December 29, 2011

This Sunday, January 1st at Alameda Sangha, 7-9 pm, Gratitude

Hello Everyone,

What better way to start the new year in silent meditation together and in cultivating and reflecting on the things that we are grateful for in our lives. The good news is that this is a real feel-good practice that is easy to do. The hard part is remembering to do it. So come and find out the tips and techniques for beginning and sustaining a gratitude practice and watch the positive changes start happening for each and every one who embarks on this journey.

"Cultivating an 'attitude of gratitude' has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behaviour toward others, including romantic partners. A new study shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked, ....." from the NY Times article, A serving of Gratitude May Save the Day by John Tierney dated Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I am definitely trying this and hope you will join me in formulating a simple and daily plan of action! See you all this Sunday........

with metta, Pauletta

December 28, 2011

Ten Paramis or Perfections of the Heart and Mind

In Theravada Buddhism, there are what is known as ten paramis, or perfections of the heart and mind that we can practice cultivating in daily life in order to reach liberation and become awakened.

In the Pali, para means other and mis means shore. Metaphoically, we ride over a turbulent river in the raft of our practice in an effort to reach the shore of liberation and awakening. The river symbolizes the dukkha (suffering and disease) described in the Second Noble Truth; the three characteristics of existence, dukkha (disease), anicca (impermanence, and anatta (non-self); and the eight worldly winds of praise and blame, gain and loss, fame and ill-repute and joy and sorrow. We strengthen our raft and further our journey to the shore of liberation by cultivating the ten paramis.

Over the past year, Pauletta Chanco has spoken on each paramis and posted a practice guide. Links to these talks are listed below in the order in which they are best practiced -- and the order in which Pauletta offered the teachings.

1) Dana (generosity) Dana Dharma Talk Dana Practice Guide
2) Sila (virtue) Sila Dharma Talk Sila Practice Guide
3) Nekkhama (relinquishment)      Nekkhama Dharma Talk Nekkama Practice Guide
4) Panna (wisdom) Panna Dharma Talk Prana Practice Guide
5) Viriya (energetic effort)  Viriyana Dharma Talk Viriyan Practice Guide
6) Khanti (patience)  Khati Dharma Talk Khati Practice Guide
7) Sacca (truthfulness) Sacca Dharma Talk Sacca Practice Guide
8) Aditthana (determination) Aditthana Dharma Talk Aditthana Practice Guide
9) Metta (lovingkindness) Metta  Dharma Talk Metta Practice Guide
10) Upekka (equinimity) Upekka Dharma Talk Upekka Practice Guide

December 26, 2011

10th Paramis: Upekka or Equanimity Practice For the Week

Hello Everyone
Thanks so much for coming last night. It was very nourishing to practice sitting in silence with all of you after the flurry of activity of the holiday weekend.  Such peace!!!!

So last night we talked about what equanimity is: as per Phillip Moffit, not being disturbed by the disturbances which as we can reflect from our daily life experiences, is not always easy to do.

What I did forget to offer last night were 2 situations in daily life in which many of us have already shown and experienced the potential to cultivate equanimity and these are:
1) that it is possible to have chaos and disturbances all around us externally but still remain equanimous because the energies of the mind, heart and body are all in balance.


2) Even if conditioned reactivity gets charged and we begin to move in that unwholesome direction with words and/or action, we come back to centered balance and stabitlity when we realize that we want to change course and this is when equanimity takes over.

It's important to notice whenever one of the 2 situations happen and appreciate the deep sense of peace and liberation that accompanies it as we see that we aren't caught by what we see and experience.

Also, remember that equanimity can help protect against the 8 worldly winds so that we aren't pushed around by them and the potential dukkha that can arise.
And these are praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain and fame and disrepute.

And the equanimity phrases to practice with these categories: the neutral person, the benefactor, the friend, the difficult person, oneself, all beings and groups

1) You are the owner of your actions. Your happiness and unhappiness depends on your actions, not upon my wishes for you.

2) I will care fo ryou but cannot keep you from suffering.

3) No matter how much I may wish for things to be otherwise, things are as they are.

4) May I be undisturbed by the coming and going of events.

Use whichever phrase resonates for you and feel free to tweak the wording if necessary to fit your particular situation you are working towards not staying caught up in.

Also, last night, we launched right into the meditation sitting at 7 pm and did the check in after the 5 minute stretch break. I thought it worked quite well, and awas very restorative. I would like to do it again this coming Sunday, Jan. 1st when I speak about Gratitude and see how that feels. I would welcome any input that any of you would have about changing up the sequence of how things are presented on the nights I teach.

Have a peaceful and restful week,

metta, Pauletta

December 22, 2011

Reminder: This Sunday December 25 at Alameda Sangha, join me for Equanimity

Hello Everyone,
Hoping to see a few of you there to join me in some quiet and renewing meditation and a talk on Equanimity.

Event Announcement:
Baruch Golden and I will be leading a 4 week course on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
For more information click here.
Or register here.

with metta, Pauletta

December 19, 2011

Steps of Liberative Dependant Origination

Dear Friends,

It's practically impossible to listen to a talk about 12 different things and come away with the list clear in your mind.  I think these 12 "steps" are a joyful progress to note, though, so here's the list and a few of my explanatory notes to remember how they work:
  1. Suffering -- acknowledge
  2. Confidence -- that the path works & you can do it
  3. Delight -- in seeing the practice reduce stress in your life
  4. Joy -- in the practice; directly proportional to your absorption in it
  5. Tranquility -- When steps 2-4 dispell anxiety & agitation, a clarity remains after the exuberance of joy
  6. Happiness -- a deep sense of well being, more satisfying than joy
  7. Concentration -- the capacity to stay focused on the present moment
  8. Knowing what is -- dukkha, change & no separate selfhood + the 4 Noble Truths (suffering & its end)
  9. Disenchantment with clinging -- seeing that wanting is not fun
  10. Dispassion -- letting go
  11. Liberation -- having let go
  12. Knowledge -- that you are free and how you got there
Hope this is helpful.  See you next year!

Reminder for the Holidays - Equanimity Dharma Talk on Dec 25

Hello Everyone,

May this find you all well and remembering to breathe and direct metta to yourselves whenever stress occurs this week. I am sending our weekly email out early so you may be able to plan ahead before getting too enmeshed in the fray of the holidays and to know that there will be a quiet and calm refuge that you can come to on Christmas Day evening if you wish to meditate and hear about cultivating Equanimity, the last on the list of the 10 Paramis that we have been exploring together this year since January 2011,

Come and learn about this more advanced practice of Equanimity. From a respected dhamma teacher, Phillip Moffit, he offered that there is a difference between tranquility (calm) and equanimity and that one doesn't have to be calm or tranquil in daily life in order to be equanimous. Tranquility or calm is when there are no internal or external disturbances present. Equanimity is when we are not disturbed by the disturbances. Isn't this a great mental quality to aspire to? Come and find out more on Sunday. May you all have peaceful and restful holidays,

with metta, Pauletta

Event Announcement
Baruch Golden and I will be leading a 4 week course on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
For more information click here.
Or register here.

December 15, 2011

Glad Tidings! Liberative Dependent Origination

Dear Friends,

This teaching is a mouthful, but it means that there are mind states that automatically work to free us from suffering, and for the most part, they're very enjoyable states of mind.

So come hear this list of pleasant ways to grow spiritually.  Bring a friend! 

To those of you unable to come this week, I send my best wishes for a happy holiday season.


December 11, 2011

Follow up to 'devotion' subject tonight

Hi all,
There was a request for the questions that I brought up tonight, so I thought I would email them out to the group while it's still fresh in my mind.
Here they are:

  -  What are you spending and being spent for?  What commands and receives your best time, your best energy?
  -  What causes, dreams, goals or institutions are you pouring out your life for?
  -  As you live your life, what power or powers do you fear or dread?  What power or powers do you rely on and trust?
  -  To what or whom are you committed in life?  In death?
  -  With whom or what group do you share your most sacred and private hopes for your life and for the lives of those you love?
  -  What are those most sacred hopes, those most compelling goals and purposes in your life?
         (taken from James W. Fowler, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, p. 3)

It was great to be with you tonight, and I hope you all have a great week and holidays.
With care,

December 8, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011: Where Does Devotion Fit In?

Hi everyone,
I hope many of you will be able to come this weekend.  The topic will be devotion, and I'll explore some ways to incorporate this idea in a meditation practice.  But, if you're coming this week (or not), you may want to just think about this word, 'devotion'.  What does it mean for you?  Does it have any associations?  Are those associations good?  Bad? Neither?  Etc.  It would be great to hear some of your perspectives on devotion.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and I'll look forward to seeing those of you who can come on Sunday evening.

With care,

December 1, 2011

Alameda Sangha, this Sunday, Dec. 4th, 7-9pm

Hi everyone,
This week the topic will be 'kalyana mitta'.  This is a phrase from Buddhist writings and culture that expresses the idea of 'good friends', 'spiritual friends', 'admirable friends', etc.  It's an integral part of the practice of dhamma, or you could say it is integral to getting along well in this world, period.  We can't do it all alone; and if we have supportive, admirable people around us, things can only be made easier.  I know it is one of my intentions around sanghas (Buddhist communities) that they be real-life examples of this Buddhist concept.  Maybe if people want to, we can explore how that functions in the Alameda Sangha.

So, this will be the topic for this week.  If you so desire, and if you're planning on coming this Sunday; it may be a useful reflection to think about the relationships in your life and how they support you and support your ability to engage in the world; whether through practice or in whatever way is deeply important to you.  And, of course, reflect on the opposite as well.  How are you supportive/admirable for those around you who are also engaging with the world every day?

Hope to see you Sunday, May you be well,

November 28, 2011

Papanca Practice for the Week

Hello Everyone,
May this Monday back to non-holiday vacation life find you well.

Thanks to Bonnie last night, I realized that I did not talk about metta towards oneself enough. Remember this week, particularly if papanca hits in a very tenacious manner like the Tar Baby, to first give metta to yourselves for having to experience the dukkha of the obsessiveness in the manifestion of papanca. Do not criticize or judge yourself for having it, i.e. if I were a better practitioner, I wouldn't have gotten into this papanca , etc. etc. As they say, %^&$ happens and when it does, we may or may not have the space from our practice to receive it and respond gracefully.

So first, it's important to recognize papanca. The various manifestations of it are: obsessive thinking, worrying, ruminating, mentally trying out various if/then scenarios, scheming and strategizing on how to get that one 'thing' that promises happiness and contentment, pressured speech and extremely focused almost obsessive/compulsive behaviour around something that has arisen for us.

Then, depending on the mildness of the grip that papanca has on us, we can, try to shift the energy and break the trance by doing something repetitive but conducive to feeling better, like gardening, washing dishes, doing the laundry, yoga, exercise, etc.

We can reflect on what the Dalai Lama advised, which is that if there is a solution to what we are worrying about, go ahead and do it. If there is none, don't worry.

We can try to investigate the root of what is behind the papanca and how it may be connected to past conditioning so that we can recognize its habituation.

If all else fails, we need to just surrender and surf the waves of papanca, in other words accept that it is here for however long it will stay, feel it in the body, and not try to struggle to find a way to be rid of it.

Hope this is helpful. My talk should be up soon. Also, Baruch and I are planning to teach the Satipatthana Sutta once again which will meet 4 Saturdays at Island Yoga from 1230 to 230 on January 28, February 4, 11 and 18. Save the date!!

I will be teaching Equanimity on December 25th and Gratitude on January 1st. If you feel the need to come and get refueled and regenerated from the holidays, I hope you will try to come.

With metta, Pauletta

November 24, 2011

This Sunday, November 20, 2011 at Alameda Sangha: Papanca or Mental Poliferation

Hello Everyone,

Hoping that you all had a peaceful and harmonious Thanksgiving celebration and that you all made an attempt to utilize wise speech.

Come this Sunday to hear about what we can do when mental proliferation kicks in and obsessively takes over our mind like a tar baby. Tools point to investigation of the root of the obsessive thinking, or simply to shift the energy so that we can let go of the obsessive activity. Find out when to use which technique and why. The dharma talk will be shorter in order to permit us to have some discussion and sharing over how our Thanksgiving celebration went, if there was the initiation of papanca from interactions that did not went well, etc.

Looking forward to see all of you there,

with metta and gratitude for your practice, Pauletta

November 21, 2011

Practices for the Week to help us get through the holidays

Hello Everyone,
It was good to see such enthusiasm last night to try some different tools to get us all through the holidays this year. Very inspiring.

First off, please find below, the link to my Fall newsletter with a yummy recipe for Thanksgiving as well as some writings on Khanti cultivation and other good things with artwork.
Pauletta's fall newsletter
The link is also found on the Alameda Sangha website, my website: as well as the link to my old Summer newsletter thanks to our webmaster extraordinaire, Susan Haumeder.

So for this week, please remember to do:

1) Deep Listening practice where we drop into our bodies, (grounding with our hands and feet), finding the breath. THen setting the intention to not interrupt the speaker while he/she is speaking, finish sentences for him/her or stay waiting until they finish speaking so you can then say what you are wanting to say.

2) The four aspects of Samma Vacca or Wise Speech which are speaking what is true, helpful, kind and appropriate.

3) Background self-care practices of Mind Training and Metta. Metta can be practiced on or off the cushion, and for mind training, acts of self-care as well as some time spent analyzing and investigating what verbal interactions have not habitually gone well in past holiday celebrations and how these tools could be helpful in changing outcomes.

Remember to listen to my metta talk online that was done in August of this year and this talk will be up soon.

with metta and gratitude,
Happy Turkey Day! Pauletta

November 15, 2011

Metta, Mind Training and Wise Speech for the Holidays, at Alameda Sangha this Sunday, November 20, 2011 from 7-9 pm

Hello Everyone,

It's that fun time of year again - where we tend to do too much and feel pressured under expectations of the holiday season. So I reflected on 3 important teachings of the Buddha to offer as tools to help us all get through it in a more harmonious fashion than we have in the past.

The emphasis will still be on Wise Speech since we will be doing a lot of speaking during this time as we come into contact with family and friends that we haven't seen much of at other times of the year. The other two teachings are more background practices to really bring support to your self-care regime and plan of action to respond more skillfully to situations than has happened in the past.

Perhaps you have had recurring reactive tendencies in your social holiday interactions and wish you could have handled things differently. Come on Sunday and find out how you can begin to transform your holiday experience into a more heartfelt and loving interrelating.

Hope to see most of you there and don't forget to bring a friend and/or family member.

with metta,

November 11, 2011

Sex, Drugs (but no rock & roll) this Sunday

Dear Friends,

Last week we talked about the effect it has on us to treat other beings either poorly or well.  This Sunday, 7-8:30, we'll delve into the consequences of abusing two powerful influences over our minds, sexuality and intoxicants. 


Looking forward to seeing you (and your friends) there this Sunday.


With metta,


Alameda Sangha
Every Sunday, 7pm
@ Buena Vista United Methodist Church
2311 Buena Vista Ave., Alameda
Visit our Website:
Visit our blog:

November 3, 2011

This Sunday: How We Treat Others

Dear Friends,

The way we treat others is an integral part of our journey on the Eightfold Path.  It is both cause and evidence of our spiritual condition.  As lay practitioners, we have guidelines for our conduct which encourage us to become kind and respectful toward other beings.  These guidelines are in the Five Precepts, and this Sunday we will investigate the first three.

I look forward to seeing you all again, and to meeting our newcomers.  Till then, be well.


October 24, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness of Mind

Hi everyone,
I'm sending out my reminder email early this week, because I'm going to be away from email at the end of this week.  It was great seeing many of you last night, and I hope the sangha was of benefit to you.

This Sunday, I'll continue looking at the four foundations of mindfulness by looking at the 3rd one; which is called mindfulness of mind.  It is another way that we can orient our awareness both when we are in formal meditation periods, or when we are moving about our daily life.  So, we'll look at this on Sunday evening.

I hope you all have a great week, and I'll look forward to Sunday,

October 20, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness of Feeling

Hi friends of Alameda Sangha,

This week, I'll be discussing the second 'Foundation of Mindfulness' as presented in Buddhist teachings.  It is being mindful and fully aware of feelings as they arise in our experience.  'Feeling' is a word that has a lot of connotations, so first we'll try to understand what is exactly being pointed to in this teaching.  And then I'll explore ways of working with it both in our formal practice and in our daily life.

I hope you can make it this Sunday, and if not, I hope you have a lovely weekend,

October 17, 2011

Understanding Kamma this week

Hello Everyone,

Happy Monday. Remembering that the practice for kamma is twofold. The first is discerning whether or not an attitude shift is necessary of the present effects of past causes. The second is to pause and start with intention before performing an action in either speech or act to ensure greater chances of wholesome effects. Also, as per Munindra-ji, the Indian teacher I quoted from, remembering that our future will soon become our present moment and the present moment our past.

Much metta and gratitude for all your practice, Pauletta

October 13, 2011

This Sunday: Kamma - Cause and Effect

Hello Everyone,

Talks from this past Sunday of the three of us about the Three Characteristics of Existence are up on our website. As is Anthony Rodgers' Guided Meditation so you now have 2 choices of guided meditation to listen to during your home sitting daily meditation practice.

Hoping to see you this Sunday for an offering of the teaching on Kamma (Pali word for Karma, from the Sanskrit): Cause and Effect. This talk is inspired by one given on this topic by Ajahn Amaro, my favorite monastic teacher who really has a great perspective on this teaching and how we can apply ourselves for more wholesome effects from our intention which fuels our actions, right here and right now, in this very lifetime which is so exciting to me!

There continues to be lots of controversies with Buddhist and Pali scholars regarding whether or not the Buddha himself really got behind the whole Indian cultural/religious idea behind rebirth and so this talk really focuses on what we can do ourselves in the present moment that will have skillful or unskillful consequences for the future.

Hope that you will join me. Don't forget to tell your friends about the partial daylong of practice that Anthony and I are offering on November 5th. I will leave a huge pile of the postcards at the sangha this Sunday - and the following Sunday, please don't forget to remind Anthony that they are there for him to take a few to pass around in Berkeley.

May your practice benefit yourselves and yours this week, much metta,


October 5, 2011

Three Teachers Speaking on the Three Characteristics of Existance

Hi everyone,

This Sunday Rebecca, Pauletta, and I will all be there and we will be talking about the three characteristics of existence in the Buddhist teachings -- dukkha, anicca, and anatta, roughly translated as dissatisfaction, impermanence, and not-self.

Rebecca, Pauletta, and I make an attempt to teach together a few times a year. It is a great opportunity to get multiple perspectives on the dharma.  It is also a great chance to become more familiar with the sangha as a whole. And it can be a great introduction for any new people who come to the sangha.  So, please invite those in your lives who are curious about what you do every Sunday evening

I hope you are enjoying this stormy weather!  Thank you for your interest in Alameda Sangha, and I look forward to seeing many of you this Sunday.

With care,

Notes on Taking Refuge

Dear Friends,
Here are notes prepared for my dharma talk last Sunday on Taking Refuge.

Much Metta, Rebecca

Dhammapada verses 188-192:
They go to many a refuge,
to mountains and forests
to park and tree shrines:
people threatened with danger.
That's not the secure refuge,
not the supreme refuge,
that's not the refuge,
having gone to which,
you gain release
from all suffering & stress.
But when, having gone
to the Buddha, Dhamma,
Sangha for refuge,
you see with right discernment
the four noble truths
the cause of stress,
the transcending of stress,
the noble eightfold path,
the way to the stilling of stress:
that's the secure refuge,
that, the supreme refuge,
that is the refuge,
having gone to which,
you gain release
from all suffering and stress.

Other false refuges: eating, sex, drugs, shopping, gossiping, surfing the web, watching TV, etc. Distraction through the illusion of pleasure, like smoking – thought the first puff was gratified the desire, by the 3rd puff it was yucky. The real benefit was pausing to light up, taking a deep breath or many, just taking a breath = refuge.

One friend started a job in a nursing home and the sights and smells horrified her. Every cell in her body screamed at her to run. But she'd just been reading about the refuges. She stopped and took a breath.
She said, "I was able to identify fear – of suffering, aloneness, and confinement. At that moment I realized I was fully present and willing to, as Sharon Salzburg says, 'just see what happens now.'"

Another friend worked with developmentally disabled college students with poor social skills, many aggressive. If he was reactive, their interaction would be impaired, possibly permanently. So each time a student was difficult, he would take refuge and
1) let himself feel the stress,
2) breath and watch it release, and then notice and respond to the situation as a whole

Historically, 'taking refuge' has many meanings: taking robes, becoming "Buddhist" etc. I think of it as making a commitment to live a spiritual life, to turn 1st to my Buddha nature, or the teachings, or to a spiritual friend, rather than turning to false pleasures.How you deeply understand the 3 jewels is very personal.

Blanche Harman of the San Francisco Zen Center offered these options:

  • Trusting your own fundamental wisdom and goodness
  • Accepting unreservedly the perfection you share with all being
  • Trusting that you don't need anything – that you and all being is perfect
  • Abandoning oneself to the security of having no attachments and no aversions
  • Making full effort, with no attachment to outcome

For some people, taking refuge in Buddha can be finding strength and comfort in the presence
of one's own Buddha nature - accessible when we think of it. For people in 12 steps  their Higher Power often serves this purpose.

Deb Kerr says:
Remember to take refuge, return to mindfulness, "safe space" of cushion or confidence, or remember your  commitment to the path of awakening.

I take refuge, something useful to cling to until you don't have to cling any more to any thing,which is a shorthand to the entirety of practice. My experience with guy throwing up at Zen Hospice Project, I remembered how it felt to meditate and gag response gone, forever, I could help my clients.

Samyutta Nikaya says:
I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's monastery. Then a certain deva, in the far extreme of the night, her extreme radiance lighting up the entirety of Jeta's Grove, approached the Blessed One. On approaching, having bowed down to the Blessed One, she stood to one side. As she was standing there, she addressed him with a verse. 
"Many devas and human being
give thought to protective charms,
desiring well-being.
Tell, then, the highest protective charm." 
The Buddha replied:
"Not consorting with fools,
consorting with the wise,
homage to those deserving of homage:
               This is the highest protective charm. 
Broad knowledge, skill,
well-mastered discipline,
well-spoken words:
               This is the highest protective charm. 
Giving, living in rectitude,
assistance to one's relatives,
deeds that are blameless:
              This is the highest protective charm. 
Avoiding, abstaining from evil;
refraining from intoxicants,
being heedful of the qualities of the mind:
             This is the highest protective charm. 
Respect, humility,
contentment, gratitude,
hearing the Dhamma on timely occasions:
             This is the highest protective charm. 
A mind that, when touched
by the ways of the world,
is unshaken, sorrowless, dustless, secure:
             This is the highest protective charm. 
Everywhere undefeated
when acting in this way,
people go everywhere in well-being:
            This is their highest protective charm."

October 1, 2011

5-part series on Being with Grief beginning Oct. 13

Dear Friends,

Alameda Sangha is sponsoring a series of evenings on death, dying and loss presented by MK Nelson and Daniel Doane on Thursdays 7-9 pm, Oct 13 - Nov 10, 2011.

For more information go to Being With Grief

With metta,

This Sunday: Taking Refuge

Dear Friends,

Last week we looked at the opportunities to be found in those moments when mindfulness appears to have "failed."  This week we'll take the opposite approach and look at how to re-gain serenity (or at least, functionality) when we find ourselves overwhelmed by events and our reactions to them.

Buddha offered his followers three refuges which they took formally even before beginning their instruction in practice or the dharma.  What does it mean, though, to "take refuge?"  How do we do it, and what does it do?

Come Sunday and find out.

Best wishes,

September 23, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness works even when not...

Dear Friends,

When I'm meditating, trying to be aware of the sensations of breathing, I will realize that instead I've been planning what to wear the next day.  Then I'm tempted to think mindfulness just wasn't working for me.  Later, during the day, I will lose my temper and tell someone just what I think of them.  Another failure of mindfulness?

Not really.  Mindfulness works in valuable ways even when we think it's 'not working.'  Having established a practice and become familiar with what mindfulness is, we're able to mine riches from those moments we ordinarily consider lapses of mindfulness.

We'll look at how to do this on Sunday, 7-8:30 when we explore, "How Mindfulness Works When It's Not Working."  Bring a friend and join us.

Looking forward to seeing you again,

September 19, 2011

Practicing with Confusion this week - the 3rd Kilesa/Defilement/Poison/root of suffering

Hello Everyone,
May this find you well on this hot, sunny and beautiful Monday.

Attached, please find the official flyer on the grief workshops that we will be having for 5 Thursdays starting October 13th at Trinity Lutheran Church from 7-9 pm. If you are able to print a few and distribute them around town, Martha Kay and I would really appreciate it.

So for this week, reflect on the question, "How does confusion tend to create suffering in my life?" And remember that if after you are able to notice its presence by seeing it in the bodily sensations, just breathe, pause, and wait for more clarity to emerge before speaking or acting in haste out of the unskillful place of reactivity. You will be amazed that just by not reacting in quick, knee jerk fashion, how the problem may disappear altogether, someone may reveal something that was not known before that could help out the situation, or some other fortuitous occurrence could arise to shift things in a more positive direction.

The pot luck was great! We should plan another one in the future! A lot of you loved my banana curry dish, so here is the recipe: (It is from the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley when I used to frequent it while I was still searching for the Buddhist tradition that resonated the most with me. )

Serves 2-4 people (for the potluck I tripled the recipe)

2 lb bananas, preferably green ones
2T vegetable oil
1t turmeric
1/2 t cumin seeds
1t NaCl
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 c yogurt
1 t curry powder
1T lemon juice (I was able to use Virginia's yummy Meyer lemons off her tree)

Peel the bananas and cut them into 1" slices. Heat the oil in a heavy pot or skillet, add the turmeric and cumin seeds, and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the bananas, NaCl, and cayenne, stir (carefully, so the bananas do not disintegrate), and let simmer for 10 minutes on a low flame. Stir once or twice to prevent scorching.

Add the yogurt, curry powder, and lemon juice. Stir once and simmer for 5-7 more minutes. Be sure not to overcook, or the bananas will fall apart. Taste to correct seasoning.

The longest part of this recipe is slicing the bananas! Enjoy!

Pauletta_book_0630114.jpgMuch metta and gratitude for your practice, Pauleta

Alameda Sangha
Every Sunday, 7pm
@ Buena Vista United Methodist Church
2311 Buena Vista Ave., Alameda
Visit our Website:
Visit our blog:

September 15, 2011

This Sunday: Greed, Hatred and Delusion Part 3

Hello Everyone,

May this find you all well and more or less adjusted to the Fall season.

Don't forget to register for the Mind Training Workshop - see postcards attached. I will be distributing a lot of handouts at the first session, so it would be helpful to get a head count sooner rather than later, as I will be gone on retreat the week before the workshop begins and back the day before it starts. Yikes!!! I'm sure it will be fine. Steve will be attempting to answer emails regarding registration the week of Sept 23 to 30th while I'm on retreat. There's still plenty of room in the workshop.

A second exciting development is that Martha Kay Nelson who came to the sangha to speak about the grief workshops upcoming, and I have secured a venue and dates for the workshop. Starting October 13th Thursday, from 7-9 pm, they will be on 5 consecutive Thursdays. October 27th will be the film, "Gifts of Grief" with the filmmaker herself to present it to us and there will be a panel discussion afterwards. She is donating the film to us at the sangha and we will circulate it just like we have the Dhamma Brothers. The venue will be at Trinity Lutheran Church on Central Avenue, closer to Sherman. It's not necessary to register - just show up and it's also not necessary to attend all 5 sessions, but they will probably be in a kind of serial format, with one session leading up to the next, etc. It will be dana based as usual, with all dana going to the church. You can read more about the film in this issue of Inquiring Mind, called Passages.

We will also be having our first Alameda Sangha potluck at McKinley Park, around 5 pm. It is about 2-3 blocks away from Park Street on Buena Vista on the same side as the church where we meet at 7. Bring food and drink to share.

After the potluck, we will meet as usual at 7 pm at the church and the topic for the talk will be Delusion or my preferred translation from the Pali, Confusion. It is the third kilesa or root of suffering and is really one of the three major unwholesome mind states that we try to turn away from and practice to reset our default system in our brain and incline our mind instead to more wholesome states like the Paramis which we explored together (Equanimity, which is the last Paramis will be presented on Christmas, December 25), the Four Brahmaviharas: metta (lovingkindness), mudita (boundless joy), karuna (compassion) and upekkha (equanimity), amongst the 7 Factors of Awakening, the list goes on.

Remembering that when we do happen to get caught in unwholesome mental states, that it isn't our "fault" but really due to our conditioning, thankfully, the teachings offer ways in which to first notice that these are arising with the tool of mindfulness and increased awareness, and ways to work once they have taken hold, how to incline our minds away from them, feel into and appreciate the wholesome when these arise or replace the unwholesome (this is how we change our default settings in the brain), and finally how to maintain the wholesome through daily life practice and reinforcing what we learn to more and more give us moments of peace and harmony in our lives. Sounds good, doesn't it? Whom amongst you does not want to be happy?

See you all soon,
with gratitude and appreciation for your practice, Pauletta

September 9, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness of the Body Part II

Hi all,
So, this week we'll return to the subject of mindfulness of the body that we discussed last week.  After discussing its importance and usefulness in formal meditation practice, this week we'll look at the benefits and difficulties in taking mindfulness of the body off the cushion.  How do we do it?  When is it useful?  When does it seem impossible?

I hope many of you can join us this week, and just a reminder that the potluck gathering will be next Sunday, Sept. 18th at McKinley Park in Alameda.  All are welcome.

Enjoy your weekend,

Alameda Sangha
Every Sunday, 7pm
@ Buena Vista United Methodist Church
2311 Buena Vista Ave., Alameda
Visit our Website:
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September 2, 2011

This Sunday: Mindfulness of the Body

Hi everyone,

First, a couple announcements:  There will be a potluck on Sept. 18th, beginning at 5pm at McKinley Park on the corner of Buena Vista and Walnut (about 2 blocks west of the church we meet in).  There is no need to let us know your coming, but please bring food or drink to share.  Sangha will meet at 7pm that night as usual.

Second announcement:  We have been circulating the DVD of 'The Dharma Brothers', but it's been a while since we've seen it.  So, if whoever has it could bring it back so that someone else can have the opportunity to watch it.  Thanks.

As for this Sunday, I'll be leading the group and this week will be the first of two weeks focusing on 'Mindfulness of the Body'.  My plan is to talk about this in regards to formal meditation practice first; and then next week, we'll look at it as a practice that can be incorporated into more (if not all) of our day-to-day activities.  If you have any questions about posture, discomfort, or anything else related to the body, please bring them as this would be a chance for a discussion.

One thought as a preview for this Sunday:  We can continually get trapped in a pattern of prioritizing the experiences of the mind as compared to the experiences of the body; even when through our meditation practice the body begins to appear more stable than our thoughts, which change so rapidly.  What's the deal with that, and what does that mean for the significance of being able to turn our awareness toward the experience of the body?  

I hope to see many of you this week, and if not, enjoy the Labor Day weekend, and I hope you have safe travels.


August 29, 2011

Working with aversion this week

Hello Everyone,

Happy Monday. So I myself already experienced minor aversion when at a 4 way stop by the Nob Hill shopping center the car across the intersection from me and I arrived at the same time. Because he did not put his turn signals on, when it was our turn to go, I thought he was going straight so I started to go straight and on my way as well, but had to stop suddenly when he started to turn left and cross over me!! Errrrgh! So it hit my gut like a rock and I almost started shaking my head at him to show my displeasure at his not following simple driving rules, but instead took a deep breath and resolved not to let it color the rest of my morning. Phewwww!!

Earlier, this morning, I spoke with the art supply store and the rep said she would send me a free pen. She transferred me to the manager's voice mail so I could relay my complaints which I did minus any anger so that hopefully they can take some steps to rectify the company dynamics and some salespeople's bad attitude towards customers. I'm convinced that companies should take the time to hire Buddhist practitioners who can show them what the mechanics of Right Livelihood is all about. It's so much about one's attitude towards work than about the workplace or the co-workers or the bosses even. And being mindful in what one does at work to complete the job goes a long way to mutual satisfaction and good feelings all around between customer and service person.

So, sorry to be so longwinded, but in your practices this week, please attempt to notice when aversion/hatred/anger/irritation occurs in your daily life and even on the cushion. First, recognize that it's there. Decide is this pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? If unpleasant, feel how it's manifesting in the body. Give yourself compassion as you feel the unpleasant qualities. Then finally, trying hard to have no expectation, notice when the aversion leaves.

With the art store incident, the aversion stayed with me for 2 1/2 hours non stop. I did try to change the energy in my body a bit by walking the dog, talking to my husband about it. These helped but the unpleasant feelings dragged for what seemed to be a very long time. It was great when it finally lifted though and I was able to let go of the anger!

So Anthony will be looking forward to your check-ins.

Take care and stay grounded, remember to breathe,


August 25, 2011

This Sunday: Second Kilesa - Hatred AKA Aversion AKA Anger AKA extreme irritation

Hello Everyone,

Hoping that this finds you all well. Come to hear about and explore the 2nd root of our suffering - Hatred. Using the Four Great Efforts or the four methods of working with the kilesas that I discussed in the overview last Sunday, we will learn how to incline our mind away from anger and aversion and towards more metta or lovingkindness.

Today I had a bad day with lots of aversion. I had been patiently working for the last 3 weeks on several art supply orders with a well known art supply store out of state. A company that I have done business with for over 20 years with no problems and wonderful knowledgeable staff who know a lot of the technical ins and outs of products and ways in which artists like to work in different media. So in the last 3 weeks, I have placed about 3-4 orders for things with them. I have patiently worked through my irritation through what appeared to be a lot of ineptitude on their part. They seem to have new staff that really know nothing about the nuances of colors in different media, i.e. oil or acrylic and they kept bungling up my orders including shipping me wrong merchandise. For the last 3 weeks I called and had them correct each bungle without taking out my frustration or anger on them, just being patient and really working towards solving the problem rather than adding to it by yelling or complaining. Today, I just hit the roof. After spending about an hour with them yesterday straightening out the last order I made, I was working on an artist book with a pen that I ordered from them to write the text of the artist book. After about 3 lines of hand writing the text, the pen ran out! It was like all that patience and biting my tongue for 3 weeks went out the door. I called the rep and left an angry but not unkind message about all the trouble that they have caused by their lack of attention and care to their work and that they need to replace this pen as soon as possible.

Then, I came home and walked the dog to try to dispel the angry and frustrated energy in my chest which felt like acid. I also talked to my husband a little bit about my frustration but have not really felt calmer until now, about 2 1/2 hours later after spending 20 minutes in sitting meditation.

So I am sharing this story to let you know that even in learning and attempting to work with these poisons in our practice, we will still have setbacks. But more and more, we will learn with the support of our caring family and friends as well as the practice and knowing how to get out of the cycle of suffering before we make it worse, that there is always the next moment where we can start over again anew.

Hopefully this story will be helpful to you and looking forward to exploring hatred aka anger aka extreme irritation aka aversion together this Sunday evening

August 22, 2011

Practicing with the first kilesa this week: Greed

Hello Everyone,

My talk from last night should be posted soon. Hoping that this finds you well.

So for this week, just practice seeing when greed/sensual desire/lust/grasping/craving arises. Feel it in your body and watch what your mind does with it.

Because I had to do an overview of all three kilesas plus spend time on the first one last night, I was concerned that the talk was longer than usual. So, of course I forgot to read an important quote by Analayo regarding the hindrance/and kilesa of greed from his book,Satipatthana. Here it is:

p. 193 "The particular dynamic of sensual desire is such that, every time a sensual desire is gratified, the act of gratification
fuels ever stronger subsequent manifestations of the same desire............As the Buddha pointed out, the way to inner peace and composure necessarily depends on gaining independence from this vortex of desire and gratification."

So this powerful message of Analayo is saying that we shouldn't "fuel the fire" of our cravings because it leads to a vicious cycle of wanting more and more and more and never being satisfied.

Wishing you all good practice and reflection,
with gratitude for your efforts and sincere openheartedness,

August 18, 2011

This Sunday: The Three Kilesas: Greed, Hatred and Delusion

Hello Everyone,

Come this Sunday to hear about the unwholesome ways in which we tend to incline our mind in daily life and sitting practice better known as greed, hatred and delusion. They are the roots of our suffering. Four methods of working with them and cultivating their counterparts of relinquishment, lovingkindness and wisdom will be discussed as well as how to recognize their manifestation because they only become clearer with increased awareness.

Hope to see you all and enjoy the last bits of summer,

Much metta, Pauletta

August 11, 2011

This Sunday: Beauty and the Dharma

Greetings. This Sunday we will continue the discussion on Beauty and the Dharma. This talk will focus on Mindfulness of the Mind, the 3rd foundation of practice described in the Satipatthana Sutta. I hope you can make it.

Blessings. Baruch Golden

August 3, 2011

This Sunday: Guest Speaker:Baruch Golden speaks on Beauty and Aging

Hello Everyone,

This Sunday, I will be presenting our special guest speaker from San Francisco Gay Buddhist Fellowship, Baruch Golden who will be speaking on Beauty and Aging. He is currently in the Community Dharma Leadership Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre. Read more about him on the link below.

Attached, please find the postcard announcement for the Mind Training Workshop I will be teaching this October at Island Yoga here in Alameda. Sign up by emailing and registering through

Looking forward to seeing all of you and hope to bring more organic veggies from our community garden on Eagle Street.

Much metta to ya, all , Pauletta

July 28, 2011

The end of the mindful bear attack story

Dear Friends:

Here is the last -- and key -- paragraph to the story, which was omitted in my previous email.
Megan Peters, spokeswoman for Alaska's Department of Public Safety, said … "The biggest thing to look at is …they all made it out of the field alive, which really speaks to the kids themselves and their character - their ability to stay in the situation and the reality they were facing and deal with it."
Be well,

July 27, 2011

This Sunday: Remembering to Remember

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday we talked about letting go, and how faith in our ability to handle whatever arises can facilitate our letting go of mind states that harm us more than help.  A common misunderstanding of letting go is that it will leave us passive, while the opposite is true.  It actually leaves us better able to cope with events because our minds are not muddled with tormenting thoughts and emotions.

Below is an article from Tuesday's Chronicle with a dramatic example of this profound kind of presence.  Oddly, it's probably easier to be mindful during a bear attack, though, than in a conflict on the job or at home.  How can we summon the kind of presence that enabled these kids to survive such a crisis?

This Sunday we'll talk about "remembering to remember" during our ordinary lives.  Practice can enable us to return to mindfulness in those moments when pitfalls are camouflaged by tedium.  You all probably have stories of remembering to be present during the routine of a day.  How did that happen, and how did your regular practice contribute to that moment of awakening?

Bring your stories, bring your friends, and together we'll learn more about living a mindful life.
Best wishes,

This (edited) article was on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle on Tues., July 26, 2011:
Victor Martin Jr. survived an attack by a grizzly bear in Alaska over the weekend.A Richmond teenager was headed home Monday evening after his first camping trip ended when a bear believed to be a grizzly attacked him and other teenagers in a remote part of Alaska over the weekend.
The attack occurred about 8:30 p.m. Saturday as Victor Martin, 18, and six other teens made their way through thick bushes in the Talkeetna Mountains.  The group, on the 24th day of a 30-day wilderness education course, was crossing an unnamed creek when it came across the brown-colored bear with a cub. The purpose of the month long expedition is to teach students to recognize, avoid and manage risks. Martin had received a scholarship.
Two teens at the front of the group received the brunt of the attack.  The animal then turned its attention on Martin, who was third in line. …  Martin kicked the bear until he was able to break free and ran up a hill. Martin [then] returned to his group as soon as he could to help the injured.  A helicopter crew reached the group at 2:45 a.m. Sunday after the teens activated their emergency location beacon. In all, six teens were injured, but none as seriously as Berg and Gottsegen. They remained hospitalized in Alaska in serious and good conditions respectively.  Martin was treated and released.
 His family said Monday they were relieved that he survived but not surprised that he went back to the group to help the others.  "He's the type who will help out, that's for sure," said Tonnette Martin, Martin's grandmother and guardian....

July 22, 2011

This Sunday: Letting Go

Dear Friends,

A common piece of advice for emotions, thoughts or situations that make us unhappy is, "Just let it go!"  We can even tell this to ourselves, and it's usually no more helpful than having someone else say it.

How do we let go?  And even if we do pry loose the cold, hard fingers of our minds a bit, is it possible to let go even more?  What does it mean to let go completely?  Is it possible to imagine what life would be like if we did let go… completely?

This Sunday, 7-8:30 pm, we'll explore the relationship between letting go and the kind of faith that helps us do so.  Bring your fears, grudges, expectations and obsessions – oh, and your friends.

Best wishes,

July 14, 2011

This Sunday: Buddhist Ethics

Hi everyone,
This week we'll continue our discussion of Buddhist Ethics.  Last week, I wanted to change the language some and suggest looking at it as 'behavior', and 'what is appropriate to do?' as we make our way through this world.

On Sunday, I would encourage you to bring in some examples from your life so that we can discuss issues as they actually play out in our lives.  Some questions that you could reflect on: 

-  How has meditation/mindfulness practice changed the way I act in the world?  

-  Are there ways that I live that I'm worried will be affected/altered/lost due to my practice of meditation, or my interest in Buddhist teachings?  

-  Are there any parts of my daily life that occupy 'too much' of my mind when I sit down to practice formal meditation, and if so, what does that mean?  

-  Are there habits and behaviors that I'm trying to change by practicing meditation?'

I hope that we'll see many of you this Sunday.  May you all have a good end of your week,
Take care,

July 9, 2011

This Sunday: Buddhist Ethics

Hi all,
Sorry for the late email this week.  We will be meeting as usual tomorrow evening and the topic will be Buddhist Ethics.  That sounds complicated, potentially; but really what I would like to talk about Sunday evening are the Buddhist teachings on human behavior in the world.  Often, we associate Buddhism with meditation and forget about all of the other subjects that are given just as much (if not more!) attention.  So, how do we treat people; how do we treat the world; and what are some of the factors involved in our decisions of what to do and not to do?

I hope to see many of you tomorrow night, and I hope you're enjoying the weekend,

July 4, 2011

9th Paramis: Metta or Lovingkindness Practice for the Week

Hello Everyone,
Hope you are all having a safe and fun 4th of July. Remembering to think about having a little gratitude today towards our beautiful space, the Buena Vista United Methodist Church and all the forces that made it possible for us to continue meeting here. Last night was our first year anniversary in this extraordinary space.

My husband suggested we do a float for the Fourth of July for next year! I think it would be fun to do!

So the talk for last night should be on the website link soon.

Remembering to keep in sight, the power of intention behind the practice of metta to generate care and well-being towards ourselves and others, as well as planting the seeds for more love and connection in our lives with others will help us persevere in the practice which is a powerful antidote against both fear and aversion.

May you have a fruitful week of practice and safe holiday,

much metta to you all,

June 29, 2011

9th Paramis: Metta or Lovingkindness for Sunday July 2, 2011 and Pauletta Chanco's Newsletter

Hello Everyone,

May this find you well and purified from the bizarre rain yesterday!

Come and learn about one of the most important Buddhist practices this Sunday, known as lovingkindness or metta. The definition is the heartfelt wish for the well being of oneself and others. It is a powerful practice that serves many purposes: i.e. an antidote to fear, counteracting the inner critic as many of you got to experience in the Inner Critic Workshop which Anthony and I offered a few weeks ago, and one of many forms of concentration practice amongst others. It also serves as a powerful reflection once undertaken as a daily practice, of oneself and what is truly going on inside oneself be it self-aversion, aversion towards others, the incapacity to feel love in general. With this practice, one cannot hide from oneself. But with perseverence and khanti (patience), establishing a daily metta practice with one's sitting meditation practice can give forth powerful healing, and interconnection with others and the world all around.

Hope to see you all there...much metta, Pauletta

Here's my summer newsletter, Pauletta Chanco Newsletter. I've included my recipe for Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce. Enjoy!

June 28, 2011

8th Paramis: Aditthana Practice for the Week

Hello Everyone,

This week, if you would like to cultivate  Aditthana, here are things to remember and reflect upon:

Four Qualities of Aditthana:

1) Discernement : Setting wise goals/ having a clear understanding of what needs to be done to achieve this
2) Staying true to the goal
3) Relinquishment: Realizing that in order to go through the steps and process necessary to achieve our goals, some things may need to be given up
4) Peace: Keeping the mind calm during the process, no extra suffering, i.e. complaining, etc. and seeing if there is calm once the goal has been achieved.

Happy Practicing. Let me know how it goes at the check in on Sunday when we meet again for Metta.

Metta for your practice,

June 23, 2011

8th Paramis: Aditthana (Resolve or Determination)

Hello Everyone,

May this find you well. I am happy to be back with you all again this Sunday to speak on the 8th Paramis which is Aditthana. Come and find out the four qualities to incorporate in cultivating Determination in our daily lives to accomplish the wholesome goals that we set out for ourselves. The process by which we experience working towards arriving at our goal(s) can truly take us to places in our practice that we never will have imagined. Come and find out how this can happen!

Also, after the dharma talk, we will have a presentation by Martha Kay Nelson who conducts grief workshops at Alameda Hospital and would like to create one for us and others in the community to come and participate in. Bring all your questions on Sunday night to ask of her, be they logistical or exploring different aspects of grief that you would like to suggest she consider incorporating in her proposed workshop.

I am looking forward to sharing Sunday evening with all of you in the support of our spiritual and daily life practice together,

much metta, Pauletta

June 16, 2011

This Sunday: Equanimity

Hi everyone,
This week we will explore the subject of Loss and the inevitable presence of Loss in our life.  I think this is a timely subject to follow Rebeccas talk on Equanimity.

As this weekend is Fathers Day (a helpful reminder for some of you, maybe:)), I hope that some of you will still be able to make it to sangha this Sunday evening.  And if not, I hope you have a great weekend.

Hope to see you soon,

June 14, 2011

Notes from June 12 talk on Equanimity

Dear Friends,

Here are my notes for the talk I gave Sunday on Equanimity, which I'm sending in the hope they might be of some help to some of you.

Best wishes,

Equanimity: a habit of mind that is only rarely disturbed under great strain contrast to composure.
Composure: controlling emotional or mental agitation by an effort of will

Equiniminity is not a dry neutrality or cool aloofness. Equanimity produces a radiance & warmth of being.
The English word "equanimity" translates two separate Pali words used by the Buddha. Each represents a different aspect of equanimity.

1) Upekkha, meaning "to look over." the ability to see without being caught by what we see; gives rise to a great sense of peace.

Upekkha implies sense of ease from seeing a bigger picture. Colloquially, meant (in Pali) "to see with patience," or "understanding." Eg, when we don't take insults personally, we're less likely to react. This "big picture" gives us space to feel our emotions, not get lost in them.

It could be seen as grandmotherly love: she clearly loves her grandchildren but, thanks to her experience, is less likely to be caught up in the drama of her grandchildren's lives.

2) Tatramajjhattata, a compound made of simple Pali words. Tatra, meaning "there," sometimes refers to "all these things." Majjha means "middle," and tata means "to stand or to pose." Put together, the word becomes "to stand in the middle of all this." Being in the middle" refers to balance, remaining centered in the middle of whatever is happening. It comes from inner strength or stability, like a ballast keeps a ship upright in strong winds.

I had the opportunity to help lead a retreat for women in prison with Wendy Palmer, author of The Intuitive Body,  and a 4th level black belt in Aikido. She describes Aikido as a method of entering on: 1) breathing, 2) sensing body's energy field, 3) gravity. If you aren't centered, you cant't do anything. The art of both Aikido and equanimity is always returning to center, or 'balance.' As equanimity develops, we feel it more continuously in balance.

Equanimity is also seen as protection from "eight worldly winds": 1) praise and blame, 2) success and failure, 3) pleasure and pain, 4) fame and disrepute. If attached to success, praise, fame, pleasure, we suffer when the winds of life change direction. For example, success is wonderful, but if it leads to arrogance and failure really hurts. Clinging to praise becomes conceit. If our well-being is independent of these eight winds, we are more likely to remain on an even keel.

Look for supports for equanimity in: 1) virtue (confidence of blamelessness), 2) faith (based on experience & wisdom), 3) steady mind (thru practice), 4) sense of well-being (savoring life's goodness), 5) wisdom (the big picture: karma, understanding when equanimity absent/present), 6) insight (anicca & letting go), 7) freedom (from reactivity: noticing as equanimity increases)

We can develop equanimity in life using these supports. As a Factor of Awakening, the practice is to check for equanimity during meditation (or life), "Is equanimity present?" As with all Seven Factors of Awakening, this checking is often all it takes to evoke the factor.

June 11, 2011

New audio on Alameda Sangha blog/website: Pauletta's guided meditation and other news

Hello Everyone,
Just wanted to share upcoming events and exciting news for the sangha.  Hoping you are all well - I miss you all but will see you soon.
First, our sangha techie extraordinaire, Susan Haumeder, very kindly posted a 12 minute guided meditation recording of my voice on the website/blog so that anyone who wanted to be guided through a meditation sitting could tune in and listen. You would still need to set your own meditation timer as I didn't record 30 minutes of silence and then ring the bell at the end.
I have been creating handmade artist books about meditation in an edition variee of 10 books for the Stage Left Cellars art and wine event on July 2nd (information postcard attached) which I hope you will all come to. I will bring a book to show next time I am at the sangha teaching. I've already pre-sold 2 books to two Dharma practitioners who regularly collect my work.  The book is enclosed in a handmade envelope, with a statement about the interconnection between spiritual practice and art and a CD of me guiding a meditation sitting. Each book sells for $60 and I will donate $20 of it for each book sold to the Insight Prison Project which is a local meditation program similar in some ways to the Dhamma Brothers in the south, right here locally in the prison by Larkspur Landing. It was started by Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock.
On June 26th, Mary Kay Nelson may be coming to do a short presentation of the Grief workshop she would like to offer for us at Alameda Hospital sometime in the Fall. (This is not completely confirmed, but I will let you all know when I send out my email for the 26th when I will be teaching Aditthana or Determination. This would be a time to ask questions of her in what she can offer, times that would work best, i.e. weekends vs weekday nights, etc.
In the August, I will be hosting at Alameda Sangha on one of the Sundays that I am teaching, the filmmaker of Gifts of Grief. She was interviewed in Passages of the Inquiring Mind current issue on the pages that also have my 3 drawings featured. She will be coming to make a brief presentation about the film, donating it to us as dana (it otherwise costs $65 to purchase) and we will decide to have a showing of the film with panel discussion afterwards at my house in the Fall. This will be by lottery only as I will have to have RSVP's by email and will only be able to have 25 people over in order to sit as comfortably as possible (though this will be still a tight fit) in order to view the film and then discuss it afterwards. We don't have a date yet for this and I may consider doing it twice in the Fall if there is a lot of interest.
Anthony and I will be teaching workshops at Island Yoga once again in the Fall. On two Saturdays in October, the 1st and the 8th, from 1-3 pm, I will be teaching a Mind Training workshop. Anthony and I will be doing a daylong workshop in just practicing (sitting and walking with some yoga movement) from 12-6pm on Saturday, November 5th. Mark your calendars and there will be postcards forthcoming.
This is a lot of good buddhadharma activity to look forward to and I hope you are all as excited as I am.
Thank you all for your attention to our upcoming events. Susan will be posting them on the website as they arise. Don't forget to breathe at intervals throughout your day and remember to notice Impermanence - it's a segway into the two other characteristics of existence, dukkha and anata. There is dukkha in the noticing of anicca because we can't keep holding on to the good things, and dukkha in the anata when we see that we also can't hold on to a firm identification/definition of who we are in any given moment in time.
May you all be well, much gratitude for your practice,

June 7, 2011

This Sunday: Equanimity

Dear Friends,

Equanimity is both a personal trait we can cultivate, as one of the paramis, and a mental factor in our practice that helps lead to awakening.  It is a state of being in the moment that enables us to feel with the full range of emotions, without losing our balance, or suffering terribly.  When we are equanimous, we live with ease and serenity. 

It's a good thing.

Come Sunday 7-8:30 and learn more about equanimity.  I bet your friends would like to know about it, too, so bring them.

See you then,


June 2, 2011

This Sunday: Concentration

Dear Friends,

About 10 years ago I had the great fortune to attend a day-long retreat with Thich Nhat Hahn.  His dharma talk was on Concentration, and what I remember to this day was his frequent and urgent admonition to us all to practice: "You must develop concentration!"  Whether he was talking about daily meditation, daily life or higher states of consciousness, the refrain was the same.  Concentration is the cornerstone of practice.

It's important to appreciate that there are different kinds of concentration, and different uses for them.  When does our practice take us beyond watching the breath?  And what if we stay there?  As a factor of awakening, just what is concentration and how does it work?  How should we work with it?

Come this Sunday, bring friends, and I'll try to answer these questions.

Looking forward to seeing you all,

May 26, 2011

This Sunday: Tranquility :-)

Dear Friends,

We are more than halfway through our study of those 7 mental factors in our practice that lead to awakening.  Overall, there is mindfulness, and then the three arousing factors of effort, investigation and rapture, which we've covered.  Balancing these energizing factors are tranquility, concentration and equanimity. 

This Sunday we'll spend some time with tranquility.  The mind needs to relax to open to the full truth of what is.  Stopping, letting go, spending time in nature, simplifying -- these are some of the routes to that tranquil place in the heart that opens up to liberation.

I look forward to seeing you again, hearing about your efforts with Truthfulness (from last week) and sharing thoughts about how we can encourage tranquility of mind.

With metta,

May 23, 2011

7th Paramis: Sacca or Truthfulness Practice Guide for the Week

Hello Everyone,
Thanks for your attention last night. It was a great discussion.
So for this week, here are 2 practices with Wise Speech that you can try. Report back to me via email, the Alameda Sangha blog through comments and/or Rebecca when she teaches this Sunday night on the results of your efforts.
Focus on and do only one of the following but not both:
1) Deep Listening - Finding your breath as the anchor and moving it towards the background of your awareness, also bring some attention to your body, particularly the heart center and the belly areas. Do this right before listening to someone during your day. Set the intention to fully listen to what they are saying to you, allowing them to fully express themselves without interrupting (noticing your body sensations and how it may be reacting to something they say that may trigger a contraction or tightness), not finishing their thoughts for them out loud, and not conveying the semblance of listening but really waiting for them to finish so you can then say what you have been waiting to say back to them, and see how this verbal interaction is different from your usual ones.
2) Before saying something, to anyone, see if what you are about to say is true, helpful, kind and appropriate (good timing and not gossip). Remember that all these 4 aspects have to be in place in order for it to be Samma Vacca or Wise Speech.
May you all have a fruitful week of practice,
With gratitude and light, Pauletta

May 19, 2011

7th Paramis: Sacca or Truthfulness this Sunday, May 22 from 7-9 at Buena Vista United Methodist Church

Hello Everyone,
May this find you all well. I am glad to be coming upon the end of what has been a hectic week for me with prom frenzy and ongoing college search drama in the family. I am hoping to reach some grounding and balance with the group this Sunday after all the hoopla!
So we are back to the Paramis and our joint exploration of cultivating these perfections together. Last Sunday in my talk on Are These Teachings for us? I mentioned that for me the Buddhist teachings brought instant gratification whenever I would try out the recommended tools and techniques in my daily life and interactions with others. So in cultivating Sacca, I can assure  you that you will experience instant results right away and see its benefits quickly.
Come and discover the simple 4 tools and techniques to use in cultivating Sacca with me this Sunday evening. Hope to see you all there!
Enjoy the better weather, with metta,

May 11, 2011

Are These Teachings for Us? this Sunday May 15th 7-9 pm at Buena Vista United Methodist Church Alameda, CA

Hello Everyone,
I'm so glad to be back from the delta! Below, here is a link to the sutta that my talk this coming Sunday will be based on. You may want to read it ahead of time so that you will be somewhat in tune with what I will be saying.
The talk will be addressing what we can consider whenever at some point in our lives we decide to embark upon a spiritual practice, what we should be aware of in contemplating what teachings and/or teacher to embrace. The Buddha clearly outlines in this sutta the necessary criteria that can attune us to what is helpful for us in this life. It's an amazing teaching that everyone can adopt as a general guide no matter what spiritual tradition or teaching one decides to follow. You will see what I mean when we explore it together this Sunday from 7-9 pm.
And now, let's take a moment to close our eyes, set the watch if need be for a minute and breathe. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. In and out, focus on the sensation of breathing and just be here right now. Just for 60 seconds. ....................................................................
How was that? How does your body feel right now? How does the mind feel? Reconnect with your hands and feet on the ground.
The last thing I will say about this teaching of the Buddha, is that it is also known as his "charter of free inquiry" and explicity discourages blind belief in anything while at the same time really doesn't advocate personal opinion as directing a path of practice. It's all about making wise choices.
With that said, I hope you will come to join me this Sunday to explore this amazing teaching together. It will be great to reconnect with you all once again. I will bring baby photos for all who are interested to look at during break or after our time together.
And finally, the piece de resistance............the most all encompassing form of spiritual practice that my daughter in Louisiana is fully engaged in, whether she likes it or not....................................VOila!!

Thanks for indulging me, much metta and good wishes for a fruitful rest of the week of practice,


May 5, 2011

Sangha this Sunday, May 8th

Hi everyone,
I hope you're enjoying the warm weather.  We'll be meeting this week after our 'spring break' last week.  I hope many of you enjoyed the church's bazaar.

This week, I'm going to be talking a little about two different ways of approaching dharma; practice and study.  How can they be used to compliment each other; and are there dangers of having an approach that focuses on one more than the other?  I'll also bring a copy of the Dhammapada, which is a short but potent text that is very accessible for bridging the possible gap between textual tradition and practice.

Hope to see you Sunday,

April 28, 2011

No sangha this Sunday, May 1st

Hi everyone,
Just a reminder that there is no sangha this coming Sunday, due to the spring bazaar happening at the church.  Maybe you can continue your sangha experience by showing up at the church's festivities (from 1 to 5pm I believe) and being a part of the community that so graciously lets us use their space each Sunday evening.

On a different note, this is the last call for people interested in the 'Inner Critic Series' that Pauletta and I are hosting during the month of May.  Please check out the website for more detailed info about it, and register online so that we know you will be there.

Thanks so much for your practice, and enjoy your weekend,

April 21, 2011

Pleasure -- Sunday 7-8:30 Really, that's the topic

Dear Friends,

In Dharmaland, it can sometimes be confusing whether pleasure is friend or foe.  This week we'll try to figure that one out, and look at how pleasure can be a Factor of Awakening.  It's #4.

From the first, almost imperceptible stirrings while we're sitting, to powerful throes of rapture, pleasure is a significant element of the meditation experience, something that can be put to use toward liberation.

Come Sunday and find out how.  This topic might interest your friends!

Best wishes,

April 20, 2011

Notes on Interest dharma talk on April 17

For those of you who couldn't attend last Friday, or want to review what was covered, here is a cleaned-up version of my notes:

Part of the difficulty many of us have staying aware of the breath is a lack of Interest.  This is an aspect of Vicaya, the third Factor of Awakening.  Interest is what engages us with any activity.  It's energizing in a heart-opening way. 

There are several techniques for arousing interest in the breath, including: 
    • notice characteristics of each breath,  whether it's long, deep, fast, etc.
    • notice the pause between breaths
    • remember how vital breathing is;  maybe imagine being underwater breathing through a straw
    • look for the subtle pleasure in breathing (sometimes not so subtle)
There's one commonly used device that's quite unskillful:  using the ego, as when we scold ourselves when attention strays.

Another aspect of Vicaya is Investigation, which includes what's often called "Divine Investigation," of the dharma.
            We do this while sitting by looking into the experience of the body, mind, heart – especially the body
Buddha said all the dharma can be found in this fathom-long body.

A key use of Investigation is in the 4 Wise Efforts, to encourage states of mind that lead to freedom and discourage those that lead to suffering.   
How do we know what causes suffering?  We feel it.  In the body.  This is important because the mind can tell us  old habits are good when they actually make us suffer.

We can practice seeing the effects of thoughts & emotions in the body, both in sitting practice and in life.  The best way to start is to look closely at how the body feels when we have thoughts that have an impact on us.

Reminder:  this is not just watching the breath; it's using wisdom to direct attention usefully.

In Seeking the Heart of Wisdom, Jack Kornfield said:
            "The power of investigation increases with the depth of our practice.  We can investigate & actually explore all the elements that make up this body & mind…  We can discover our deepest fears and places of identification and clinging, and we can see their patterns of operation in our life…  Maturity in practice will have us investigating… all aspects of our lives."

Remember the acronym RAIN.  Before real investigation must come Recognition of mind states, and the Acceptance  to observe openly & honestly.
            For Investigation to be true & useful, we must also Not take what we observe personally, or think of it as I, me or mine.

A final caveat from Jack Kornfield:  Investigation must include a balance of faith and wisdom.  Avoid intellectualization (talking to yourself) or blind faith . 
            "What is necessary is a faith or confidence in the possibility of awakening and the investigation to see how it actually can be done – a commitment to our own direct understanding."

Hope this is helpful and interesting!


April 19, 2011

No Sangha meeting May 1; we will meet April 24

Dear Friends,

The week after this coming Sunday, on May 1, the church will hold its annual Bazaar, to which we are all invited.  Come to the Sangha meeting this next Sunday, April 24, and you can buy tickets which include a great chicken dinner and support Japanese recovery efforts.

Because the bazaar will be held in the church, it will not be available in time for our Sangha to meet that night.  We're letting you know now to give you plenty of notice.  I hope it isn't confusing.

We will be meeting this coming Sunday, April 24, when I will give a dharma talk on a very interesting Factor of Awakening:  pleasure.  So, come this week, and the week after that, go to the Bazaar!  We'll meet as usual after that, May 8 through the foreseeable future.

With metta,