Sally Clough Armstrong began practicing vipassana meditation in India in 1981. She moved to the Bay Area in 1988, and worked at Spirit Rock until 1994 in a number of roles, including executive director. She began teaching in 1996, and is one of the guiding teachers of Spirit Rock's Dedicated Practitioner Program. Sally has always been inspired by the depth and the breadth of the Buddha’s teaching, as presented in the suttas of the Pali Canon, because the truth and power of the Buddha’s words still speak to us today. Her intention in teaching is to make these ancient texts and practices accessible and relevant to all levels of practitioner, from the very new to the dedicated meditator.
Metta, or loving-kindness, is the practice of cultivating a friendly and accepting attitude towards ourselves, our experience and all other beings. As we cultivate this quality through intensive practice, we can find that it can become our default response to life, rather than the conditioned habits of aversion, fear or grasping.
The role of concentration is central to the Buddha’s teaching. This can be seen by the emphasis placed on it in some of the key Buddhist lists, such as the Noble Eightfold Path, the Five Spiritual Faculties, the Seven Factors Of Awakening and the 12 links of Transcendent Dependent Arising. This talk looks at the qualities we can develop in our practice that support concentration, such as faith, mindfulness, happiness and contentment.
Any time we practice mindfulness and wise attention, we are weakening the impact of the hindrances, and strengthening what are known as the five jhanic factors: meditative qualities that support the continuity and deepening of our meditation. Each of the jhanic factors actually balances and acts as an antidote to one of the hindrances. This talk looks at how to strengthen the jhanic factors, and use them skillfully as antidotes to the hindrances.
Though the teachings on dukkha (suffering) are an important part of the Buddhist path, a skillful relationship to sukha (pleasure) actually played a significant part in the Buddha's awakening. This talk explores the wise use of pleasure and the cultivation of beautiful qualities of mind, especially in concentration practice.
The practice of Mudita or Appreciative Joy cultivates an open and joyful heart that naturally inclines towards connecting with what is uplifting and beautiful in others and in our own lives. It works to counteract the subtle or not-so-subtle tendency towards envy, which tells us that we are deficient in some way.
Many of the Buddha's teachings are counter intuitive - we sit still to find freedom, we let go to receive. Opening to suffering and working skillfully with the kilesas - greed, aversion and delusion - actually bring us greater freedom and happiness. This talk is on the beautiful qualities called the Paramis that directly counter the force of the kilesas.
The distortion of delusion operates in many ways, including when we are disconnected from our direct experience, or only allow in information that doesn't challenge our deluded state of mind. Learning how to recognize when delusion is distorting our experience allows us to wake up out of its spell and discover clarity and peacefulness.
Many of us have internalized the message that we are not ok. To begin to be free of this distorted view, we need to understand how it became formed and why it no longer serves us. It is important to bring humor and kindness to this practice.
Because we don't understand what brings us true happiness, we often find ourselves trying to control or resist our experience, in a futile attempt to find relief. Seeing more clearly and working skillfully with our difficulties brings us true peace and calm.