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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2021-11-04 Evening Dharma Talk #1: The Nature of Samadhi and Samatha Practice (Retreat at Spirit Rock) 59:12
We explore further the nature of samadhi and samatha practice, cultivating samadhi, pointing to the importance of samadhi and samatha practice, the different ways of practicing, and some of the challenges of such practice. We identify five main challenges and suggest some of the ways of working with the challenges.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Settling, Seeing, and Luminous Awareness
2021-10-06 The Seven Factors of Awakening 68:45
After a brief review of the last two sessions that Donald has offered on traditional teachings about awakening and contemporary maps of the path of awakening, we explore the core teaching of the Seven Factors of Awakening: mindfulness, investigation, resolve or energy, joy or rapture, tranquility, concentration, and equanimity. We look both individually at each of the seven, and also suggest a number of ways of practicing with this teaching, whether in a particular meditation session, in daily life, or over a sustained period of time. At the end, there is some discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-10-06 Guided Meditation: The Factors of Awakening 36:31
A lightly guided meditation, linked with today's talk, inviting one or more of the Seven Factors of Awakening.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-10-04 The Nature of Awakening: Traditional and Contemporary Maps 1:11:48
While much of our interest in practice may be focused on finding some degree of peace and understanding, or on making workable challenging states of body, mind, and heart, it's helpful to keep the vision of how practice aims at awakening (bodhi). In this talk, we explore how the Buddha understood awakening and the path to awakening, as well as perspectives on the lived experience of awakening from later Buddhist traditions. We then ask the question about whether a contemporary path of awakening simply follows the traditional path of awakening. We explore how it's important also to include as parts of the path of awakening teachings and practices that help us work with both more psychological material (such as connected with difficult early experiences, trauma, limiting beliefs, etc.) and with our social conditioning (such as around race, gender, sexuality, class, age, etc.), areas that may not be adequately transformed only with the resources of traditional paths of awakening.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-09-08 Awakening and Paths of Awakening: Traditional and Contemporary 67:03
We first review last week's theme of traditional understandings of awakening and the path to awakening, focused on the teachings of the Buddha, of the Thai Forest tradition, and of Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra. Then we explore the question whether we have need as well of contemporary maps of paths to awakening, to get at dimensions of contemporary greed, aversion, and delusion that are not identified in traditional maps. We suggest the need for such maps, and for integrating traditional understandings with examination particularly of psychological and social conditioning. If not transformed, such conditioning can lead to many problems for all practitioners, including teachers and those with some significant taste of awakening. Discussion follows.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-09-01 Awakening 67:45
After a number of sessions focused on practicing with reactivity and with challenges, we focus on awakening and awakened qualities. We survey the Buddha's main understanding of awakening as the ending of greed, aversion, and ignorance, as well as his pointing to a "signless, boundless, luminous" awareness at times. We also explore some of the understandings of a similar "awakened awareness" found in the Thai Forest tradition and the Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra traditions (in part through slides, which can be found below, at this Dharma Seed site). Finally, the suggestion is made to set the intention especially this next week to cultivate one or two awakened qualities.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Awakening Slides by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2021-09-01 Guided Meditation: Settling, Tracking Reactivity and Awakened Qualities 36:10
We start with the intention to cultivate awakened qualities, then have a period of settling, followed by opening up experience and particularly noticing any reactivity (habitual grasping and pushing away) and awakened qualities, such as mindfulness, concentration, equanimity, joy, etc.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-08-25 (Lightly) Guided Meditation: Practicing with Pleasant and Unpleasant Experiences and Tendencies toward Reactivity. 38:13
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-08-25 Practicing with Challenges: Individual, Relational, and Collective 69:17
We name some of the personal, relational, and collective challenges of our current times, and point to a number of guidelines and support that help us to skillfully take such challenges as part of our practice of awakening. Discussion follows the talk.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-08-04 Deepening Daily Life Practice 4: Practicing with the Eight Worldly Winds 2 69:42
We begin by naming some of the important supports for daily life practice and by exploring further the importance of practicing with reactivity (compulsively and habitually grasping after or pushing away). It's helpful to focus on the center of practice: Transforming reactivity and learning better how to respond skillfully in all parts of our lives. It's also important to name some of the complexities of practicing with reactivity: (1) Seeing that the pleasant and unpleasant aren't the problem, that reactivity is the problem; (2) understanding that this isn't about passivity but rather about skillful response; and (3) clarifying that reactivity can often be enmeshed with important insight, clarity, and intelligence, such that the aim of practice is to separate out the reactivity from the insight. In this context, we then look further at the Eight Worldly Winds (pleasure or pain, gain or loss, fame or disrepute, and praise or blame) and point to a number of guidelines and suggestions for practicing when they arise.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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