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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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2022-08-24 "I Teach Dukkha and the End of Dukkha"--1 69:18
The Buddha, at the center of his teaching, taught "dukkha and the end of dukkha." Yet it is not always clear either what "dukkha" means in this context or what "the end of dukkha" means. In this talk, we explore this core teaching in several ways. First, we distinguish four different meanings of "dukkha" that can be seen in the discourses of the Buddha, only the last of which, interpreted as "reactivity," helps us to make sense of the "end of dukkha." (See the attached PDF file.) This meaning of dukkha can be reconstructed from two core teachings, the "Two Arrows" and Dependent Origination (see the attached PDF file). We then look at several ways of practicing with reactivity, including understanding and working with the common complexity of there frequently being some kind of insight or something important being "mixed" with reactivity, as, for example, when I am very reactive about injustice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Four Meanings of Dukkha by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
  • The Sequence of Contact to Grasping in the Buddha’s Teaching on Dependent Origination by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-08-24 Guided Meditation Exploring Feeling-Tone and Reactivity 37:48
After brief basic meditation instructions related to stabilizing attention with an anchor, and then being present to the anchor or whatever else is predominant, there is a 10-minute period of stabilizing. Then there is guidance related to noticing a moderate or greater level of the pleasant or unpleasant (as long as it is workable), staying with the sense of pleasant or unpleasant, noticing any tendencies to reactivity (wanting and grasping, or not wanting and pushing away, at the levels of body, emotions, and/or thoughts). Near the end, there is some further guidance on staying with moderately unpleasant sensations for 2 minutes or so.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-27 Developing Equanimity and Compassion Together 68:53
We begin by examining again the nature of equanimity, identifying seven core qualities of equanimity, including a kind of faith or confidence, illustrated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s account of his midnight "cup of coffee" experience. We point to two typical distortions of equanimity--being overly cool and cut off some from the awakened heart, and disconnecting from action. We then look at the nature of compassion, and see how the development of compassion helps us to respond to these two distortions. In a parallel way, we see how several typical distortions of compassion, such as pity (the "near enemy"), burnout, and confusion (or lack of wisdom), are remedied by the development of equanimity! Together, they help us develop wisdom and the awakened heart, supported by courage (as we learn from the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-27 A Guided Meditation Cultivating Equanimity and Compassion 37:48
After basic instructions in (1) settling and stabilizing attention, and (2) practicing mindfulness, there is 5-minute period of settling and stabilizing. Then there are several practice suggestions for cultivating equanimity, especially by noticing and exploring reactivity and any appearances of the "Eight Worldly Winds." After another 10 minutes or so, there is also guidance in two main ways of developing compassion, through opening in mindfulness to what is difficult or painful, and through a three-step self-compassion practice from Kristin Neff.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-20 Developing Equanimity in Meditation and Daily Life 56:14
Equanimity is a balance and non-reactivity, and a connection to an inner freedom, with whatever is happening. It is a quality deeply needed both in meditation and in daily life, particularly in our challenging times. We explore equanimity first by seeing how it manifests in the lives of some of the most beloved humans who have lived, and then by identifying seven core qualities of equanimity. We identify as well some main ways of practicing to cultivate equanimity, and some of the challenges of such practices. We end with a discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-20 A Lightly Guided Meditation to Cultivate Equanimity 35:34
After basic instructions in (1) settling and stabilizing attention, and (2) practicing mindfulness, there is a brief general guidance in practicing to cultivate equanimity, especially by noticing moments of reactivity (semi-consciously or unconsciously grasping or pushing away at the level of body, mind, or emotions), and exploring them. Such guidance is repeated about 15 minutes into the silent practice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-04 Dharma and Democracy: A Talk on the Fourth of July 67:15
On the Fourth of July, we look at the relationship between the freedoms opened up by the dharma, the teachings and practices of awakening, and by the promise and actuality of democracy, at this time of peril for democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere. Can we imagine a spiritually-grounded democracy? To respond to this question, we examine the vision of democracy, remembering both some of the words of the founders and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "America is essentially a dream, a dream as yet unfulfilled. It is a dream of a land where people of all races, all nationalities and all creeds can live together as brothers and sisters." We also explore the vision of dharma and awakening, including the Buddha's creation of a community separate from the prevailing caste system of his time. Yet we also need to look at the many "shadows" of both democracy and dharma, which obscure the vision and prevent its full realization. We end by pointing to a number of ways to renew, develop, and practice our visions of "spiritual democracy" in the different parts of our lives.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-06-29 Practicing with Polarization, Differences, and Conflict 2 65:26
We explore further a number of skillful practices and dharma resources for situations involving polarization, differences, and conflict, whether internal, relational, or collective that were identified in the previous week. Two days after last week's talk, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade; we start by examining the nature of polarization at the social level. We look also at the possibility of belonging, community, non-polarization, and moving toward Dr. King's "beloved community," in the midst of differences. Then we focus further on the centrality of empathy and listening to those with different perspectives, offering empathy practices that complement the other practices identified in the talk. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-06-22 Practicing with Polarization, Differences, and Conflict: Six Basic Practices 68:22
In the context of increased political polarization in the United States and many other places, we look at how, in so many settings, whether the larger political situation, or social change organizations, or spiritual communities, there is very often a lack of skill in working with differences and conflicts. We examine some of the roots of why being with differences and conflicts is hard, including widespread social conditioning to be either conflict-avoidant or conflict-indulgent, and several other core roots. We then suggest six basic practices which address these roots, including: (1) being willing to open to and explore differences and conflicts, (2) empathy, (3) working with views, (4) working with reactivity and difficult emotions, (5) wise speech, and (6) heart practices. The invitation to listeners is to practice these six (or some of the six) for the next period of time!
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-05-25 Practicing with Fear 3 66:03
We start by acknowledging the mass shooting in Texas that occurred yesterday, in the context of our practicing with fear, following up an earlier guided meditation and sharing (not recorded) related to the shooting. We then look generally at the three core ways of practicing with fear, going into some depth on each: (1) cultivating mindfulness and clear seeing (wisdom), (2) working with the heart practices, and (3) acting skillfully. We then focus on how the process of awakening typically involves at each new stage an opening to fear, and also mention some of the dynamics of the "Dark Night of the Soul." Lastly, we look at how to explore and work with fear related to our social world, in terms of the three ways of practicing with fear. There follows a period of discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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