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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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!
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.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-05-18 Practicing with Fear 2 68:32
We review briefly some of what we covered in the last session (April 27) on practicing with fear. We then explore the various types of fear reported in the group, what we find bringing mindfulness to hear, particularly what's experienced in the body and in the mind, and the importance of having antidotes to fear, when the level of fear is at a high level and our usual practices are not effective. We also point to the way that as we develop and move into new areas of learning, we also often open up to new fears that are part of the new territory. We close with a period of questions and sharing.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-04-27 Practicing with Fear 1 65:30
After a brief review of last week's exploration of the relationship of Buddhist practice to Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, we explore a theme that is part of those holidays, and central to our practice--how we work with fear and anxiety. We look at the centrality of such practice, and the different types of fear, distinguishing the unskillful aspects (such as confusion, reactivity, and the continual repetition of negative narratives) from the at times skillful aspects (such as recognizing danger). We then suggest ways of bringing mindfulness to fear, as well as ways of understanding and responding to fear.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-04-20 Awakening and Liberation: Buddhist Practice, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan 67:08
At this time of the confluence of Passover, Eastern, and Ramadan, we look at their core messages of liberation, going beyond death, and spiritual purification, and the links of such messages to Buddhist practice, with the aid of images and music.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Awakening and Liberation: Buddhist Practice, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-03-30 Reflections after Returning from Four Weeks on Retreat 68:28
A few days after returning from four weeks on retreat at Spirit Rock, Donald reflects on a number of themes related to his retreat, including: the importance of retreat (as well as short periods of meditation) and getting away, if possible, from everyday demands and busyness; the centrality of noticing habitual tendencies and patterns; opening to the unknown and the mysterious; attending to what surfaces, including difficult material, deep aspirations, and insights; the importance of exploring "non-doing" in meditation and activities, and an opening to what is larger than oneself; and taking everything as part of a path of learning.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-02-09 Donald Rothberg and Yassir Chadly in Dialogue on Buddhist and Sufi Perspectives and Practices: A Gathering of Wisdom, Love, and Respect 66:34
Yassir Chadly, a long-time friend of Donald's who is a Sufi teacher, musician, and former Olympic swimmer, originally from Morocco, is in dialogue with Donald, and then, during the last part of the session, with the whole group. We explore Yassir's background, the three main levels of practice in Sufism, practicing in Sufism with what arises in the heart, parallels between Sufi and Buddhist practice, how to make sense of how and why some act negatively in the name of a religion (we discuss Islam and Buddhism), the unity of traditions in their deep mystical expressions, and the need to work together across traditions in our current world.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
2022-02-02 Honoring the Great Teacher of Interbeing and Engaged Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh 65:44
There is weaving together in the talk of several areas, including (1) Donald's stories of his encounters with and learning from Thich Nhat Hanh, starting in 1987; (2) the life story of Thich Nhat (1926-2022); and (3) exploring Thich Nhat Hanh's core teachings, including his teachings about "interbeing," engaged Buddhism, mindfulness, and "being peace." There is a slide show of Thich Nhat Hanh's life shown during the talk available as a pdf file. The talk is followed by the first 3 minutes and 19 seconds of a video of Thich Nhah Hanh talking about "War and Peace Within" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk1jpeo3w6U) and a period of discussion.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Slide Show on the Life of Thich Nhat Hanh by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-02-02 A Guided Meditation in the Manner of Thich Nhat Hanh 36:47
A 35-minute or so guided meditation in the manner of Thich Nhat Hanh (connected with the talk honoring Thich Nhat Hanh). The guided meditation is mostly silent, with three short periods of guidance, using these words: (1) Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out. Breathing in, I calm myself. Breathing out, I feel at ease. (2) Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. Bring body and mind back to the present moment. So that you do not miss the appointment with life. (3) Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid. Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect all that is. Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free.
Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-01-14 Metta and Forgiveness--(Retreat at Spirit Rock) 61:14
We first explore several important themes in metta practice: (1) how metta practice can be seen as a training in learning to “lead” with the heart; (2) ways of working with difficult experiences, such as anger, fear, and the presence of the judgmental mind, that can arise in the “purification” process connected with metta practice; (3) how metta practice opens us to our radiant depths; and (4) the nature of metta practice with the “difficult person” and its connection with forgiveness practice. Then we explore the nature of forgiveness—clarifying what it is and isn’t; distinguishing between forgiveness as an outer, interpersonal and social process, giving several examples, including from the Heiltsuk indigenous tradition and South Africa, and forgiveness as an inner practice; and identifying some of dynamics of inner forgiveness practice.
Metta Retreat: Cultivating the Wise, Awakened, and Responsive Heart

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