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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2021-04-21 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life 5: Talk, Guided Meditation, Discussion 1:15:23
We briefly review the main themes of our practice in the last sessions: The importance of "doing" and skillful effort in our formal practice and in our daily lives; the parallel importance of "not-doing" (particularly receptivity) in these areas; some ways to inquire into the nature of our identities as "doers"; some ways of bringing these practices into daily life; the experience of "flow" and being an "expert" in a given area as pointing to a kind of "doing" coming out of a deep not-doing; and the theme of not-doing in Taoist tradition (emphasizing the work of Chuang Tzu) and Buddhist tradition. We suggest that all of practice points toward this deep non-doing as an expression of awakening. We then explore this territory in a 20-minute guided meditation, followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-04-21 Guided Meditation on Doing and Not-Doing in Our Meditation Practice 30:29
A thirty-minute or so guided meditation, lightly guided, with three successive instructions: (1) to set intentions in light of whether one needs in general to emphasize "doing" more or less, and then to focus initially on settling, connecting with the primary object and noticing when one is distracted; (2) to emphasize receptivity as a dimension of not-doing in being with what is predominant, after an initial period of settling; and (3) opening to a kind of "choiceless awareness," simply noticing what is occurring moment by moment.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-04-14 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life 4: Talk, Guided Meditation, and Discussion 1:13:33
We review briefly the basic perspectives that we've explore in preceding sessions: the importance of active "doing" in meditation and daily life, the importance as well as receptivity and "not-doing" in meditation and daily life, and ways in which to inquire into our more fixed identity as a "doer." We then look at two broad perspectives on a doing coming out of a deep not-doing: (1) in "flow" experiences and the experiences of "experts" in a given area, with examples from art, music, sports, and everyday life; and (2) in spiritual traditions, with a particular emphasis on Taoist and Buddhist sources. Then there is a second guided meditation, about 20 minutes long, and beginning at 35:55, grounded in the earlier guided meditation before the talk, in which we explore a progressive letting-go of both more gross and more subtle dimensions of meditative doing, opening up to a deeper non-doing, which can be the basis for the "doing coming out of a deep not-doing" we explored in the talk. Finally, we have open discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-04-14 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life: Guided Meditation 1 28:40
About a 30-minute guided meditation emphasizing the balance of more active "doing" and more receptive awareness (a kind of "not-doing") in meditation. We start with intentions and then settling of attention and awareness, followed by opening up to what is predominant, integrating both more active and more receptive dimensions of practice. This session is followed by a talk on the theme of doing and not-doing in meditation and daily life, and a second guided meditation, which goes more deeply into not-doing.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-03-31 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life 3 68:17
We start with a brief review of what we’ve explored in the last two sessions on this theme, including the importance of both doing and not-doing in Buddhist practice and the nature of identification with the “doer” (and the related themes of self, time, and the future). We then go into more depth inquiring into the nature of the “doer,” including a brief guided meditation looking into the experience of “doing” and opening to not-doing in meditation. We lastly further investigate traditions (Jewish, Christian, Taoist, and Buddhist) that point to the importance of a doing coming out of not-doing, and ways that we can experience and explore this doing coming out of not-doing in daily life, including in the experiences of creativity in art and music, and being “in the zone” in sports.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-03-10 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and Daily Life 2 69:08
We briefly review the main themes from last week, including the importance of "doing" and effort in the teachings and practices of the Buddha, the importance also of "not-doing" (through letting go and cultivating receptive mindfulness), and elements of our conditioning to be a "doer." We go in more detail into this conditioning, pointing to ways of practicing and inquiring. Then, finally, we explore how there is an advanced way of being in which doing comes, so to speak, out of non-doing; we look at this in terms of the teachings of Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu, and Dzogchen. We close with a kind of developmental model of the stages of inquiry into the doer.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-03-03 Doing and Not-Doing in Meditation and in Daily Life 1 1:10:10
We explore the nature of doing and not-doing, first in dharma practice generally. The Buddha’s teachings seem full of exhortations to diligence, mindfulness, and skillful effort and doing. Yet there also is a clear place for not-doing—for example, in letting go and in cultivating mindful receptivity to experience. We can also see how being a “doer” is so central to many of our identities, whether in our roles or work or even our meditation. Given these dimensions of doing and not-doing, we suggest a number of ways to inquire into and respond to our patterns and habits related to doing and not-doing, both in meditation and daily life.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2021-01-20 Practicing with Intentions 2: Developing Intentions and Vows to Guide Practice in One's Communities, Society, and World 65:32
After a review of the January 6 session on practicing with intentions in individual formal and daily life practice, and on Inauguration Day, we explore practicing in more community, social, and collective settings. In this context, we point to the importance of combining i"inner" and "outer" practice, and to two possible inspirations: (1)the figure of the bodhisattva who combines awakening and helping others, and (2) the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a kind of bodhisattva. On this basis, there is a short period in which those present are asked to write their own intentions and/or vows to guide their responses to the current needs and crises of our world. Some share their writing!
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Practicing with Intentions 2 by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2021-01-10 Our Training in Cultivating Metta: An Overview 55:07
Practicing metta is an ancient vocation in which we incline toward metta, toward a warm, expansive friendliness, each moment. In doing so, we also come to see what gets in the way of metta. A metta retreat offers us a focused period of training, helping us then to bring our metta more into our formal practice, our daily lives, and a world deeply in need of metta. Yet there are challenges in metta practice. We also identify a number of these challenges, and how responses to the challenges point to some of the fundamental ways that training in metta transforms us.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Metta Retreat
2021-01-06 Practicing with Intentions 1: Individual Formal and Daily Life Practice 1:11:08
At this time of transition, for the earth in the Northern Hemisphere, for many of us in the New Year, and for the U.S., in which clarity of intentions is so important, we explore two types of intentions: (1) aspiration or being guided by one's deeper values and intentions, sometimes taking the form of vows; and (2) moment-to-moment intentions. We are especially interested in connecting the two types of intentions. A focus on moment-to-moment intentions (cetana) helps us with wise action and practice moment-to-moment, seeing which intentions are skillful and which are not (including implicit or even unconscious tendencies linked with habitual energies). We look a number of ways of practicing with intentions both in our formal and our informal practice. We close with a short writing exercise bringing out our core intentions and next steps for the coming period, and then have a period of discussion and sharing.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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