Spirit Rock has been my touch stone where matters of peace and contemplation are concerned since my 29 year old was 6, and so it is with joy that I’ve returned several times recently to the wonderful sitting and lecture practice of Sylvia Boorstein’s Wednesday morning class; she’s not there every week, she’s called upon by other meditation centers, but you can sometimes catch her several weeks in a row. So I did. And now I’m signed up to join with her, Barbara Marx Hubbard and other remarkable humans at a Peace Alliance luncheon in a few days.
This meeting is timely for me as I’m wanting to reconnect with a global group that addesses violence and justice issues – particularly while millions of refugees are escaping the drought-laden, war-torn countries of the world that we, US citizens, have nudged toward violence and unrest by taking advantage of our strength and putting profits ahead of people. I feel we need to pay back and play fair, so hoping this group can help me engage in that work. I felt similarly when I was able to do press conferences for UNICEF State of the World’s Children in SF – that we can and must help just to be OK with ourselves.
THE PEACE ALLIANCE
Be the Movement! Take a Step for Peace.
– See more at: http://peacealliance.org/who-we-are/be-the-movement/#sthash.SAgG0ZyA.dpuf
Sylvia simply says about her teachings that
“My greatest joy is giving the gift of love and hope through the dharma, knowing it is possible for humans to transform their hearts. These dharma gifts include paying attention, practicing clarity and kindness and addressing the suffering of the world–which, of course, includes ourselves.” – from Dharmaseed.org
Her last talk at Spirit Rock before departing for other retreat centers was particularly handy as blog material because it contained a list of sorts: The Four Noble Truths, which she wandered all around and briefly explained.
What are the 4 Noble Truths? My simple understanding after 23 years of occasional visits to Spirit Rock (and SF Zen Center, practically memorizing Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, still a treasure of puzzles for my mind!):
That life is suffering.
That we make ourselves unhappy when we have a thirst for things we don’t have or for things to be different.
That we can overcome suffering by letting go of desire.
That the Eightfold Noble Path shows us a way to overcome suffering and this includes:
Now for another 23 years of reading and listening and practicing, albeit irregularly in order to understand and practice the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. Seriously – and with humor. Sylvia has both great seriousness and delectable, contagious humor, and that makes me glad to share a room with her. You can check her talks out at Dharmaseed.org – there are over 300 to chose from! You can listen while fixing dinner (I sometimes do) or download – free. But being in the room has value, so I recommend going to Spirit Rock.
According to Sylvia, the Four Noble Truths all boil down to something like don’t let the turkeys get you down, way more than just notice the trees and Be Here Now, it’s about not getting scared of a tree falling, of global warming, of menace who is your boss, your brother, your mate, yourself even – just being strong and balanced in yourself and your practice – whatever that is for you – so that you don’t let other people or any situation take you away from your place of calm, your presence.
You can listen to a lot of Sylvia at Dharmseed.org but it’s valuable to be in the room with her. There’s both a calm and a delicious joy that ebbs up in her and comes out in unexpected but appropriate giggles. She’s having fun explaining how to be happy; she’s having a good time telling stories that teach principles of Buddhism that will make your world more copacetic and your view of your own possibilities in life broader.
I remember a few years back coming to one of her Wednesday Morning sessions (and there are ongoing sessions with other teachers) and she offered the room “a marvelous opportunity”. She had a chance to stay with a group of nuns – I forget which country! – doing marvelous and difficult work; she gave $6,000 and now our marvelous opportunity was to put money in a basket and pay her back. We did! We all won. Thanks to Sylvia.