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Donald Rothberg's Dharma Talks
Donald Rothberg
Donald Rothberg, PhD, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism. An organizer, teacher, and former board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Donald has helped to guide three six-month to two-year training programs in socially engaged spirituality through Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the BASE Program), Saybrook (the Socially Engaged Spirituality Program), and Spirit Rock (the Path of Engagement Program). He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.
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2020-09-17 Buddhist Practice and Nonviolent Action: Transforming Inner and Outer Reactivity, Cultivating Love in Action 45:21
We explore the deep resonance between Buddhist practice and nonviolent action (in the tradition of Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and others). We first examine the core of Buddhist practice as expressed in the Buddha's statement: "I teach dukkha and the end of dukkha; we explicate dukkha as "reactivity." We then show how the nonviolence of Dr. King follows the same core understanding of developing non-reactive and nonviolent responses--for him especially to the institutionalized reactivity of greed and hatred. We identify six basic themes of such nonviolent action, which, in the words of John Lewis, is ultimately "love in action."
Insight Meditation Tucson
2020-09-16 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 6: Wise Speech 3: Practicing with Difficult Speech Situations 68:21
After reviewing three foundations of Wise Speech--the four ethical guidelines for skillful speech, presence and mindfulness during speech, and the practice of empathy--we explore, on the basis of these foundations, how to be skillful during difficult or challenging situations of speech and communication, whether involving two individuals, a group, or a larger society. We identify eight perspectives, practices, and capacities that support skillful speech during such difficult situations.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-09-06 Practicing Dukkha and the End of Dukkha in a Time of Crisis 67:21
The Buddha said, “I have taught dukkha [usually translated as “suffering”] and the end of dukkha.” This teaching is the heart of our practice, yet it is often misunderstood or even confusing to people, primarily because there are at least four different understandings of dukkha in the teachings. We’ll explore the nature of the teaching, emphasizing particularly the interpretation of dukkha as "reactivity" (particularly linked to the teaching of the Two Arrows or Two Darts), which comes in two forms--grasping or greed, and compulsive pushing away or aversion. We'll point to how we might practice with the teaching at this time of crisis--in our formal practice, in our practice in daily life, and in our work, service, and/or activism.
White Heron Sangha
2020-08-26 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 5: The Foundations of Wise Speech 2: Empathy (continued) and the Buddha's Ethical Guidelines for Skillful Speech 1:11:13
After a brief review of the previous talks in this series, and a clarification of the different dimensions of our practice, we continue to explore the foundation given last time--empathy practice and the intention to understand and connect with another. We work with two brief exercises which point to ways of practicing empathy. Then we examine the four guidelines for wise or skillful speech given by the Buddha--for our speech and communication to be truthful, helpful, kind and loving (even when saying difficult things), and timely.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-08-19 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 4: The Foundations of Wise Speech 1: Cultivating Empathy 66:30
We start with a brief review of the three previous talks on deepening practice during the pandemic (and other crises), including clarifying three broad areas of practice: Formal meditation practice, daily life practice, and work, service, and/or activism as practice. In this session, we explore the foundations of Wise Speech as practice, mentioning three foundations. The first two include (1) the ethical guidelines given by the Buddha regarding skillful speech, and (2) developing presence and mindfulness during speech (including listening). We focus most of the time on the third foundation of cultivating empathic connection with another, clarifying the difference between empathy and compassion, giving some of the findings of studies in neuroscience about empathy, and examining what blocks empathy. We then work with a simple (yet powerful) empathy practice of tuning into (1) emotions, and (2) what matters, and move into a period of discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-29 Deepening Our Daily Life Practice in the Pandemic 3 66:09
After a brief review of what we've explored in the last two sessions, in terms of ways of deepening daily life practice in terms of formal practice, informal practice, and one's work, service, and/or activism, we go more deeply into two areas. We look at how to practice with exploring and seeing intentions, and some ways to make connections between formal and informal practice--in the flow of daily life. The talk has a few references to the life of Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights activist and Congressperson, who died on July 17, 2020, and is followed by discussion..
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-23 Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism 3: Ethical Commitment and Action (Talk) 40:56
We explore the nature of ethical commitment and how our commitment not to harm also implies, following some of the teachings and actions of the Buddha and of other teachers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh, a commitment not to let others harm (or kill). On this basis, we then outline a number of possible ways to act to address the harm of racism, clarifying an important aspect of such action--that our actions to address harm as much as possible not cause further harm themselves. We end by remembering that we need perspectives and capacities, inner and outer, that help us to be engaged for the "long haul."
Insight Meditation Tucson :  Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism
2020-07-22 Deepening Our Daily Life Practice in the Pandemic 2 67:09
We begin with a brief review of the previous week's talk and discussion, in which we explored a number of ways to deepen (1) our formal practice; (2) our informal (daily life) practice; and (3) our service, work, and/or activism as practice. This exploration points to a broadened sense of practice. We then examine in some depth three inter-related foundational areas for deepening practice in all three areas: (1) developing mindfulness of the body; (2) working to transform reactivity (here as a translation of "dukkha"), including as it manifests in challenging or difficult experiences; and (3) pausing and setting intentions. Our discussion particularly goes into being skillful with challenging experiences.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-16 Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism 2: -Meditation and Inner Work 1:19:17
In this second talk in the series, we first review the main "wisdom" perspectives presented last week, that give us some orientation toward understanding and transforming racism. Then we explore the second area of training: meditation and inner work, identifying four main themes and practices, the first three of which are supported significantly by working in small groups: (1) understanding and working with "implicit bias"; (2) cultivating mindfulness of our racial conditioning and the experiences which arise in investigating race and racism; (3) heart practices like compassion and empathy; and (4) the importance of continuing to access, as best we can, deeper experiences of our being.
Insight Meditation Tucson :  Buddhist Practice and the Transformation of Racism
2020-07-15 Deepening Our Practice in a Pandemic: Discussion, Q&A 17:41
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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