December 26, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, December 29 from 7-9 pm

Dear Ones,

How many of us have made sweeping, grandiose, New Year's resolutions only to find them hard to keep shortly after the new year begins? We often set our expectations beyond our capabilities when we make them despite the best intentions in formulating them.

The Buddha taught about intention or volition from one moment to the next which can certainly be much more doable in my estimation. He said that karma (kamma in the Pali) follows intention. If we use our tool of mindfulness to help us pause and set wholesome and skillful intentions before key moments in our lives or even starting the day with a wholesome intention (this is much like setting positive affirmations) think how much less suffering will be created and how much more people will be drawn to us!

For myself, setting the intention to be kind and respectful before each family encounter during the holiday celebrations this week really helped me remember to not allow my automatic reactions surface and manifest.

Come, explore and discuss this important teaching of the Buddha, which is yet another tool we can add to our kit of wholesome techniques and motivations.

with metta,

December 22, 2013

Yoga Cancelled on December 29th (Last Sunday this month)

Hello all,

I will not be giving a yoga class this month due to a family celebration on the same night!

Happy Holidays! I am looking forward to seeing you all for yoga on January 26th.


December 16, 2013

Sunday at the Alameda Sangha

Suzuki Roshi defined renunciation as "accepting that things pass away, that things change". The talk this Sunday will focus on the Parami of Renunciation. I look forward to seeing right before the holiday. Blessings and peace. Baruch

As a bee gathers nectar
And moves on without harming
The flower, its color, or its fragrance,
Just so should a sage walks through a village. (Dhammapada 49)

December 12, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 The Peace that Passes Understanding

Dear Friends,

Tinsel, shopping, parties, family… Hectic and exciting, this season resounds with the word "peace," but what does that mean? Is it even possible between now and January 2? This word that most religions claim as their great gift to humanity can be as slippery as quicksilver. It passes understanding on many levels.

This Sunday, 7-8:30, I'll look at the important place peace holds in Buddhist teachings and in our practice, from the pragmatic to the sublime. Bring your stories and friends to share the gift of peace as it has touched your own life.

December 5, 2013

Nuts and Bolts: An Inquiry into Mindfulness

Dear Friends,

This Sunday Dec. 8th I'll be reviewing some of the information from two weeks ago on what constitutes full-fledged mindfulness, with its associated healthy and beneficial mind states. Then together we will inquire into how we know whether or not we are mindful, how we can create the conditions for mindfulness to arise, and what it feels like when it is there. Bring your personal (or universal!) practice questions and insights to share.

with warmth,
Deb Kerr

November 27, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 The Joy of Just Being

Dear Friends,

I can remember in my early childhood when I felt self-conscious for the first time, and how unpleasant that was.  My mother told me to just be myself, but that was the trouble.  I had no idea what that was.  For several decades thereafter, I tried very hard to figure out what my self was, and how to be it.  The effort was full of suffering and generated more.

Now I vaguely recall those early years when I wasn't trying to be anything.  I was just being.  It's a pleasant memory of ease and contentment.  With this practice as an integral part of our lives, it is possible to regain that joy.

Come this Sunday 7-8:30 and bring a friend, but leave your idea of self at home.  We'll talk about being unburdened by any idea of what or how we ought to be.

Happy Hanukkah and Thanksgiving,

Notes from Deb's Sunday night talk on Consciousness and Mindfulness

Dear Sangha,

What a great discussion Sunday! I really appreciated your questions and comments. I'm posting my notes on the web site under Resources, here.

And thanks again to Geoff for sharing the lovely poem.

with blessings, and wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving,

November 25, 2013

Reminder for the Holidays: Checking in with the Breath

Hello Everyone,

Just a quick and important reminder to keep awareness of the breath close at hand like a good friend supporting you through any trying as well as very joyous times during the coming holidays. Don't forget to be compassionate to yourselves and this means to take good care of yourselves during the rush and bustle of the preparation for what is to come.

1) Even if you think you do not have time for sitting practice, it's good to do as little as 10 minutes a day if possible. Just getting into the sitting posture will be grounding (despite the mind being busy and out of control with planning) because it will be a reminder of the need to seek some tranquility within.

2) When you feel the urge to speed up, slow down! It's counterintuitive but the best we can do for the body, heart and mind.

3) From my own personal experience, even though I'm hosting Thanksgiving and making the turkey, stuffing and one other side dish, it is important to take care of oneself by:

a)scheduling a massage before and after the holidays
b) brining the turkey - this means that the turkey can be picked up well before the Wednesday rush because brining the turkey is best to start 2-3 days before Thanksgiving
c) Picking up all the ingredients one can before Thanksgiving for the sides, stuffing, etc
d) If traveling, then there will be lots of time for sitting practice because of possible delays and any layovers. Also a good opportunity to really keep the breath nearby due to more openended time waiting

4) While driving, if with talkative friends or relatives, be sure to breathe and let them know if you need a moment to concentrate on directions or just have a little quiet time. (in a kind and respectful way)

Don't forget to breathe, be kind to yourselves and the practice will unfold in good and positive ways!

Happy Thanksgiving! with metta, Pauletta

November 21, 2013

Yoga Sunday at Sangha

Come to yoga at 6pm-6:45 before we sit for meditation. All are welcome. Bring your mats!

Dina Hondrogen
Yoga Instructor

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: A Closer Look at Mindfulness

Dear Friends,
This Sunday Nov. 24th, I'll be speaking about the healthy qualities of mind that accompany and fortify mindfulness.  As "mindfulness" becomes more and more ubiquitous in popular culture, there is a tendency to shave off or ignore some of its facets, which can dilute its beneficial qualities and greatly diminish its jewel-like beauty.  Join me for an exploration of mindfulness as taught in the Abhidhamma and bring renewed strength to this key practice.
Looking forward to practicing together.
with blessings,
Deb Kerr

November 15, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, Mindfulness of Breathing

Hello Everyone,

This Sunday, come and join me to explore an important sutta of the Buddha's, Mindfulness of Breathing or the Anapanasati Sutta. We will be looking at a direct perspective of what we learned last Sunday when we spoke about abiding in the joy and relaxation of the breath. The Buddha said that this leads to the fruits of our practice and ultimate liberation. We will examine the 16 steps or four tetrads of what he taught all of us to learn to do.

with metta,  Pauletta

November 9, 2013

Mark the date! November 23, 2013, Saturday 9:00 to 430 pm Daylong: Deepening Our Practice

Dear Ones,

Baruch and I will be leading a silent daylong at Buena Vista United Methodist Church just in time for the holidays. Register by sending a message with the Contact Us form here.

Hope to see you all there!
with metta, Pauletta

November 7, 2013

This Sunday November 10 at Alameda Sangha: Breath is our Friend

Dear Ones,

Come join and explore with me increasing intimacy with the breath whom we can turn to at any time of day or night as a constant companion, support and friend, a refuge, a home a place we can come to rest and experience tranquility, calm and healing.

Starting with the guided meditation, we will be learning how to attend to and see our breath in a unique new way with more attention to its detailed manifestation.

Please read the following sutta which is Mindfulness of Breathing and bring your questions on Sunday:

We will spend more time on the sutta the following Sunday on Novwember 17.

Then another translation of a teaching of the Buddha on the actual meditation on mindfulness of breathing which is also useful is here:

Looking forward to seeing all of you and sharing the wonderful things I learned on my retreat.

with metta and gratitude for your practice, Pauletta

November 1, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Be Prepared for Time Change

Dear Friends,

Don't forget the time change this Sunday when you come to Alameda Sangha at 7:00 pm. Also, if it's a chilly afternoon, you might want a warm jacket as the church can be chilly too when we first arrive.

They're working on the heater so it will probably warm up.


October 31, 2013

Being Prepared

Dear Friends,

Most people regard the difficult times of life as misfortune, and just try to avoid it, often with denial or wishful thinking or magic.  It's not hard, though, to be genuinely prepared for the inevitable rough spots ahead. 

The best way to meet life's challenges is to go through them mindfully.  This Sunday we'll talk about how our practice prepares us to do that, and how to prepare for meditation to maximize its benefit.

Last Sunday we talked about how sangha helps each of us grow by sharing the benefits of practice.  That dharma talk in on the sangha web site now.  Please come and bring friends to helps us explore how this works.

Best wishes,

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

October 27, 2013

Wear your jacket

Welcome to Autumn.  The church will probably be chilly (at least at first) tonight, so be sure to wear a nice, warm jacket.

See ya there,

October 26, 2013

References from last Sunday's talk on Transcendent Dependent Origination

Dear Friends,
Here are the references I used last week in my dharma talk:

Bhikkhu Bodhi's comentary on the Upanisa Sutta on Access to Insight:

Christina Feldman's commentary on Dependent Origination:
I recommend both of these articles very highly.  They really explain karma, interconnectedness, and the way positive mind states interweave to bring about liberation.

Here is the reference for the poems I read: "Still Point" and "Awakening Now" by Danna Faulds in her book Go In and In.
with blessings,

Yoga this Sunday 6pm at Sangha

Come and join us to stretch your body before you sit for meditation. All levels welcome. Please bring a sticky mat, wear clothes you can move in (no jeans, belts) and an empty stomach.  I have yoga belts and blocks.

We start at 6 and end at 6:45pm.
See you then.

Dina Hondrogen

October 24, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Refuge of Sangha with Rebecca

Dear Friends,

We come to Alameda Sangha's weekly meetings intending to practice by meditating and hearing dharma talks, maybe participating in the following discussion.  We can forget that an important aspect of practice is there in the form of the people of the sangha, and how we relate to them individually and collectively.

Buddha said that good spiritual friends were not just a part of the spiritual life, but the whole of it.  Sangha is one of the vital 3 refuges from the suffering of samsara.  When we engage consciously and supportively with the sangha, we're doing a wonderful practice called, "sangha building," which brings us many benefits.

Join us in an exploration of sangha -- our sangha -- and how we can work with it to the benefit of all beings.  And bring along some spiritual friends.

Looking forward to seeing you all again,

October 18, 2013

How the Buddha Engineered Liberation

Dear Friends,
In many ways the Buddha was an engineer.  With his amazing powers of awareness, he saw deeply into the processes that lead to suffering, and also into those that lead to freedom.  
This Sunday I'll be talking about some of my favorite teachings, those having to do with dependent origination, and especially places that we can see and break the cycle of suffering and use happiness and joy as contributing factors toward lasting peace.
Looking forward to seeing you, and practicing together.
with warmth,
Deb Kerr

October 12, 2013

Save the date: November 7, 2013

Please come to my honoring dinner for my artistic and spiritual achievements.

with metta, Pauletta

October 10, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: Holding On and Pushing Away

Dear Ones,

You got it! It's Grasping 101, how to recognize it and how to let go. 

"Can you let go of desire by wanting to let go of it? What is it that is really letting go in a given moment?" The Four Noble Truths by Ajahn Sumedho

Let's explore together,
with metta, Pauletta

October 3, 2013

This Sunday at the Sangha

Is it possible to be aware of ourselves continuously, whatever posture we are in, from the time we wake up until we fall asleep? As we practice, mindfulness can often be present without much support and amidst difficult conditions. Join Pauletta and I in an interactive dharma talk on practicing mindfulness in daily life. When you have a moment, reflect on these questions, which we hope to discuss on Sunday:

1. What is my intention for my mindfulness/meditation practice? (Spend some time now reflecting on your intention).

2. How can I use this time to sense into what my intentions for practice are?

3. How do I see the continuity of mindfulness or awareness in my meditation practice?

4. What is the priority of my meditation practice in relation to the other activities, interests and demands of my life?

5. Do I notice when other aspects of life pull me away from being mindful. What is the priority of those things compared with being mindful?

I love this excerpt from the poem We Are All Pilgrims by Maya Spector. The link to the full poem and the artuckele, “How to Bring More Mindfulness into Your Life” from are on the Resources page of the sangha website.
“You cry out –
I’m not ready!
Now you understand that
it was never arriving
that mattered.
You know –
deeply and without doubt –
that the pilgrimage itself
was the point.
All of those hours lost
in complaint, confusion and misery –
you realize that they were
opportunities ignored and departed.

Peace and blessings. baruch

September 27, 2013

This Sunday: Opening to the Goodness of the World

Dear Ones,

This Sunday I'll be exploring how the act of taking in the good inclines our minds toward things that bring more happiness, and eventually re-wires our brains with habits that bring us closer to freedom. The Buddha taught that it really is possible to change our conditioned ways of thinking so that we are not only happier, but able to be consistently more skillful in how we respond to life.

Looking forward to practicing with you Sunday evening.
with warmth,
Deb Kerr

September 19, 2013

Using the Dharma Sun 7-8:30 with Rebecca

Dear Friends,

We tend to think of the dharma as the domain of scholars probing the linguistic nuances of Pali to understand esoteric teachings. Buddha, though, was pragmatic in what he taught, giving us what we could use to reduce our mental suffering. He repeatedly said that the ultimate test of the dharma was whether it worked.

How do we use what appears to be a lot of lists of insights and suggestions in the dharma? Come this Sunday 7-8:30 with your own stories about lessons from the teachings that have helped you in your meditation practice or in the events of your daily life, and how you made use of them. And bring friends.

Looking forward to seeing you all again,


September 11, 2013

Sunday at the sangha, "Supporting Mindfulness in Action"

The cultivation of mindfulness (when we're not sitting), requires significant behavioral and social supports. These supports are necessary because the cultivation of mindfulness often goes against our own conditioning. It is widely recognized that it is more difficult to remember to be mindful, than to be mindful itself. The talk this Sunday will explore the continuity of our awareness in our practice.

See you Sunday. Peace and blessings.

Baruch Golden

September 5, 2013

This Sunday, at Alameda Sangha, Catty Dharma Talk

Dear Ones,

Join me this Sunday to explore the ways in which we may be unskillful in our speech and listening both internally and externally and/or partcipate in the offering of a dharma talk that may be "catty" when we confront our conditioning closer and more frequently as our practice deepens. (this is why many abandon meditation early on in their dabbles of spirituality)

Bring a notebook and pen as we will do another writing reflection exercise. Reflect on the ways of deep listening as we end our week and meet on Sunday.

with gratitude for your practice,

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

August 28, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, Obstacle Free Zone

Dear Ones,

Come join me this Sunday to hear about how we can awaken to holding equanimity on the one hand which stabilizes and supports us,while at the same time,  holding on the other hand the heart tugging grasping (holding on or pushing away).

Please bring something to write on as we may do a reflective writing exercise after or during the dharma talk. 

If someone would please guide the meditation, so I can reserve my strength for the dharma talk, i would appreciate that very much. I just had to have chemo today but still want to come and teach this Sunday because I'm very excited about the dharma talk. 

I also learned a new walking meditation method that I would like to share with you all after the break. It would be good to practice when one is experiencing insomnia where the thinking mind does not shut up. 

Hope to see you all very soon,
with metta, Pauletta

August 24, 2013

Stretch and Sit-Yoga @Sangha

Come join us Sunday at 6-6:45 for some yoga. All are welcome.
Bring your sticky mat, flexible clothes and an empty stomach.

Dina Hondrogen
Yoga Instructor

August 22, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Clinging to Views & Half-day with Rebecca on 8/28

Dear Friends,

Many of the suttas warn emphatically against "clinging to views," defined as ideas about how things are. This suggestion can seem simple, mysterious, or seriously challenging, depending on how deeply we look at our own views. One of the best opportunities to glimpse them is when we discover they're wrong.

Come this Sunday and discover how complex "views" can be, and how we can cling to them fiercely without realizing it. Bring your stories and friends, too.

Next Wednesday, August 28, I will be substituting for Gil Fronsdal at IMC in Redwood City at the regular half-day retreat, from 9:30 am - 12:15 pm. For more information, go here:

Best wishes,

August 15, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha


The urge to pray may be universal. There is no culture past or present in which prayer does not occur. People pray when they are happy and sad, during celebrations and tragedies, at births and deaths, during peace and war. Prayer is continually present on earth, a constant global hum.

Most Western Buddhists were raised in one of the three Semitic religions: Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. All three of these religions hold prayer as a principal spiritual practice. What is the place of prayer within Buddhist structure and in our individual practice? Join me for an exploration of Buddhism and prayer.

Peace and blessings.

August 13, 2013

Rebecca's Dharma Talks on the Web Site

Dear Friends,

My talks from this last Sunday, "A Sense of Purpose," and the week before, "Trusting Your Higher Wisdom," are now on our sangha web site.

I recommend reading a comment on my blog that illustrates very well the way to investigate suffering, which I discussed in "Trusting Your Higher Wisdom." You can see the comment at You could also read my blog entry on Blame at

Lots of metta,

August 8, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 A Sense of Purpose & picnic 5:30!

Dear Friends,

With so much emphasis in the teachings on non-clinging, many people feel there's something not right about having goals.  On the other hand, living without meaning, direction or purpose seems lacking in vitality, almost a life "not worth living."

Come Sunday and explore some very basic questions about your relationship to this practice.  Why do we meditate?  If it's part of an overall life plan, what is that plan about?  Or does our practice itself generate a sense of purpose in our day to day life? 

But first come to the Sangha Picnic, our annual vegetarian potluck extravaganza.  Details here:  Its purpose is to have a good time with lots of fun, spiritually-minded people.  Bring friends who share that goal.

See you there, then,

August 1, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Trusting Our Higher Wisdom

Dear Friends,

This Sunday Rebecca will talk about the development and use of wisdom in our lives and practice. We often think of wisdom as a lofty attribute which we're too modest to claim for ourselves. If we heed our "higher wisdom," will we be like people who say they've been told what to do by celestial voices?

Wisdom is a basic function in meditation, though. Come this Sunday and learn more about how to recognize, develop and use it. Bring your friends.

Also, the Support Group for people helping Pauletta will meet before the sangha meeting at 6 pm. Please come early so we can start on time.

Don't forget the Sangha Picnic on August 11, also before the sangha meeting. Please bring a vegetarian dish or non-alcoholic beverage to share, and either your own or earth-friendly plates and utensils. Arrive by 5:30, or 5:15-ish to help set up.

See our web site for more details about both the picnic and the Support Group.

Looking forward to seeing you all again!

July 25, 2013

Yoga @ Sangha- Sunday 7/28

I will be teaching yoga this Sunday 7/28 from 6-6:45pm before the sit on Sunday. Beginners are welcome.

Please bring a sticky mat and wear clothes that you can easily move in.

Join us!

Namaste, Dina

Mindfulness of Feeling: Directly Experiencing Freedom

Dear Dharma Friends,

Please join me this Sunday July 28th for an exploration of the Second Foundation of Mindfulness: Mindfulness of Feeling. In Buddhist teachings, feeling refers to the basic response that something is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Very often, when we experience something as pleasant, we immediately move to grasp it or crave more of it; when we experience something as unpleasant, we react with aversion or hatred; and when we experience something neutral, we tend to ignore it altogether.

The renowned Pali scholar Nyaniponika Thera wrote:
"If feelings are seen in their bubble-like blowing up and bursting, their linkage with craving or aversion will be weakened more and more, until that bondage is finally broken. By that practice, attachment to likes and dislikes will be reduced and thereby an inner space will be provided for the growth of the finer emotions and virtues: for loving-kindness and compassion, for contentment, patience and forbearance."
Feelings in this context are much more basic than emotions, and we can learn to work with them in ways that bring an immediate experience of freedom. We'll be looking at how this works, and seeing that mindfulness applied at the point of feeling is very powerful in moving our habits of mind toward happiness that does not depend on the changing conditions of the world around us.

Looking forward to practicing with you on Sunday,

Deb Kerr

July 23, 2013

Welcome Deb Kerr as a Guiding Teacher

Dear Friends,

Pauletta and I are very happy to announce that Deb Kerr has accepted our invitation to join us as a guiding teacher of Alameda Sangha. She will teach regularly and take on a share of the tasks needed to keep the sangha running.

We are also grateful that Baruch Golden will continue to teach occasionally at Alameda Sangha. He will be joined by several other teachers who may lead sangha meetings from time to time as needed.

We are all committed to the stability of our community, and to continuing to offer quality teaching and practice opportunities to everyone who comes to the sangha. We deeply appreciate your ongoing support.

With deep bows,
Rebecca & Pauletta

July 19, 2013

Support Meeting for Pauletta's Helpers this Sun, 6 pm

Dear Friends,

On June 9, Rebecca held the first support meeting for people helping Pauletta as she deals with her illness.  This Sunday, July 21, Deb Kerr and Rebecca will hold the second meeting.  After this, we plan to offer the meetings twice a month.  All will be held at 6 pm before the regular sangha meeting, at the Buena Vista United Methodist Church, 2311 Buena Vista Ave., Alameda.

These meetings offer techniques taught by Zen Hospice Project to make helping an opportunity for our own spiritual growth and to minimize suffering for all concerned.  Anyone who has helped Pauletta, or is considering helping, is encouraged to attend.

These meetings are confidential and respect every point of view.  It's a chance for Alameda Sangha members to grow as a spiritual community, and to give and receive support with everyone involved in Pauletta's care, whether they attend the sangha or not.
To maximize use of the short time we have, please arrive a few minutes before 6 pm.

If you'd like to attend this Sunday but can't, you can reply to this email to be put on a list of interested people.

We hope to see you there,
Rebecca and Deb

July 18, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: The Turmoil of the World

Hello Everyone,

Come and enjoy four vignettes of the Buddhist teaching describing how world turmoil begins with the defilements of the mind in individuals and like when we say the dedication of merit ripple out until political conflicts manifest in very unwholesome ways, affecting many innocent beings in the process.

I will have an opening for my solo art show at Bryant Street gallery in Palo Alto on August 2 from 6-8 pm. Announcement will be sent on our yahoo groups.

There will be a support group this Sunday on my behalf led by Rebecca Dixon at 6 pm at the church. Some of my family will be there.

with gratitude and metta, Pauletta

July 11, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, The Pitfalls of an Unreflected Life

Dear Ones,

Come this Sunday and hear another of my favorite short suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya that talks about how a noble awakened being and an ordinary worldly person responds to the Eight Worldly Winds and pain. The talk will be short and sweet but hopefully the discussion meaty.

Looking forward to seeing you all,

with metta, Pauletta

July 5, 2013

Sangha Picnic -- No Need to Reserve Tables

Dear Friends,

On Sunday, August 11, we'll hold our annual Sangha Picnic just a few blocks away on Buena Vista in McKinley Park.  This is a great chance to hang out and get to know each other better.  It's potluck.  Bring a dish or beverages to share, and to spare the environment, also bring your own plates & utensils.

Very little coordination is needed for this event.  If you would like to help with pre- or post-picnic efforts, though, please contact me here.

Alameda doesn't take reservations for McKinley Park.  It's on a first come, first serve basis.  We start at 5pm, so we've never had trouble getting two tables.  At 6:40, we'll tidy up and walk to the church for our regular sangha meeting.

Put it on your calendar now, because it's a fun event you won't want to miss.

Looking forward to it,

July 4, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha, Ayya Santacitta will be visiting

Dear Ones,

Hoping that you will attend a beautiful evening of time with Ayya Santacitta and her words of wisdom from Aloka Vihara.

The serenity, liberation and apparent tranquility we can experience in the present of a monastic is something we can get inspired in our practice by and aspire to their example.

Hope to see you all there for this wonderful and rare event!

don't forget the Alameda Sangha picnic on August 11. Someone please reserve two picnic tables for us at Mckinley Park for this event. We can meet at 5 pm and eat leisurely before walking to the church for our regular sangha meeting.

with metta,

June 27, 2013

Sunday Night at the Sangha

In Buddhism, spiritual practice is likened to a tripod whose 3 balanced legs hold a bowl steady & firm. The legs are the practices known in Pali as sila, samadhi and pañña, which can be translated into English ethical conduct (virtue), meditation and wisdom. They work together, helping to support the others. It is important to cultivate all three. Wisdom and meditation will not develop without virtue. We can't really practice meditation without practicing Right Conduct. Join me for a discussion on practicing Right Action/Conduct with a focus on the Third Percept "Not harming ourselves & others through our sexuality and sexual feelings."

A reminder about the Half Daylong this Saturday, June 29, 2013 – 9:00-1:00 pm. Pauletta, Rebecca, Deb and myself will be teaching. This is a great opportunity for a extended practice.

Peace and blessings. 

June 26, 2013

Yoga at Sangha this Sunday @ 6pm

Hello Yoga Enthusiasts!
Please come and join me for yoga this Sunday 6pm-6:45pm. All members are welcome, especially beginners. Yoga will help you sit with more comfort and ease; and it helps to quiet the mind.

Bring your sticky mats, barefeet, empty stomachs, and clothes that you can easily move in (no jeans or belts). If you have other props, please bring them i.e. Mexican (firm) blankets, blocks, straps etc.

Donations are welcome.

Dina Hondrogen
Yoga Instructor


June 19, 2013

This Sunday, Two Kinds of Thought: Mind Training July 23, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Come and join me this Sunday for a talk on MN19 or Two Kinds of Thought. It is one of my favorite suttas because it has many pertinent universal metaphors and really points to how we can begin to incline our mind towards goodness (training the amygdala to respond in a more wholesome way) and away from mind states that create suffering for ourselves and others. Most importantly, it is a teaching that the Buddha arrived at when he was a mere Bodhisatta and not yet awakened under the bodhi tree. This shows that we do not have to be a fully enlightened being in order to reap the rewards of practice.

Before I forget, Ronald Pineda, has announced that his father will be having memorial services this Thursday evening at 6 pm at the Greer Family Mortuary and all are invited to attend. If you are able, please come and support Ron in his grieving for his dad.

Last night, I had my girlfriend come to shave my head because everytime I touched my hair, handfuls of strands would come out and so I did not want to wait until I was balding to do this.She chickened out because she just finished her rounds of chemos herself and did not want to cut my scalp with a razor to create an infection. So I am attaching a photo of myself so that you won't be shocked although I will be wearing either a pill box hat or a turban on Sunday. I think that I look  like a monastic.

Walkers next week when I have chemo, please still come if you would like. I will be sprawled on the couch and it would be nice to have you each just sit and be present with me. We can meditate for 10 minutes together. I may not feel like talking much if I am nauseous but would still appreciate the company.

with gratitude and metta, Pauletta

June 15, 2013

Tomorrow night at Alameda Sangha, The Beauty of Investigation

Hello Everyone,

Very sorry to let you all know that Rebecca Dixon has pneumonia and won't be able to teach, so instead, I shall be teaching in her stead.

It will be nice to see many of you again after my first chemo treatment which was pretty horrendous but now I feel pretty good afterwards!! So that's the good news!

Much of what I attribute to a calm mind in my death journey process is lots of Mind Training as I've mentioned but much setting the foundation for the mind training to grow, through Investigation. This is in the First Foundation of Mindfulness in the Satipatthana Sutta where it is actually necessary to do lots of training first with the body.

Our culture which emphasizes a lot of mental activity which unfortunately creates so much of our suffering has lost the connection between the body and mind. It's interesting that in Buddhism, there is only one Pali word for both because they are considered to be inseparable. So we need to forget about training the mind first in this practice until we spend enough time training with the body which will in turn facilitate working with the mind and allowing the mind training to take a foothold effortlessly.

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow night,

June 13, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 The Tenfold Path

Dear Friends,

A little-known Tenfold Path is mentioned in a few places in the Pali scriptures. It doesn't assign us more work to do than the Eightfold Path. It does present two more aspects of the path, but they are what we accomplish by following the Eightfold Path. They are Wise Knowledge and Wise Release.

In an earlier talk I took a poetic approach to indicate where the Eightfold Path leads, which I called, "Beyond Joy." This Sunday I'll take a more traditional look at those capacities of ours which grow through our following the Eightfold Path to its conclusion.

Please bring friends and join us for this look at what's possible.

With metta,

June 6, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Our Favorite Little Stories, after 6 pm Support Group

Dear Friends,

We tell them to ourselves all the time. They become building blocks in our constructed reality – aka delusion. Most of them mold our sense of self. Although they take up so much mental bandwidth, we may not realize we're telling ourselves these stories. If we fact-checked them, most of them would fail.

We can recognize them because they repeat so much, and because they usually cause an unpleasant feeling. We'll talk about them on Sunday: their genesis, purpose and role in our suffering. See if you can spot any in the next few days. Any you can share will help us understand this aspect of Mind. Invite people you think might be interested in joining us.

I just launched a web site, The current (brief) blog post deals with constructed reality a bit, so you might want to check it out.

Also: Before the sangha meeting, at 6 pm, I'll hold the first support meeting for anyone thinking about helping Pauletta as she deals with her illness. This meeting will offer tried-and-true techniques to make helping an opportunity for our own spiritual growth and minimize suffering for all concerned. It will also be a chance for us to give and receive support as a sangha. It will be confidential and respect every point of view.

Looking forward to seeing you there,

June 2, 2013

References from tonight's talk on fear; daylong June 23rd at EBMC

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your interest in the topic tonight. Here are the two books I used and recommend:

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche p. 16

Small Boat, Great Mountain by Amaro Bhikkhu, p. 113-114 and 116. (This book is only available through Abhayagiri Monastery:

If the link does not work, go to: and click "menu" then "books" and search for the title (they have lots of books). You can then download it as a .pdf file or write them to have them send you a copy.

I forgot to announce tonight that I'll be leading a daylong retreat at East Bay Meditation Center on Sunday, June 23rd, with Charlie Johnson. The topic is Being Free and the retreat is for people with chronic illness, issues around aging, or disability. We will be using mindfulness, shared stories, lovingkindness and joy to explore and work with whatever inhibits our freedom. For more information or to register, go to

sending blessings,
Deb Kerr

May 30, 2013

This Sunday 7-9pm: Working with Fear

Dear Friends,

This Sunday June 2nd I'll be talking about fear, how it manifests, how it serves us, how it doesn't serve us, and how to work with it, especially when meditating. We'll look at various kinds of fear and how fear can be a signpost to potential areas of growth. And we will talk about ways to ground ourselves and find calm in the midst of fear.

In my own life, I often see doubt and fear as difficult partners, so we may also explore the relationship between the two.

Looking forward to practicing with you all,
Deb Kerr

May 27, 2013

Poignancy Practice and Rebirth

Hello Everyone,

It was great to see all of you last night. This week, start noticing poignant moments of joy and/or joy and sadness in your life as you experience your day. Try finding points of stillness in the chaos of the holiday weekend.

Last night, I meant to speak a little bit about rebirth in our tradition of Western Buddhism in California. So, in Theravada Buddhism, as it has panned out here in the West, no one is "forced" to subscribe to the idea of rebirth. In my understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, however, it is necessary to believe in this. I was very much enlightened when I sat several retreats with the Batchelors at Spirit Rock a few years ago. Stephen Batchelor talked to many of us about how through the years, rebirth had been rolled in to Buddhism because this concept was prevalent during the time in which the Buddha lived. Despite its appearance in the Nikayas, the Buddha never personally addressed rebirth himself. In one of the suttas, when asked what happens in the Afterlife, he dismissed the person asking this question and said that it doesn't matter. What matters is suffering and the end of suffering, to be contemplated and practiced in this lifetime. If one thinks about it, this response is very much in keeping with the Buddha's insistence that what he discovered upon his awakening and what he shared with many through his teachings, need to be experienced (and not just believed) in order to know deeply for oneself that such and such is true.

As I personally contemplate my imminent death, I am more and more convinced that rebirth is a possibility. It has evolved within my reflections because my husband and I hope to rediscover one another in another lifetime. It is a method by which to console one another.

with metta and gratitude, Pauletta

May 25, 2013

Yoga at Sangha this Sunday

Hi everyone,
Yoga will be happening on Sunday 6-6:45pm! Sorry for the late notice, I have been having internet issues.

Come at 6pm to the church with your yoga mat and a cotton or wool blanket if you have one and any other props you might have. Eat lightly or not at all before yoga. Wear bare feet and loose clothing.

Peace, Dina

May 23, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: The Poignancy of Dying (not somber or morose as it sounds!)

Hello Everyone,

Please come and explore with me how in thinking about the imminence of each of our deaths, we can sometimes notice the poignancy in moments of daily life around us.

Looking forward to seeing you all this Sunday,

with metta, Pauletta

May 17, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha at BVUMC: Part 2 Working with Chronic and Acute Pain - Compassion

Hello Everyone,
Thanks for all your wonderful emails and support. I shall give an update this Sunday on my visit this week with the oncologist and what I will be faced with upcoming.

Virginia let me know that she did see Anthony this past Tuesday night at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery in white samanera robes looking very peaceful and very much at home in his place with the other monks.

If you are able and interested in opening the doors to exploring death at this time in your life, please come to the church tomorrow for our daylong on Death, Dying and Mindfulness. See the website link below for more details. Please bring a notebook and pen for the afternoon writing session.

This Sunday, I will be continuing with the talk I started on the 5th of May about Working with Acute and Chronic Pain, but focusing on Compassion and how it can unfold on its own accord. Looking forward to see all of you tomorrow and/or Sunday.

with metta,


May 9, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Hidden Power of Mood at Alameda Sangha

Dear Friends,

Moods can be awful or delightful, or a lot in between. One of the last things Joseph Goldstein said to me when I practiced with him at the Forest Refuge was, "Don't be fooled by your moods." Up to then, I hadn't really considered mood a phenomenon that could fool me, but he tipped me off to studying them, and now I see how they often trip us up.

How can our practice help us recognize that we're in a mood, and once we do, what can be done about it? Come this Sunday, 7-8:30pm and we'll examine how our practice can keep us from being "fooled" by our moods, and how that work can contribute to our spiritual growth. All are welcome.

With metta,

May 7, 2013

Latest Health News

Dear Ones,

On Sunday I announced that I have metastisized cancer to the bone marrow and yesterday we found out that it is from breast cancer despite my having a mammo last year and I receiving a clean bill of health. So much for cancer screening!

So I am now reconsidering having chemo (but still need to speak with the oncologist) because it will extend my life a little but more importantly, maybe shrink the spinal lesion some and possibly get rid of the numbing and tingling sensations in my feet and legs. All of this is temporary of course, because the cancer has already spread to the bone marrow, etc.

At some point I will have a page on Caring Bridge so that anyone who would like to know can check in with my progress or turn for the worse on it. I will be teaching as much as I am able to.

I have been losing weight at a rapid pace which is scary and my energy is zapped. I need to graze all day on small snacks. If anyone has other ideas to add to nuts and dried fruit, as alternative snacks, please let me know.

I am grateful for all of your support and metta. Right now, continuing walks each week with those of you who come to do this with me is great. At some point when I become weaker or even should I decide to start chemo, we would need meals for the family but I will let this be known when the need arises.

So I may have a year at best but not 5 according to the oncologist. If anyone wants to be an active participant in my death journey, I would welcome it. I am planning my death rituals and ceremony with Rebecca and Baruch.

with gratitude for all your support and your practice,


May 6, 2013

This Week's Practice

Hell o Everyone,

Thank you so much for coming last night and cozying up in the intimate space at Island Yoga. It was an inspiring evening for me.

This week, think about practicing with Patience- Patient Forbearance where we endure with what is true at that moment and Patient Acceptance of the Truth where we remain calm even while watching our mind act out when for example we hear about an outcome that didn't meet our expectations.

We can also think about working with frustration and remembering to do our best to halt our mind's tendency to blame and instead be with the feelings of frustration in the body and really get curious about how it manifests.

Suttas for Mind Training: Two Kinds of Thoughts (MN), The Fire Sermon (MN) Satipatthana Sutta (MN) Four Noble Truths, The Six Sense Spheres, The 5 Aggregates and many others but these are good starters to start looking at, hearing talks about, etc.

May you all have a good week,

with metta, Pauletta

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

May 2, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha at ISLAND YOGA not BVUM - Practicing Patience with Chronic and Acute Pain

Hello Everyone,

Hoping that you can join me so that I can share my practice offerings as I experience chronic and acute pain on my health journey which I love to offer up as a way in which we can learn from in our spiritual paths.

This will be a two part talk. This Sunday at Island Yoga will be about how the Parami of Patience or Khanti has really helped me with chronic and acute pain coping and transcending. If you didn't already know it, meditation practice really helps with both chronic and acute pain! On my weeklong retreat last month, I really experienced relief and healing - it was renewing and inspiring!

The next Sunday that I teach, back at our local digs, BVUM, on May 19th, I will be speaking about how the brahmavihara of compassion has appeared to cultivate all on its own in the light of chronic and acute pain extreme suffering without my even being aware that this was happening until I noticed how my responses to people and situations are far different than they have classically been pre-illness.

You are invited to my one day two artist show at Stage Left Cellars in Oakland on June 2, please save the date.

In order to prepare for Ayya Santacitta's visit with Sr. Jayati on July 7, you may want to start listening to her talks online. She has quite a thick German accent and it may do well to habituate oneself to it so that it won't be a surprise. Here is a link to their website so that you can access her talks:

Looking forward to seeing all of you again,

with metta, Pauletta

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

April 25, 2013

Sympathetic Joy

Dear Friends,

When our hearts open to other beings, they resonate with compassion when we observe suffering, and with joy when we see happiness. This Sunday I will share with you stories that illustrate our often under-developed capacity for sympathetic joy.

Like life itself, our experience in caring about others can be a kaleidoscopic mix of sadness and delight, and it's up to us to recognize and savor the loving joy that can surface in often unexpected moments.

Join us Sunday, 7-8:30 pm for an exploration of the 10,000 joys available to us if we simply care about others. Invite friends, too.

With metta,

April 24, 2013

Yoga This Sunday! 4/28 6pm

Yoga class will be held this Sunday (the last Sunday) from 6 to 6:45pm in the church before the sit.
Please bring your yoga mat if you have one and wear clothes that you can move in easily (no jeans/ belts).

Looking forward to seeing you all.
Namaste, Dina

April 22, 2013

Sunday April 21

Greetings. It was very nice to see many of you last night. Here are requested links to the short article by Rachael Naomi Remen entitledIn the Service of LIfe

The poem by Courtney A. Walsh entitled "Dear Human" about love is below and can be foud at

peace and blessings.  baruch

Dear Human

You've got it all wrong.

You didn't come here to master unconditional love.  
This is where you came from and where you'll return. 

You came here to learn personal love.
Universal love. 
Messy love.
Sweaty Love.
Crazy love.
Broken love.
Whole love. 
Infused with divinity. 
Lived through the grace of stumbling. 
Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up.

You didn't come here to be perfect, you already are. 

You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous.  

And rising again into remembering.

But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. 

Love in truth doesn't need any adjectives. 
It doesn't require modifiers.  
It doesn't require the condition of perfection.

It only asks you to show up. 
And do your best.
That you stay present and feel fully.
That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU.  

Its enough. 

It's Plenty.

-Courtney A. Walsh    

April 18, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: Compassion, Aging and Ilness

"We might reject everything else: religion ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion."
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The topic for this Sunday will be a discussion on compassion, aging and illness. Can you imagine a mind state in which there is no bitter, condemning judgment of oneself or of others? Compassion allows us to bear witness to the suffering in the world, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear. Join me for an exploration of how we can cultivate compassion in our life through our practice, on and off the pillow. 

Blessings. Baruch

April 10, 2013

Sunday 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. The Larger Context of Lovingkindness, with Deb Kerr

Dear Friends,
This Sunday April 14th I'll be talking about "Going Beyond Love for Ourselves, the Larger Context of Metta."

Two weeks ago I talked about "Acceptance as the Essence of Love" and laid out some of the foundations of metta (lovingkindness) practice, particularly for oneself.  This Sunday I'll be exploring the larger context of metta, both in terms of those to whom metta is directed, and in terms of how metta operates in the mind and heart to diminish aversion, greed and delusion.  When these difficult mind  states lessen, suffering eases and we find that there is a natural upwelling of joy and peace.

Please come on Sunday night and bring your friends.  Looking forward to practicing together with you.

with warmth,
Deb Kerr

April 8, 2013

Pleasure & happiness discussion on our blog

Dear Friends,

Last night we explored the concepts of Pleasure and Happiness from the perspective of Buddha's teachings in select suttas. Click  here to read the text of my talk is. (It is also listed on the website Resource page here.)

A few weeks ago the Chronicle ran an article on how, "new research in the field of positive psychology… shows that indulging in life's pleasures in smaller doses, or even giving them up for stretches of time, helps us enjoy them significantly more." (The article can be read in full at This seems like an excellent article for an exchange of thoughts in the blog on our sangha web site. In terms of my talk on Pleasure & Happiness, I'd love to read what you think the Chronicle article is really talking about?

Here are excerpts from the article:

In one new study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers Jordi Quoidbach and Elizabeth Dunn had 55 people eat a piece of chocolate and report how they felt. Then the researchers instructed some of those people to abstain from chocolate for a week, told others to eat as much chocolate as they wanted, and gave a third group no special instructions.

When all 55 people ate another piece of chocolate at the end of the week, those who had abstained reported significantly greater happiness than either the bingers or the people left to their own devices.

In fact, the bingers reported feeling less happy after their end-of-week chocolate than they'd felt after eating their piece at the start of the week.

As it turns out, people tend to get used to sources of joy and pleasure very quickly. And when you have more of something pleasurable, it becomes easier to take it for granted, and harder to savor it. The result is a psychic numbing to the good things in life.

While that numbing effect may seem obvious, we're generally unaware of it in our own lives: Studies show that people (mistakenly) think that getting more of the things they value will make them happier.

This same misconception about happiness leads many people to covet wealth and material things. Research suggests that more money can bring us more happiness, but only until we earn up to about $75,000 a year. After that, there seems to be a negligible increase in happiness from making more money, meaning that many of us waste a lot of time pursuing a happiness we'll never reach. Or worse, our single-minded pursuit of wealth stresses us out, compromises our values and strains our relationships.

All of this research points to a paradox of happiness: It's not tied to abundance but to recognizing and appreciating what we do have.

Hope you enjoy exploring these ideas,


April 4, 2013

Sun. 7-8:30pm Pleasure & Happiness

Dear Friends,

Contrary to popular belief, pleasure doesn't accumulate into happiness. On the one hand, the suttas constantly remind us to beware of pleasure because the wrong attitude toward it can seduce us into suffering. On the other hand, pleasure can enhance the quality of life and be very helpful in our practice, if we're astute about it.

Come join us on Sunday to consider how to handle this powerful factor so it can be a beneficial force in our experience. Bring friends.

With metta,

March 31, 2013

Notes on Lovingkindness Practice

Dear Alameda Sangha,
Some of you asked for my notes on Lovingkindness Practice (Metta). Here are two documents:  one is a short one page outline of the practice, the other is adapted from a letter I wrote to a friend about my practice with metta.  You can find the on our web site's resource page here.

It was great practicing with you all tonight.
with warmth,
Deb Kerr

March 27, 2013

Yoga this Sunday 3/31

Yoga quiets the mind, it was developed with meditation in mind. Come join us for yoga this Sunday 3/31 and experience the effects for yourself.

Bring a yoga mat and props if you have them.

We will be starting at 6pm and end just before meditation at 6:45pm. All levels are welcome. This class is appropriate for beginners. Wear bare feet, an empty stomach and comfortable clothes you can move in (no jeans or belts).

Dina Hondrogen

March 26, 2013

Sunday 7-9 p.m., Acceptance and Love, with Deb Kerr

Dear Friends,

This coming Sunday March 31st, I'll be talking about "Acceptance as the Essence of Love."

Many of us struggle with self-judgment and lack of self acceptance. Not only is this a painful state in which to live, but it also prevents us from effectively connecting with others. In this talk we will explore the relationship between acceptance and love; learn how to lessen anxiety about imperfection; and get some tools for developing a genuinely friendly attitude toward ourselves and others, which is a direct path to happiness.

It was delightful to meet those of you who were there last Sunday. Thank you for the warm welcome on my first night teaching at the Alameda Sangha.

I hope to see you and your friends on Sunday.

with warmth,
Deb Kerr

March 24, 2013

Upcoming Daylong: Death and Dying Daylong on Saturday May 18 from 9-5 pm at Buena Vista United Methodist Church

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all enjoying these sunny days.

I want you to know about the daylong workshop I am doing with Baruch on May 18. (I am letting you know now because I hope to be able to go on an 8 day silent retreat starting this Saturday and so won't be back in time to give you all time to do some prep work for this special daylong. I also won't be back teaching at the sangha until May 5th, Sunday. Remember we meet at Island Yoga May 5, our regular time 7-9 pm, because the church needs the space for its Spring Bazaar on this day.) They will not be able to be out of the sanctuary in time for us to meet at our regularly scheduled time of 7-9 pm.

If you are planning to come to the daylong which promises to be very deepening and insightful, difficult at times, but definitely worth the efforts in applying, please begin to reflect on the 5 Reflections daily, of the Buddha:

1) I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.
2) I am subject to illness. Illness is unavoidable.
3) I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.
4) I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.
5) I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions and live dependent on my actions. Whatever I do, for good or for ill, to that will I fall heir.

Then, for the especially arduous and dedicated, extra reading preparation are:

1) Tricycle magazine Winter 2012: this is an issue with a dedicated section on Facing Death: What Buddhists Need to Know I acquired my copy through purchasing this back issue for $10. On their website, contact or call their customer service for instruction.

2) Search for Gil Fronsdal's PDF article, entitled, "Notes on a Theravada Approach to Spiritual Care to the Dying and the Dead"

It is imperative that our society begin to look at death square in the face and be able to converse amongst each other (even in "polite" company) about issues of dying and death planning. We need to move away from sweeping it under the rug, or having fast and "clean" funerals to quickly move our dead along, which really doesn't give those left behind a chance to fully grieve and participate in the transition time of death to whatever comes next in a peaceful, caring, complete and loving way. Death experienced with ourselves and/or loved ones is not something to be quickly gotten over, but rather an event to be lived, just as we live and celebrate births, weddings and graduations.

It has become more and more possible to choose the way in which we would like to die and to die at home and not in an institution hooked up to machines. The Tricyle magazine gives many resources to bypass the "system" and death industry that tries to artificially "prettify" the body when anyone who has ever experienced seeing someone dead, knows full well that this is just a body left behind and not the person.

Hoping that you all will have the courage and curiosity to join Baruch and I for this special day. You can register online here.

with love, gratitude and metta, Pauletta

March 21, 2013

Sunday 7-9, Cultivating Happiness, with Deb Kerr

Dear Friends,

This coming Sunday, Deb Kerr will talk about Cultivating Happiness.  As I said to those who were there last Sunday, Deb is a long-time, dear friend of mine.  We have taught together for about a decade, went through teacher training together, and worked together to help establish East Bay Meditation Center.  I'm delighted she will be teaching at Alameda Sangha this week & next, and several more times in the near future.  She's an insightful (and fun) teacher.  Here's what she says about this coming Sunday's topic:

"Is it possible to find happiness that does not depend on our life's circumstances?  The Buddha thought so, in fact his followers were known as The Happy Ones.  This talk will cover setting the intention for happiness; beginning to open the heart to receive joy; how present moment awareness leads to happiness; and some simple practices to invite more happiness into our lives."

I hope you all can attend and bring your friends,

March 13, 2013

Sunday, 7-8:30pm: Insight Meditation -- What, How & Why?

Dear Friends,

What is Insight Meditation? How do we do it, and why? This Sunday from 7-8:30, I'll pull together over 10 years of answering these questions into a 30-minute dharma talk. In my talk on Pitfalls on the Path, you may have heard me say, "It's not about the breath." Come this week and find out why the breath is still very important and how to practice with it… and a lot more about meditation and how it works. This should have a lot to offer both beginning meditators and people who've been sitting for decades.

Keep bringing your friends; they're very welcome.

See you then,

March 11, 2013

Practice for this Week: Mind Work

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for your prompt attendance despite the time change yesterday and for the good testimony to last week's Bare Awareness practice.

"Bhikkus, whatever a bhikku frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind." Sutta 19 in the MN

This week continue to explore what mind states, wholesome and unwholesome we all are tending towards habitually feeding.
See if we can become the outside observer or witness to these mind states and see it happening in our minds and arising internally.

Notice what habits of mind is in our relationships to the daily life problems that arise for us.

Finally, in our sitting meditation, if there is obsessive thinking happening, practice noticing how our awareness feels at that moment. That there may be contraction and constriction of mind happening. Once we let go,, there may be an expansive and more receptive awareness. This is good to notice and feel deeply in the heart, body and mind as well.

with gratitude and metta for your practice,

March 6, 2013

Sorry for second email but please watch this amazing video about San Quentin

Hello Everyone,

This just came across my desk and is so inspiring. Please take some time to watch it.

I will be having a lumbar puncture this afternoon. Please send metta. Thanks so much, and see you all this Sunday, with gratitude, Pauletta

Mind Work at Alameda Sangha this Sunday, March 10 from 7-9 pm

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all well this week.

 A few announcements: I was mistaken on the daylong on Death, Dying and Mindfulness. It is going to be on Saturday, May 18 and not May 12 from 9 to 5 pm, taught by Baruch Golden and I. Please bring a bag lunch.

We will also be doing a half day daylong on Saturday June 29 from 9 to 1 pm taught by the four of us: Rebecca Dixon, Deb Kerr, Baruch Golden and I. Theme is yet to be determined. These will be held at Buena Vista United Methodist Church.

On Sunday, May 5th, we will be having our weekly meeting at Island Yoga instead of at the church because they are holding their yearly Spring Bazaar and will not have cleaned up by 7 pm. Check our website for details on the alternative meeting place directions, etc.

This Sunday, let's explore together how and why we feed certain mind states and how this can become our default mode for the future and ongoing continual daily life interactions. Hopefully we will see how this segways with last Sunday's work on bare awareness in terms of practice. I would love to hear from anyone how this week's practice went and if it was fruitful when we meet this Sunday.

with love and metta,

March 4, 2013

Practice for the Week: Bare Awareness

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for the lively discussion last night. For this week, here are the steps to remember in practicing with Bare Awareness:

1) Just the facts, ma'am at the inception of perception.
2) Sifting process: here we watch our mind come up with all kinds of commentary, judgements, comparisons, strategizing, creating of stories, etc.
3) Acknowledge, note and dismiss.
4) at the same time, do not react in action or speech.
5) 2,3 and 4 allows us time for the mind to move towards open receptivity and spaciousness to allow us to respond in a skillful way.

Happy Practicing! Next Sunday we will explore Mind Work and how best to cultivate being the dispassionate observer without losing engagement with what is actually happening after the inception of perception.

Mark your calendars! Baruch and I will be teaching a daylong on Death, Dying and Mindfulness exploring the 5 Recollections which the Buddha has offered us. This will be on May 12th, Saturday from 9 to 5 right here at the church. Bring a bag lunch!

with gratitude for your metta and practice, Pauletta

February 28, 2013

Pitfalls Outline

Dear Friends,

Here is an outline from my notes on last Sunday's dharma talk. Also, the audio of the talk is available on our web site now.

Hope these help,

Common points at which people stop pursuing their practice

1. At the start, people see a multitude of thoughts & get frustrated, feel they’re failing at watching their breathing.We need to understand:

a)  It’s not about the breath. It’s about watching what the mind/heart does when we try to watch the breath.
b)  We should make an effort to be present & develop enough concentration so we can observe the mind/heart.
c)  Staying with breath is relaxing & pleasant -- but not transformative.
d)  No matter how many years of practice we have, there are times when the mind will not settle down.
e)  Distraction doesn’t make it a bad meditation & concentrating doesn’t make you a “good meditator.” 
f)  Just trying regularly (daily) is good .
g)  We need to accept what the mind does & love ourselves (metta) in order to watch the mind.

2. Eventually we see into the mind & notice suffering; for some it’s too much and they run away.
We need to understand:

a)  Thoughts & emotions arise on their own. They are not ME or MINE. (I didn’t choose to think or feel each one.)
b)  Seeing suffering means we’ve begun the process that will change the mind’s habits.

3.  When they see the connection between thoughts & suffering, many let their practice stagnate or stop because:

a)  They’re frustrated they can’t control their thinking,
b)  They don’t like feeling emotions, or
c)  They’re averse to the kind of thoughts & emotions that arise because they contradict their idea of self.
c)  We need to understand thoughts & emotions are not ME or MINE, accept what arises & love ourselves.

4.  Others quit meditation because of a sense that they are “to blame” for all the suffering they see (so I am bad).
We need to understand growth is a process of watching how the mind’s habits cause suffering until they drop away.
5.  People watch themselves have the same reactions (maybe for years) & feel frustrated that the practice isn’t working.
Here a sangha/teacher can really help us see the progress we have made, and that this process is the same for us all.
6.  With study, retreats, and being part of a sangha, we make progress seeing through the idea of self (not destroying it).
a)  The lack of a center amidst the constant change of experience can become overwhelming.
b)  Traditionally, this “rolling up the mat” stage is just before 1st level of enlightenment.
c)  At this point, the student needs a teacher who’s been there to encourage, not create idea of “a goal” to be reached.

Common to all pitfalls is clinging to idea of self
If you find yourself down in one of these pitfalls, ask, “Just who do I think I am?” and “What’s that go to do with it?” Even if there’s no clear answer to either question, exploring them will be a great practice!

February 27, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: Bare Awareness

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are all enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Remember to stop for a few moments and feel the warmth, brightness and joy inside the body that this weather brings to our hearts. As James Baraz says, it's important to find at least 6 moments of joy, or at least an absence of suffering and feel it in the body, heart and mind for 30 seconds, each moment. Practicing this for a week will definitely create a shift in one's perspective towards more wholesome mind states.

So this Sunday, we will be exploring yet another tool known as Bare Awareness or Bare Attention. This too will also change one's perspective in dealing with all types of sentient beings in our daily lives. It has been most helpful in taking care of ourselves in what could turn out to be disagreeable situations depending on our individual conditionings.

Hoping to see you all there,

"Bare attention brings order into the untidy corners of mind" Nyanaponka Thera from "The Heart of Buddhist Meditation."

with metta for your practice, Pauletta

February 21, 2013

Sun 7-8:30 Pitfalls on the Path

Dear Friends,

As I've watched people's practices develop over the years, I've noticed particular pitfalls that tend to arise along the path. Most people overcome and benefit from these difficulties, especially if they know what they are. But the unwary can be stymied by them and drop a meditation practice that would otherwise have served them well in the long run.

Some of these pitfalls occur in our first few steps along the path; other well-known hazards lie close to the end. So wherever your practice has brought you, this review should answer some questions and offer some previews of coming attractions.

Please join us this Sunday from 7-8:30 pm to meditate and explore this topic. Bring friends! I'll spend some time listing the pitfalls I've learned about, and then we can share – as a sangha – our stories of facing and overcoming these (and other) difficulties.

Best wishes,

February 14, 2013

This Sunday at Alameda Sangha: Interpersonal Mindfulness

The topic for this Sunday will be Interpersonal Mindfulness. Sometimes the habits of how we interact and react to different people and circumstances are so strong and automatic that all we can do is watch and apologize soon after. Once something has been said, it cannot be undone. There is no delete button, undo or rewind. Interpersonal suffering is a significant subset of our human suffering and a beautiful place to practice mindfulness. On Sunday we will explore this potential practice area.

Blessings and peace.

February 7, 2013

Sun 7-8:30pm Metta & Romantic Love

Dear Friends,

Our culture is in love with love, and Valentine's Day is coming right up.  How easy it is to be swept up by romance, how pleasant!  Being mindful in relationships can cast a different light on love, though, showing us some ways conventional forms of love are not very… well… loving.

What's metta got to do with it?  How far apart are romance and metta?  Is there any way to conduct our relationships in a way that's more nourishing to all beings?  And can we do that with existing relationships as well as new ones?

Come join our exploration of these questions and perhaps find some answers in the nick of time for St. Valentine.  Practice loving kindness and bring someone along.

See you Sunday, 7-8:30 pm,

February 4, 2013

Practice for the Week: The Fourth Noble Truth: The Noble 8Fold Path

Hello Everyone,

What a great turnout last night for SuperBowl Sunday. Thanks for coming and for all the great discussion on Wise Livelihood that was contributed after the talk.

This week, think about contemplating and reflecting on one factor of the Noble 8Fold Path or one aspect such as sila (virtue) and consider practicing for at least a week, something like Wise Speech. Remembering that in order for speech with others or with oneself internally to be wholesome and skillful, 4 components need to be present: the speech has to be 1)truthful 2) helpful 3) kind and 4) appropriate.

Happy practice this week and remember to not hesitate to email if you have any questions. My talk from last night should be up to listen to again in a day or two.

with gratitude for all your practice and metta,