Bobbi's News - April 2009
NEWS : sia + much more!
There will be three more Stillness in Action retreats this year – Ballina in July, Victoria in September and the Blue Mountains in October. The Blue Mountains retreat is a short retreat aimed at parents of children, and will include childcare. Of course, people without children are also most welcome.
About 34 people attended the ‘Natural Mind’ weekend which I co-led with my husband, John Allan, at Ballina in February. It was a great start to our teaching partnership, after 30+ years of parallel paths in Buddhist philosophy and practice. We were impressed by the depths of dharma and practice people could discover in just a weekend. It was also great to re-connect with some past participants of Stillness in Action. The next Natural Mind retreat is in October at Ballina.
Next year we will offer more of these retreats. Our focus is the practical and transformative emphasis of Buddhist teachings and practice. We can find this, as the Buddha did, by attending to and reflecting on our direct, our actual experiences of life, rather than on speculation and wanting. This ‘thought of the heart’, develops wisdom by attending to and ‘thinking with’ our life experience, so that one actually learns and develops ‘wisdom’. Too often we think we are doing this when in truth we have jumped from thinking with experience to thinking about thinking, or ‘abstracting’.
US meditation teacher, Jason Siff is in Australia at the moment. John and I have been studying with him for about five years. I am off to Bowral on Monday to co-lead a 7-day retreat with him. John Allan is co-leading a retreat with Jason at Ballina from 22 – 26 May. Jason will also give a talk and two workshops in Melbourne in late May and will lead another retreat in Alice Springs in early June. You can get details & booking info from www.dharma.org.au or you can read more about Jason’s teaching at www.skillfulmeditation.org
On January 20th Joanna Macy’s beloved husband, Fran Macy died. I heard about Fran’s death while leading the January SiA retreat, high in the forests of the border ranges with Simon, Joan and 15 wonderful participants. As most of you know, Joanna has been a teacher, mentor and friend to Simon and I, and to many of our co-facilitators. During the past ten years, Fran has been accompanying Joanna on her visits to Australia, and has become equally dear to us. It was with great sadness that I announced his death and spoke of his passion for life and for social change, which particularly manifested in his citizen diplomacy and clean energy work in the former USSR. You can read more in Joanna’s current letter on her website: www.joannamacy.net and at www.francismacy.com
I recently attended an intensive in teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, led by a team of teachers associated with Timothea Goddard and Openground. If any of you have family or friends or work colleagues who could benefit from meditation, but who are unlikely to attend a retreat, I highly recommend MBSR groups. MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, based on their own experience of Buddhist teaching and practice. MBSR is great for all of us, and is particularly useful for people suffering anxiety and depression. It is usually taught in weekly classes. You can find classes in many parts of Australia by going to: www.openground.com.au I will soon be teaching classes in the Northern Rivers area.
I highly recommend doing at least one meditation retreat per year. You can find out about meditation retreats at www.dharma.org.au and also at a new website, still to have its final launch, which is located at: www.insightmeditationaustralia.org This site includes some guided meditations.
I have just finished reading Barack Obama’s autobiography – the first instalment, I imagine. The book, Dreams from My Father, is a beautifully written personal exploration of race and identity - a meeting of traditional African life with colonisation and with modern America. I found it intellectually satisfying, very moving, and a great story for our times. I also find it hugely exciting to have a US President who has explored these issues in such depth and who is so frank and open about his own dreams, doubts and fears. May he continue to remain strong and true to himself, in the face of all the pressures he now faces in his latest identity as President. What a time to take that on!
May each of us be inspired to continue joyful and compassionate action for ourselves and all beings.