Monday Mindfulness Meditation Dharma Talks

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5/18/20: The Work of Transformation; from Poison to Wisdom

In this weeks’ teaching, Cynthia Jurs speaks on the work of transformation and the process of turning poisons into wisdom through mindfulness. When we learn to follow, witness and to be present with difficulties as they arise, slowly, habitual and negative patterns such as anger, greed, pride, envy or ignorance, can be experienced as energies. We can relax our grip. All of this becomes fuel for the journey of awakening.

5/25/20: Being Gentle with Ourselves

Being gentle with ourselves creates conditions for awakening to happen. In this weeks’ teaching, Cynthia Jurs introduces The Mandala as a ‘map of the psyche’, for elemental energies of fire, water, earth air and space, to come into balance. She invokes her teacher, Thích Nhất Hạnh who advises us to ‘water the seeds of happiness, loving kindness, forgiveness and joy, so that transformation can be possible’. So many habitual patterns can be release all on their own, when we act with kindness and compassion toward ourselves.

6/01/20: The Breath that Fuels Change

During this weeks’ teaching, in response to the murder of George Floyd, Cynthia Jurs identifies collective wounds at the core of the imbalances we see in our world, which must be addressed if we have any hope of restoring the web of life. We can’t heal anything unless we see it clearly. By looking deeply and not turning away, we activate our capacity to care. Cynthia calls us to practice in a way that fuels us to dismantle racism in every corner of society, as well and within ourselves. This is the process of transforming poisons into wisdom.

6/08/20: Guarding the Energy of Transformation

Our most precious opportunity of this life is to wake up. As we develop our capacity for awareness, it is important that we learn how to be a vessel to contain and respect this energy of transformation, so as not to dissipate it. In this weeks’ teaching, Cynthia Jurs speaks to what it takes to truly sustain and stabilize our practice and view, so as to have a choice of how to respond and to contribute constructively to the changes that are needed in the world. Coming from a place of privilege, it is important to transform our conditioning in order to realize the Bodhisattva Vow and experience ourselves as inseparable from all other beings.

6/15/20: Cultivating Equanimity and the Four Immeasurables

The work of transformation is not easy. Therefore, learning how to cultivate Equanimity, or non-reactivity is helpful. During this weeks’ teaching, Cynthia Jurs speaks to the qualities of the Four Immeasurables that help us get us from the shore of suffering to the shore of liberation. These tools are available to help us let go and to keep coming back with every breath, to our loving kindness and compassion.

7/06/20: The Fruit of Calm Abiding

The breath is like a thread that runs through everything, an anchor to come back into the present moment. When we practice, we have a chance to ‘come home’ and drop into a deeper place of calm abiding. In this weeks’ teaching, Cynthia Jurs speaks about self-love and letting go of effort. When we practice on a regular basis, it is guaranteed that we will begin to see our nature more clearly. We can touch that place every single time we take a breath with awareness throughout the day.

7/13/20: The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism

During this weeks’ teaching, Cynthia Jurs offers a reading of The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism created by her teacher, author, poet and peace activist, Thích Nhất Hạnh. The precepts, born out of Nhất Hanh’s peace activism during the Vietnam War and four decades living in exile, evolved to offer guidelines for mindfulness training, ethical behavior, and compassionate action in society. Adopted from traditional precepts of Mahayana Buddhism, they are intended to open our hearts to listen deeply for the transformation that is being asked of us.

8/10/20: Breathing to Relieve Suffering

In this week’s teaching Cynthia Jurs speaks to the practice of ‘mindfulness’ and using the breath as an anchor for the mind to return to the present moment and enter a state of calm abiding. Once our practice of mindfulness is stable, Cynthia invites us into another practice that utilizes the breath, called Tonglen, which is the practice of “taking and sending”. Breathing in, receiving the suffering of others and breathing out, sending the relief of suffering. In all of our meditations, the breath, the life force energy of Gaia, can be used as a tool to extend healing to oneself and others.

8/17/20: Tonglen and Awakening Innate Compassion

In this week’s teaching Cynthia Jurs continues to speak about the practice of “taking and sending” or Tonglen, a practice to reverse the habitual way we relate to the world—holding onto our happiness and pushing away suffering. Tonglen teaches us to release our attachment to a sense of self and facilitates a process of transformation that awakens our innate compassion or “bodhicitta.”

SHIFT Network Interview for the Summer of Peace Series (8/26-20)

In this interview with Phillip Hellmich, Global Peace Ambassador with the SHIFT Network, Cynthia speaks about the origins of the Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Project and where her work of sacred activism has gone around the world—including to Liberia where peacebuilding efforts continue since burying an Earth Treasure Vase in that land. Recognizing the wounds of patriarchy and racism and the current need to bring healing and protection to the USA, Cynthia and Philip also discuss the opportunity for collective awakening.

8/24/20: Making Friends with Impermanence

Acknowledging the tremendous changes and unpredictability in the world today, this week’s teaching invites us to make friends with impermanence. As we reconcile with and summon compassion for the great losses we are facing, we can also practice to remember a bigger View and learn to not be caught in the past or the future, anticipation or regret. The practice of meditation is about embracing the unknown, what Ken Mcleod calls “the mystery of being”. When we see the interdependence of things and realize that everything has everything else in it, we see that without impermanence, life could not be; one’s daughter would not grow up into a beautiful young lady; oppressive political regimes would never change.

8/31/20: The Benefits of Retreat

During this week’s Monday Mindfulness Meditation series, Cynthia opens by inviting healing prayers for Jo Beall, a beloved sangha member of our global healing community. She also encourages members to contribute to the welfare of Harper M Karmon, a Liberian peacebuilder whose work under the Peace Huts is a project of our nonprofit Alliance for the Earth. Extending our practice in these ways, we are reminded of the power of sangha or “community” to uplift, hold and support one another as an expression of our collective intention to be a force for healing in the world. In the second half of this week’s talk, Cynthia discusses the benefits of retreat to come into balance in our lives, how to create a structure or a container for an intended retreat and a special schedule so that we are assured of taking time to stop, reflect and practice deeply. She encourages us to use the time of COVID quarantine constructively to give ourselves over to the deeper experiences that may be trying to inform us now.

9/07/20: Recovering Equanimity

In this week’s teaching, Cynthia speaks to the value of Equanimity, one of the Four Immeasurables that allows us to see everything equally, without discrimination. When we recover our equanimity we come back to our hearts and can relax. “Resting awareness,” without effort, is to be present with what is happening as it is happening; this is the fruit of meditation, to return to our natural state. The practice of meditation allows for an opening into the experience of non-conceptual awareness, where the four immeasurable abodes or ‘dwelling places’ can be found: loving kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). These are the qualities we inhabit when we stop and open into something larger than ourselves.

9/21/2020: The Heart of a Bodhisattva

This weeks’ dharma talk focusses on those who devote their lives to helping others. She speaks of the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg and shares some stories of extraordinary individuals who have been part of the Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Project over the years. Giving thanks to teachers, friends and numerous beings who give support along the path, we recognize all who make up this beautiful web of life and those who inspire us to be of service and invite us to be a bodhisattva ourselves. We are encouraged to practice by coming to rest at the center of our being, and with each breath, opening our hearts to strengthen our capacity to feel into the present moment and take refuge in our own deepest caring and compassion. The nature of our heart-mind is vast as space. Calling into awareness this open attention in our hearts at the center of our being, vast like the sky, we can renew ourselves and remember a larger View.

10/05/20: The Courage To Face Ourselves

In this weeks’ dharma talk, Cynthia mentions her teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, and her beloved friend Joanna, both of whom are nearing the end of their lives. She speaks to the importance of training now in order to come to peace within ourselves so that we can live fulfilled and die smiling, without regret. It takes courage to face ourselves and train in stopping the incessant activity of the mind. When we come into quiet stillness, we can notice our impulse toward distraction, and if we chose not to indulge it, we might become aware of the unbounded space of our own inner refuge. Here, we can experience a deep sense of peace and authentic presence, lively and clear. We train in mindfulness so that when our time comes, if we are so lucky, we can be prepared to open to the vast expanse without fear. If we do not practice quieting the mind now, even for 15 or 20 minutes of meditation every day, how can we hope to have the possibility of freedom at the time of death? [Note, this recording contains a guided meditation at 26:00 minutes inspired by “Retrieving the Inner Refuge”, a self guided meditation by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, found in his book, The True Source of Healing.]

10/19/20: Keeping Our Practice Fresh

The practice of mindfulness meditation is a training to wake up now, in this very moment. Just like learning an instrument or a new language, we must train ourselves in the practice of meditation. The first step is stopping to see more clearly, to understand more fully. Our lives have become so cut off from our true nature, from Mother Nature. When we can find stability in a practice of mindfulness, we create conditions for something new to happen, so we don’t keep reacting the same old ways. Bringing our attention to our heart, our awareness can take root in the center of our being. The true source of wisdom and compassion is there. From this place, we can experience our truth and walk the path in peace, with compassion and insight for ourselves and others. This is our best protection.

11-16-20: The Meaning of Taking Refuge

In this week’s session, Cynthia Jurs discusses what it means to “Take Refuge” and come into relationship with the “Three Jewels” not as concepts outside of ourselves, but by engaging within ourselves in a living relationship with the Earth. The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are all within us. To plant a seed is to entrust it to the Earth. The seed won’t sprout in arid land, but if the soil is fertile the harvest will be bountiful. Our own heart is a safe space, a refuge, we can rely on to plant the seeds of awakening. The Buddha is our mindfulness, our own knowing. The Dharma is our conscious breathing, our practice, and the Sangha is all of our components operating in harmony. The great work of Gaia is within us and all around us. This is our “refuge”.

11-23-20: The Practice of Stopping with the Bell as a Support

During this week’s session, Cynthia Jurs talks about feeding the spirit of what we want to see in the world. So often, our habits make us go unconscious and we are not aware of the tension we’re creating in the world around us. How are we going to make changes individually and collectively if we do not….stop? Meditation is a tool to cut through our reactive patterns. And the practice of the bell as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh, is another skillful way of cutting through our habits to find new ground. When we hear the sound of the bell, no matter what we are doing, it is an invitation to stop, take three breaths and return to our true source. We start with ourselves and after stopping we can see where the path leads.

11/30/20: The Six Paramitas

In Sanskrit, Paramita, means ‘perfection’. In Chinese, the character for perfection means “crossing to the other shore”. In this week’s MMM, Cynthia speaks to the six qualities of realization that are already within us and that can take us from the shore of suffering to the shore of liberation; Generosity, Discipline, Patience, Enthusiasm, Meditation (or Concentration) and Wisdom. These Six Paramitas carry us from sorrow to joy, from anger to understanding. We become “stream enterers” when we push off and enter the Great River. We may get wet but the peace and understanding we need today is only available if we engage in these ways.

12/6/20: The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind

This is the last MMM sessions until February 1st, 2021. Cynthia opens with some personal reflections, commenting on her need for time off. She invites us to practice on our own and stay connected in The Mandala. Then, she gives a teaching on “The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind.” These are contemplations that are invoked at the beginning of any dharma practice in the Tibetan tradition. The Four Thoughts are: being aware of the freedoms and favorable conditions of this precious human birth, remembering that everything born is impermanent and bound to die, acknowledging how virtuous and unvirtuous actions (which are causes) are inexorable, and facing the truth of the suffering that is present in cyclic existence. While unpacking these Four Thoughts, Cynthia also speaks about the Six Realms and touches on the notion of Karma.

2/1/21: Deep Listening

Deep listening is a mindfulness practice that allows us to be open to another, without reacting or defending, especially when there is divisiveness operating around us.  We often lose our equanimity when triggered by reactive patterns, such as pride or impatience. But when we can remember to take another breath, we return to our calm abiding to build a stable practice, and gradually, mindfulness becomes present in everything we do. The capacity to listen deeply with tenderness alleviates pain and suffering, and brings us together — which is what we need now in the world.

2/15/21: Where Wisdom is Born

The capacity to listen deeply is one of the fruits of our meditation practice. In this week’s dharma talk, Cynthia shares the invocation of Manjusuri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom whose sword symbolizes cutting through discursive thought in order to return to the place where wisdom and insight is born. In our practice, we cultivate what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “non-thinking” and “not talking”, looking in and looking out at the same time, as Tsoknyi Rinpoche suggests. By concentrating on the breath, we connect body and mind and come home to our true self where we may notice the pain or suffering under the surface, and in just a few breaths, we can find freedom. Practicing to take care of ourselves, we learn to take care of others and communicate more clearly.

3/1/21: Planting Seeds of Joy

In this week’s MMM, Cynthia reminds us how important it is to see and recognize the joy and beauty that is all around us. Our consciousness is like a big storehouse filled with all kinds of seeds.Since the work of transformation is not always easy, through our meditations, we can make it a practice to set aside our worries and finding joy around us, build the energy of transformation to make changes to our lives. Receiving this energy, we nourish ourselves and the world, naturally and without effort, appreciating the miracle of life with every breath.

3/15/21: Foundations Of Bodhicitta

In this week’s MMM, Cynthia speaks to bodhicitta, our wish to cultivate understanding into order to bring happiness to all beings. Each of us has Buddha nature. Each of us has wisdom to offer. We ask ourselves what is our motivation? Are we really aware of where we are coming from? The main point of our practice is to transform the attachment to our sense of self, and to wake up to that selfless nature of all that is. We practice in such a way to break through deep habitual patterns of identifying with a sense of self as being the very center of everything. We see how important it is to care for each other. And so, our practices can facilitate the experience of interbeing. Turning around our orientation from self to other, arousing our great love for the world, we can take the vow of the Bodhisattva to awaken for the benefit of all beings.

3/29/21: The Fruits Of Practice

In this week’s Monday Mindfulness Meditation, Liza Jane Alexander, a dedicated practitioner, musician and sangha member from Eastern Tennessee, was guest facilitator for Cynthia Jurs. Liza spoke eloquently about how we can become gardeners, composting the seeds of our hatred, discrimination, despair and anger into beautiful flowers, to help the energy of happiness and peace grow in ourselves and in the world. She illuminated how our mind consciousness is like a storehouse that contains all kind of seeds and yet like a garden, it cannot cultivate itself. We need to water and tend the seeds of understanding, love, peace and liberation so they grow into fruit that supports life. The practice of mindfulness is not to get rid of afflictions, but to accept them and touch them with our insight, which brings transformation. Liza brought out her guitar and skillfully interspersed her talk with wonderful songs from Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition to open our hearts.

4/12/21: A Call To Collective Awakening

During this week’s Monday Mindfulness Meditation, Cynthia speaks to the intention for collective awakening, inspired by her teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, and his remark in 1993 that the next Buddha may take the form of a sangha, a community practicing loving kindness. Especially during this challenging moment, there is an opportunity to awaken our innate caring and compassion that is in each of us, and to strengthen the ground of our practice, so we can contribute to the awakening in our own lives, and to the awakening of the critical mass of humanity. It is an incredible evolutionary moment in which to slow down and deepen our faith and love. Cynthia shares a passage from Eddie S. Glaude Jr. book, “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own” reminding us that there is no awakening without love. This love, becomes the basis for genuine democratic community where we can all flourish if we so choose.  

Earth Treasure Vase Global Healing Meditation for One World Bearing Witness, Dec 2017