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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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2019-10-09 Beginning Again--Listening for Our Deeper Aspirations 63:22
On the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, when it is said that the veils of ignorance are lessened, we explore ways to “begin again,” both in the moment and more generally,--to re-align our lives, guided also by Buddhist resources and by poets, sages, and activists. Through guided reflections, we examine (1) ways in which we are “off the mark,” in which we need re-alignment; (2) what we wish to let go of and/or forgive; and (3) our deeper aspirations for the next period of time.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2019-09-18 Practicing with Conflict 4 1:12:15
In our fourth exploration of how to practice with conflict, we examine four practice resources, inviting listeners to keep in mind, as we explore the resources, a conflict (whether an inner conflict, an interpersonal conflict, or a larger social conflict); conflict is understood as a difference of, or tension between, positions or values or needs. The first resource is that of the tools of our inner practice: mindfulness practice, heart practices such as compassion, lovingkindness, and forgiveness, and ways to work with difficult emotions and thoughts such as anger, fear, sadness, frustration, the judgmental mind, etc. The second resource is that of the "win-win" or "both-and" model of conflict transformation, in which the aim is to move from an "either-or" or "win-lose" framework toward the "win-win" way of meeting the underlying values or needs of both sides; at times, we may need to move away from the "win-lose" framework through "avoidance" (time outs, cease-fires, etc.) or compromise, on the way, if possible, to "win-win." The third resource is that of empathy, taken as a practice central to working with conflicts of any kind. The fourth resource is that of working with attachments to fixed views that typically arise in conflict situations of any kind, especially through through mindfulness, inquiry, empathy, and heart practices.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2019-09-11 Practicing with Conflict 3 64:20
We review what we’ve explored so far about practicing with conflict, including our conditioning and stereotypes about conflict (typically with views of conflict as negative), ways to bring our meditation practice into working with the “inner” states (emotions, thoughts, bodily states) that arise with conflict, and the “both-and” or “win-win” perspective on approaching conflict. We then bring in a further important resource—empathic understanding of another—outlining a simple way to “practice” empathy. We then work with an exercise bringing empathy to someone with whom one is in conflict. Then we discuss all of this.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2019-08-28 Practicing with Conflict 2 65:51
We explore further how to connect dharma practice with being skillful with conflict. We look at the various forms of conditioning around conflict, including the prevalent negative connotations of the word, “conflict,” the very common conditioning to either avoid conflicts or “act out” in conflicts (with avoidance being much more prevalent in our group), the tendency to see conflicts dualistically (in terms of winner vs. loser, right vs. wrong), and the tendency to project negative qualities onto one’s opponent. We examine more briefly some of the meditative resources for working with conflict and the importance of empathy, before focusing on the “win-win” or “both-and” model of conflict transformation; we work with several examples of conflicts given by the group.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Handout on Johan Galtung’s Work by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2019-08-14 Practicing with Conflict 1 67:15
The world deeply needs a culture of skillful conflict transformation, informed by dharma practice. In such a culture, we would have individuals who combine inner capacities such as mindfulness, skill with difficult emotions, empathy and compassion, and equanimity, with perspectives on how to work with conflicts, whether inner, interpersonal, or social. In this talk, we look at some of the prevalent social conditioning around being with conflict, including tendencies to avoid conflict or act out when there are conflicts, and widespread tendencies to see conflicts dualistically and to project negative aspects onto “opponents.” In this context, Donald presents some images and reflections from his just-completed time of teaching and traveling for 3 1/2 weeks in Israel and the West Bank. He then focuses on some of the inner capacities important for being skillful with conflict, next time examining some of the perspectives on conflict that have come out of the fields of mediation, negotiation, and conflict transformation. There is also a time of discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Photos (from a PowerPoint presentation) connected with the talk, Practicing with Conflict 1 by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2019-07-10 From the Ordinary Habitual Mind to the Buddha-Mind 8: Transforming Our Ordinary Sense of Self 2: The “Doer” 67:01
Description: We first look briefly at the general framework of this series of talks and discussion; we examine: (1) the conditioning of the “ordinary habitual mind,” understood through examining 10 different parameters of that mind; (2) the nature of the “Buddha mind” in terms of these 10 parameters; and (3) how we practice with a given parameter to enact this transformation. Today’s talk is the second covering the nature and sense of self; we review some what was covered last time. We then take the rest of the session examining one manifestation of the “thick” self—the conditioned sense of the “doer.” We look at a number of ways in which the doer becomes more obvious, as when there is anxiety about not doing anything; we might notice this sometimes on a vacation or in retirement. We also examine the cultural dimensions of the conditioning around finding identity as a doer. We then look at how it’s possible to have our doing come more out of presence and being, with reference to the teachings of the Buddha and Chuang-Tzu especially. We conclude with a series of exercises in which we develop a sense of doing that comes more out of presence and being.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2019-07-06 Cultivating Wise Speech: Becoming More Skillful in Your Speech Practice 62:31
Spirit Rock Meditation Center
2019-07-03 : From the Ordinary Habitual Mind to the Buddha-Mind 8: Transforming Our Ordinary Sense of Self 2: The “Doer” 63:14
We first look briefly at the general framework of this series of talks and discussion; we examine: (1) the conditioning of the “ordinary habitual mind,” understood through examining 10 different parameters of that mind; (2) the nature of the “Buddha mind” in terms of these 10 parameters; and (3) how we practice with a given parameter to enact this transformation. Today’s talk is the second covering the nature and sense of self; we review some what was covered last time. We then take the rest of the session examining one manifestation of the “thick” self—the conditioned sense of the “doer.” We look at a number of ways in which the doer becomes more obvious, as when there is anxiety about not doing anything; we might notice this sometimes on a vacation or in retirement. We also examine the cultural dimensions of the conditioning around finding identity as a doer. We then look at how it’s possible to have our doing come more out of presence and being, with reference to the teachings of the Buddha and Chuang-Tzu especially. We conclude with a series of exercises in which we develop a sense of doing that comes more out of presence and being.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2019-06-05 From the Ordinary Habitual Mind to the Buddha-Mind 7: Transforming Our Ordinary Sense of Self 1 61:05
After situating today’s theme in the context of the nature of the “ordinary habitual mind” and how it is transformed, we look at the fourth parameter of transformation: the nature and sense of self. We start by recognizing the often conceptually confusing nature of this area, and then proposing a primarily practical way to approach the area. We first identify the conditioned sense of self as permanent, independent, and separate, how this sense of self manifests in various ways and why this can be a problem, connected with suffering. , We then briefly suggest how the elements of such a conditioned sense of self are absent in an awakened being and how other positive qualities are present. Finally, while recognizing a number of complexities, including developmental issues, we look at two practical ways to explore and transform the conditioned sense of self: (1) by looking out for and being mindful of when there is a “thick” or “big” sense of self, and (2) finding various ways, in the flow of daily life as well as in formal meditation, to “thin” out the self, developing ways of experiencing with no or much less of a sense of self.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2019-06-05 Basic Mindfulness Instructions and a Guided Meditation on Exploring the Nature of the Self 36:10
Basic Mindfulness Instructions and a Guided Meditation on Exploring the Nature of the Self
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Awakening Joy

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