bus back to NYC. The bus runs hourly and arrives at pickup at approximately 25 minutes past each hour.  Bus station is right across where they drop off in the morning.

Drivers: Expect an $8 parking fee. Arrive by 9:45 a.m. and drive into the Rockland Lake State Park, South Entrance on Route 9W and Lake Road, Valley Cottage, NY. (299 Lake Rd. Valley Cottage, NY, 10989).  There is another parking lot about a mile further north on Route 9W (parking lot #2).  Please make sure you’re at parking lot #4.  South Entrance parking lot is an open space with a lots of picnic tables and a large building complex.

We aim to start the hike at 10am and will walk to the trailhead together from the parking lot.

Registration Fee: Sliding scale from $30 – $80.

No prior meditation experience needed.

Bring

Wear

  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Comfortable athletic clothing in layers so you can adjust accordingly – (cottons are discouraged)
  • Wool socks (if possible)
  • Hat
  • Jacket
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses

Practice: Working with Difficult Emotions

“All transformation comes after you come into contact with your body.”

Jonathan Foust

Emotions stay in our body if we don’t process and release them.  Yet if we can develop the capacity to be with them intimately, we can release them once we allow them the space to be fully experienced for a minute or two. 

When we work with difficult emotions, we want to listen to and respect our body’s intuitive intelligence, and let it be the guide to navigate the emotional territory.   Thich Haht Hahn said that we need to hold our emotions like a newborn baby – with the same kind of gentleness, tenderness, and care.

Usually we feel pain in particular areas of our body, not all of the body.  In this meditation, we will establish areas of body that are the pain zones, and areas of body that feel a sense of ease, which we call the non-pain zones.  And we will shift our attention between the pain zones and non-pain zones depending on our emotional capacity and where we are at a particular moment.  We want to keep meeting our edge and soften it. 

Buddhist teachings teach us that there is the wing of wisdom, which is to focus totally on what is true.  And then there is the wing of compassion, which is to hold our experience with care and tenderness.  And we learn to dance skillfully between the two in meditation.  


Begin the meditation:

First feel our body on the Earth, our feet, the weight of our body.  Feel the Earth’s effortless support for us.  Notice that this support is always there, whether we notice it or not. 

Sensing in your body if there is a sense of “okayness” in the body – warmth in the belly, a relaxed jaw, a pain-free elbow and so on.  Sense ease in those areas of the body.  Where in the body do we feel safe?

Notice if there are any areas in the body where there are tension and tightness.  Where are they located?  

Can we be intimately with whatever is arising? Does it feel safe to stay with this?  Listen to your body – if the answer is no, respect it.  Shift your attention back to the areas where you feel at ease and safe.  Perhaps this is not the time to investigate further, for this moment.  You can hold what you can’t hold as an inquiry to investigate in the future.  Hold it with curiosity rather than as a judgement. 

If the answer is “I can” or “I would like to explore,” then stay with your emotions and investigate how the emotions manifest in your body – what are the sensations? Is a tightness around the heart, is it tinkling around the neck, and is it heat in the lower back?  What does fear feel like in the body? What does sadness feel like?  Notice that we stay with our direct experience rather than the stories behind the emotions.

Can you allow the emotions to be fully expressed?  Can you allow them to get as big as they can? Let them fill up the room.  If you can, let them fill up as big as the sky.  Can they be released into the sky, onto the Earth, or to a tree, the sun, or the moon?  Hang out with it a little longer if you can.

If it feels right for you, you can put your hands on the body where you feel you need support and love.   Sometimes one hand on the heart, one hand on the belly helps. 

Once you feel the emotions are fully expressed, ask what does it need from you right now?  What can I best nourished myself right now?  See if there’s a sense of that or an answer that come to you. 

Notice if any of the sensations in your body have shifted during the meditation.  Perhaps the edges between the pain zones and non-pain zones have softened or bled into each other. 

Express gratitude for yourself for staying with the process and this meditation.  Thank the Earth for support.  Extend your well wishes for yourself and all beings on this land and beyond. 

This meditation is based on Jonathan Foust’s body-center inquiry techniques.