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Donald Rothberg's Dharma Talks
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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2022-07-27 Developing Equanimity and Compassion Together 68:53
We begin by examining again the nature of equanimity, identifying seven core qualities of equanimity, including a kind of faith or confidence, illustrated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s account of his midnight "cup of coffee" experience. We point to two typical distortions of equanimity--being overly cool and cut off some from the awakened heart, and disconnecting from action. We then look at the nature of compassion, and see how the development of compassion helps us to respond to these two distortions. In a parallel way, we see how several typical distortions of compassion, such as pity (the "near enemy"), burnout, and confusion (or lack of wisdom), are remedied by the development of equanimity! Together, they help us develop wisdom and the awakened heart, supported by courage (as we learn from the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-27 A Guided Meditation Cultivating Equanimity and Compassion 37:48
After basic instructions in (1) settling and stabilizing attention, and (2) practicing mindfulness, there is 5-minute period of settling and stabilizing. Then there are several practice suggestions for cultivating equanimity, especially by noticing and exploring reactivity and any appearances of the "Eight Worldly Winds." After another 10 minutes or so, there is also guidance in two main ways of developing compassion, through opening in mindfulness to what is difficult or painful, and through a three-step self-compassion practice from Kristin Neff.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-20 Developing Equanimity in Meditation and Daily Life 56:14
Equanimity is a balance and non-reactivity, and a connection to an inner freedom, with whatever is happening. It is a quality deeply needed both in meditation and in daily life, particularly in our challenging times. We explore equanimity first by seeing how it manifests in the lives of some of the most beloved humans who have lived, and then by identifying seven core qualities of equanimity. We identify as well some main ways of practicing to cultivate equanimity, and some of the challenges of such practices. We end with a discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-20 A Lightly Guided Meditation to Cultivate Equanimity 35:34
After basic instructions in (1) settling and stabilizing attention, and (2) practicing mindfulness, there is a brief general guidance in practicing to cultivate equanimity, especially by noticing moments of reactivity (semi-consciously or unconsciously grasping or pushing away at the level of body, mind, or emotions), and exploring them. Such guidance is repeated about 15 minutes into the silent practice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-04 Dharma and Democracy: A Talk on the Fourth of July 67:15
On the Fourth of July, we look at the relationship between the freedoms opened up by the dharma, the teachings and practices of awakening, and by the promise and actuality of democracy, at this time of peril for democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere. Can we imagine a spiritually-grounded democracy? To respond to this question, we examine the vision of democracy, remembering both some of the words of the founders and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "America is essentially a dream, a dream as yet unfulfilled. It is a dream of a land where people of all races, all nationalities and all creeds can live together as brothers and sisters." We also explore the vision of dharma and awakening, including the Buddha's creation of a community separate from the prevailing caste system of his time. Yet we also need to look at the many "shadows" of both democracy and dharma, which obscure the vision and prevent its full realization. We end by pointing to a number of ways to renew, develop, and practice our visions of "spiritual democracy" in the different parts of our lives.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-06-29 Practicing with Polarization, Differences, and Conflict 2 65:26
We explore further a number of skillful practices and dharma resources for situations involving polarization, differences, and conflict, whether internal, relational, or collective that were identified in the previous week. Two days after last week's talk, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade; we start by examining the nature of polarization at the social level. We look also at the possibility of belonging, community, non-polarization, and moving toward Dr. King's "beloved community," in the midst of differences. Then we focus further on the centrality of empathy and listening to those with different perspectives, offering empathy practices that complement the other practices identified in the talk. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
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!
Spirit Rock Meditation Center 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.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center 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.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center 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.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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