The greatest gift is the
gift of the teachings
 
Donald Rothberg's Dharma Talks at Spirit Rock Meditation Center
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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2020-10-07 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 9--Wise Speech 6--Practicing with Difficult Speech Situations 4 49:00
We focus, in the context of difficult or challenging communication, on the integration of individual, inner practice and skillful speaking. After a review of eight general guidelines for skillful speech and how we do inner practice related to, but separate from, such challenging communication, we look at ways to bring inner practice in speaking and relating. We also focus on several more "outer" skillful ways of speaking to bring about mutual understanding, including using relatively neutral observations free of interpretations, and cultivating the practice of empathy. We then look at how to integrate more inner and more outer dimensions of practice in the context of several challenging situations.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-09-30 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 8: The Foundations of Wise Speech 5: Becoming More Skillful with Difficult Speech Situations 3 1:11:01
We review eight important capacities that help us to be skillful in difficult and challenging situations involving speech and communication. We then continue to explore how we might combine more "inner" and more "outer" responses, here focusing especially on "inner work" with difficult emotions (we look at working with anger and fear), thoughts and narratives (we look particularly at those connected with the judgmental mind), and body states. A discussion follows the talk.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-09-23 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 7: The Foundations of Wise Speech 4: Becoming More Skillful with Difficult Speech Situations 2 1:10:06
After a brief review of the foundations of wise speech and the eight guidelines for skillful speech when there are difficult or challenging situations, we explore the connection of inner practices with such situations. We look at two dimensions of such practice: (1) looking at and transforming conditioning that makes it hard to engage in such situations, such as related to negative views about conflict and anger, and discerning when there is spiritual bypassing in relationship to difficulties; and (2) bringing mindfulness, inquiry, and investigation to difficult emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, etc.,and to thoughts and narratives (especially generated by the judgmental mind). We will continue this exploration, including of difficult body states, next time..
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-09-16 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 6: Wise Speech 3: Practicing with Difficult Speech Situations 68:21
After reviewing three foundations of Wise Speech--the four ethical guidelines for skillful speech, presence and mindfulness during speech, and the practice of empathy--we explore, on the basis of these foundations, how to be skillful during difficult or challenging situations of speech and communication, whether involving two individuals, a group, or a larger society. We identify eight perspectives, practices, and capacities that support skillful speech during such difficult situations.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-08-26 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 5: The Foundations of Wise Speech 2: Empathy (continued) and the Buddha's Ethical Guidelines for Skillful Speech 1:11:13
After a brief review of the previous talks in this series, and a clarification of the different dimensions of our practice, we continue to explore the foundation given last time--empathy practice and the intention to understand and connect with another. We work with two brief exercises which point to ways of practicing empathy. Then we examine the four guidelines for wise or skillful speech given by the Buddha--for our speech and communication to be truthful, helpful, kind and loving (even when saying difficult things), and timely.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-08-19 Deepening Our Practice in the Pandemic 4: The Foundations of Wise Speech 1: Cultivating Empathy 66:30
We start with a brief review of the three previous talks on deepening practice during the pandemic (and other crises), including clarifying three broad areas of practice: Formal meditation practice, daily life practice, and work, service, and/or activism as practice. In this session, we explore the foundations of Wise Speech as practice, mentioning three foundations. The first two include (1) the ethical guidelines given by the Buddha regarding skillful speech, and (2) developing presence and mindfulness during speech (including listening). We focus most of the time on the third foundation of cultivating empathic connection with another, clarifying the difference between empathy and compassion, giving some of the findings of studies in neuroscience about empathy, and examining what blocks empathy. We then work with a simple (yet powerful) empathy practice of tuning into (1) emotions, and (2) what matters, and move into a period of discussion.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-29 Deepening Our Daily Life Practice in the Pandemic 3 66:09
After a brief review of what we've explored in the last two sessions, in terms of ways of deepening daily life practice in terms of formal practice, informal practice, and one's work, service, and/or activism, we go more deeply into two areas. We look at how to practice with exploring and seeing intentions, and some ways to make connections between formal and informal practice--in the flow of daily life. The talk has a few references to the life of Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights activist and Congressperson, who died on July 17, 2020, and is followed by discussion..
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-22 Deepening Our Daily Life Practice in the Pandemic 2 67:09
We begin with a brief review of the previous week's talk and discussion, in which we explored a number of ways to deepen (1) our formal practice; (2) our informal (daily life) practice; and (3) our service, work, and/or activism as practice. This exploration points to a broadened sense of practice. We then examine in some depth three inter-related foundational areas for deepening practice in all three areas: (1) developing mindfulness of the body; (2) working to transform reactivity (here as a translation of "dukkha"), including as it manifests in challenging or difficult experiences; and (3) pausing and setting intentions. Our discussion particularly goes into being skillful with challenging experiences.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-15 Deepening Our Practice in a Pandemic: Discussion, Q&A 17:41
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2020-07-15 Deepening Our Daily Life Practice in the Pandemic 1 38:28
Our current crises present both challenges and opportunities. We look at three main ways to deepen our practice at this time, focusing on (1) formal practice; (2) more "informal" (or "daily life" practice); and (3) our work, service, and/or activism. For each of these areas, a number of suggestions are made, inviting the listener to discern the one or two or three ways that most resonate and connect with one's own edge of learning.
Monday and Wednesday Talks

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