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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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2023-05-17 Being with Daily Life Experience As "Sacred": Some Further Ways of Practicing 61:37
After a guided meditation exploring the theme (also on Dharma Seed), we continue for a second week to examine how to support a sense of the ordinary aspects of daily life as being part of the process of awakening, as "sacred" or "sacramental," as connected moment-by-moment with our deeper values (and finding what language about this and what practices support us). We review the session from last time, with references to Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist contemplative practitioners who have articulated this sense of daily life practice, examining what gets in the way of this way of being with daily life (especially busyness, being lost in difficult emotions, and being cut off from the kind heart), and what supports it. Through stories and poetry, we then look in more depth at cultivating a sense of presence and even mystery in daily life, at how joy can open up this sense, and how it can be very helpful to support in different ways our understanding how the transformation of our wounds and difficulties can be seen as part of a "purification" process. In the discussion, we look more deeply into many of these themes.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-05-17 Guided Meditation Exploring Presence, Mystery, and Seeing Our Moment-to-Moment Practice as Part of the Awakening Process 39:05
After initial instructions, including inviting us to connect with our deeper intentions and as well practice with a sense of moment-to-moment mystery, we have about 10 minutes of silent practice, followed by further brief instructions inviting a moment-to-moment sense of presence and mystery, another 10 minutes of silent practice, further brief instructions on seeing our practice as connected with our awakening, and another ten minutes of silent practice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-05-10 Being with Daily Life Experience As Sacred: Some Ways of Practicing 60:45
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-05-10 Guided Meditation: Cultivating Presence and a Devotional, Appreciative Attitude to Each Moment 40:37
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-05-08 Seven Stages of the Spiritual Journey 1:18:10
We work with the metaphor of the spiritual "journey" and distinguish seven successive stages of this journey, using as main reference points the poem by Mary Oliver called "The Journey" (read near the beginning and at the end of the talk), the life of the Buddha, the lives of several great practitioners in the Thai Forest Tradition (Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Chah, and Mae Chee Kaew), and our own lives. The stages begin with taking life for granted, move through some sense of unsatisfactoriness or inadequacy about our ordinary and habitual lives and a call for something more. They lead to some kind of departure from the ordinary and habitual, opening, typically with difficulties, challenges, and purification, to our more authentic being and awakening, at least to some degree, and returning in a way to our everyday lives. This journey can take many forms, and the stages can sometimes be successive, and sometimes all appear in a short period. After the talk, we have about 20 minutes of discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-04-05 Awakening and Habitual Tendencies 2 60:59
We continue to explore a theme coming out of Donald's recent month-long retreat, of how we can hold and work with the understanding that there is both a process of awakening, often seen as mostly gradual, and a typically everyday experience of our habitual tendencies, including our difficulties and challenges. We review and expand some of what we examined in the previous session, including looking more at how the Buddha understood the nature of samsara and nirvana, and at the seven practices suggested last week for navigating this area (available to be downloaded--see the previous week's talk). We then go somewhat further and deeper, pointing to further ways of practicing, such as inquiring into the sense of self found in different habitual tendencies, and developing a devotional attitude toward both our ordinary lives and our habitual tendencies, as making possible the awakening process. We also touch on Mahayana and Vajrayana perspectives--that samsara and nirvana are not different (articulated by Nagarjuna), and that awakened awareness and habitual tendencies are not different (from Tibetan Dzogchen). These practices and perspectives help us to maintain confidence and faith in awakening in the midst of things!
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-03-29 Awakening and Habitual Tendencies 1 63:59
Donald shares some of the main themes of his experiences from a four-week retreat that finished four days before the talk. The talk focuses on one of the themes from the retreat--how there is an awakening process and yet how there remain habitual tendencies and times of greed, hatred, and delusion. How do we understand the relationship between seeing our "true nature" to be love and wisdom, and the fact that habitual tendencies appear frequently? We explore this theme in a few ways. We look at some of the understandings and stories in different religious traditions of something like this dynamic: How can there be "evil" when there is an all-powerful and all-good God? What accounts for this dichotomy? How are nirvana and samsara related? What guidelines and suggestions help us to practice so as to hold the aspiration to awaken and keep practicing with the acknowledgement of our habitual tendencies? Seven practice suggestions are given (see the attached file).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Seven Suggestions for Practice: Awakening Amidst Habitual Tendencies by Donald Rothberg (Word File)
2023-02-22 Cultivating Metta 3: Integrating Metta and Clear Seeing 64:31
In this talk of a series of talks on developing metta or lovingkindness, we look at the question of how we connect and integrate metta with our development of clear seeing, with our mindfulness and wisdom. This is an important question, particularly given that most Western practitioners of insight meditation have separate practices in which they develop metta, on the one hand, and mindfulness and wisdom, on the other. Are they integrated? How? In the talk, we explore: (1) related strong cultural tendencies to separate mind and emotions, as in, for example, science, and much education; (2) how in the basic teachings of the Buddha, there seem to be separate practices; (3) how, both in the teachings of the Buddha and in later Buddhist traditions (as well as in other traditions), there is often a deeper vision of the unity of the awakened heart and mind; and (4) how we can practice to integrate metta, mindfulness, wisdom, and awareness.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-02-22 Guided Meditation: Connecting Metta (Lovingkindness), Mindfulness, and Awareness 39:08
We start with a short period of metta or some other heart practice, noticing how mindfulness brings us back to the practice when we are distracted. Then there is a longer period of mindfulness, hopefully infused some with metta, in the spirit of Sylvia Boorstein's wonderful invitation: “May I meet this moment fully. May I meet this moment as a friend.” We then have a second sequence of relatively brief metta practice followed by a longer period of mindfulness practice. The last part of the session is a guided practice of radiating metta, moving toward an integration of metta and a boundless awareness. b. Let it infuse mindfulness: Sylvia’s phrase. See how this is. c. Check periodically. Maybe do 2-3 minutes of metta. d. Radiating metta exploring a loving awareness.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2023-02-19 Ten Ways of Practicing Skillfully with the Challenges of Our World 57:00
We continually are aware of so much that is painful in the world, whether related to police violence, war, earthquakes, the challenges to democracy, or the climate crisis. How can we be with and respond to what is painful (and also hopeful) from the perspective of our practice? What is “wise view” in relationship to the pain of the world? How do we get caught in unskillful views? How can we respond skillfully? Inspired by many wonderful teachers and exemplars, in this talk and discussion, I want to explore ten foundational ways of responding to these questions that can orient us in these challenging times.
White Heron Sangha

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