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Giving and Knowing

Generosity is our genes. The word comes from the root genus, meaning of good or noble birth. Noble, in turn, comes from the root gnosis—to know. Generosity speaks to the natural expression of an inherent goodness in human beings that both knows, and by its expression, is known. This past summer, my wife and I hosted Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and his family at our home in Vermont. The Sakyong (a Tibetan title meaning ‘Earth Protector’) is leading back-to-back retreats at Karmê Chöling, the meditation center in Barnet. For the month-long visit, Jeanine and ... continue reading
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Holding and Letting Go

More often than not, it seems, death epitomizes life. This was the case with the passing of my grandmother. Our matriarch, she had held the family together with a balance of judgment and acceptance; eventually she supported my interest in meditation, but not at first. Still in my teens, I had been living at a meditation center for about a year when I paid a visit to my grandparents in Philadelphia. “Have you ever wondered if they’re putting something in the food?” Grammy asked. No doubt, she and granddaddy had discussed ... continue reading
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Practice Makes Perfect

Not too long ago, the New Yorker magazine reported on a study of successful start-up companies. What makes some new ventures take off, they asked, while others never seem to get anywhere? We could ask the same question of spiritual practitioners. Like entrepreneurs looking for a market, seekers seek to understand what the world is asking of them, and how by uncovering their own potential, they can offer something of themselves. Something that will meet a real need in their community, in their world. Karmê Chöling is a residential retreat center ... continue reading
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The Greatest Teacher

It’s been a month of hard lessons. We all long to tell the truth, to share what we know. But how? Sometimes really telling the truth requires a turn of phrase, similes, metaphors—a story. My story begins like this: its been a month of hard lessons. The hard part? A clot of blood in the lungs was hard, and painful and scary. Painful and scary is a blood clot story with a happy ending. How is my wife doing? She is doing quite well, thank you. She feels pretty much “back to normal.” Yesterday ... continue reading
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Volunteers

This spring, will a flower emerge in the same unlikely spot? Blooming alone in a bed of stones next to the front door, last year the colorful Pansy surprised us. Pansies are biennials. In their first season, they grow green; in their second they flower, seed and perish. “Volunteers,” David calls them, referring to the flower’s ability to extend itself to another bloom. David is helping Jeanine and me with some spring-cleaning around the yard. He moves slowly, but with the confidence of someone who knows what the earth is up ... continue reading
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When Suitcases Fly

As if by magic, the suitcase was flying through the air. Well, in my defense, it wasn’t a suitcase really, more of a carry-on bag. But it was definitely airborne. It flew through the open door, crossing the threshold of our house well off the ground and landing with a thud that startled our granddaughter who had just entered the mudroom. Later, I would defend myself, saying that at least I didn’t throw the thing at anyone. It landed safely. No one was hurt. Suffice to say, none of these explanations ... continue reading

Starting Over

It’s been too long since we took the time No-one’s to blame, I know time flies so quickly But when I see you darling It’s like we both are falling in love again It’ll be just like starting over, starting over —John Lennon (Starting Over) The initial love affair with our sitting meditation practice is over. We can’t remember anymore why we do it. We began our practice with high hopes and enthusiasm. We imagined what life would be like with the “new” mind that our meditative discipline would bring us. But nothing has panned out ... continue reading

What Goes Around…

Congratulations everyone. According to the lunar calendar, it is the beginning of a New Year. The fact that the earth turns and winds up where it left off is somehow reassuring. The fact that we have lived to see it is cause for celebration and reflection. The year was a journey. Where did it take us? Older now, our time and how we spend it can only be more important. In Shambhala, to mark the start of the annual lunar cycle, we distribute a little soft cover calendar called a Practice ... continue reading

Dinner on Me

“Maybe it’s because you were such a sore loser!” My father’s tone was buoyant. He wasn’t whispering. After a sip of wine he can be buoyant, and as he ages he is more buoyant around his kids. My wife Jeanine and I were there, but this holiday dinner was special. His daughter, my (much) younger sister Maron, was visiting from California with her boyfriend Justin. There were six of us at the table, including my step-mom. Dinner, at a local Thai restaurant in St. Johnsbury Vermont, had just been served. Both Justin ... continue reading

A Cool Encounter

“Look at you two with the signs on your jackets. You look funny.” My wife, Jeanine, was referring to the logos on our fleece jackets, the ones worn by our oldest granddaughter, Camille and me. Camille is 14 and a freshman in high school. “Baba,” (what the grandkids call their grandmother, they call me Michael) “the North Face logo is cool.” Something about the casual way Camille tosses off this last remark moves me to challenge her. “Are you saying that wearing this logo makes the two of us cool?” “Yes. Well it helps. ... continue reading