Rediscovering Dhamma Every Day

Goenka emphasized the idea of protecting and preserving the pure teachings of Dhamma for generations to come. For years I received this as direction to protect and preserve the 10-day course format and insulate this experience from the chaos of the world, but this is not at the heart of dhamma as I currently understand it. Every day we sit to discover the truth within our own body. Each of us holds the secrets of universal truth within us, and Vipassana is the tool that helps us find it. If we simply enforce the rules that were passed down to us we will lose the essence of truth. Instead, we must be passionate learners who question, analyze, and evaluate every aspect of our experience so we can deeply understand the nuances of dhamma and truth. With experience these rules become supportive guides, but simply accepting and enforcing them will lead to blind faith.

After sitting a few 10-day courses, I accepted this responsibility of protecting the pure dhamma as if I was a wise carrier of the truth. Goenka was a protector. Senior Teachers should be protectors. But I’m simply a student trying to learn and grow every day. To achieve the deep understanding of dhamma that our teachers have, I need to tap into my authentic truth and grow from my personal platform. As a naive protector, I tended to push the non-meditators in my life away, but as an explorer of truth and love, I share a common bond with many different types of people. I am grateful that many advanced teachers have protected and preserved the teachings of dhamma since the days of Buddha, and I understand the importance of obeying the guidelines of my teachers, but I am not a protector. I am an explorer of truth and love, and meditation is showing me the path forward. Instead of driving people away, I’ve found this perspective to be inspiring and inviting to all the people in my life. Maybe it will help you too. Time to meditate.

Stuck Between Two Worlds

Meditating in Goenka’s tradition is isolating. You attend a silent 10 day retreat full of profound internal discovery, and you return home to a life that supports a different purpose. You look for support from group sittings, but usually there isn’t one close by or the local sitting is poorly attended. You might find some support from a meditation app, but you still feel like you’re living two lives: your life on the cushion and your life in the world. Most resolve this disparity by either stopping meditation or isolating themselves; Neither option is ideal.

By moving to Delaware and supporting a new Center, I thought I finally figured out a way to do both, but to date, it hasn’t been easy. Now in its 4th year, Dhamma Pubbananda continues to grow, but the constant need for servers makes it feel more like a personal drain than a support. I repeatedly cycle between being over-consumed by the Center and avoiding all Center responsibilities. It feels like the Center is always in survival mode, and this prevents the healthy environment that would be conducive to building supportive relationships.

The idealist in me believes that the Center just needs a few more years to establish itself; The pessimist struggles to justify the turmoil this startup phase creates in certain individual’s lives. Life is full of complicated challenges, and I still believe that Vipassana offers more hope than difficulty, but it’s clear that with the current setup, only the most dedicated meditators can successfully navigate the arduous path set forth by Goenka. If Vipassana is going to establish itself with the general public, we’re going to need to find better ways to provide uplifting relationships to newcomers. I think there’s more to it than simply continuing to meditate and trusting dhamma to fix it. We need to work together to formulate new strategies for success knowing that some strategies will fail. We need to be flexible to adapt to the new challenges of today’s world. Together, I believe we can find a positive path forward for our tradition. Time to meditate.

Helping the World

Taking 10 days to sit a Vipassana course is hard. Sitting 2 hours a day is even harder. But there is a hunger in our society to learn more about meditation. Our society is deteriorating because of the abundance of anger, fear, greed, stress, and anxiety, and meditation can directly reduce all of these negative qualities. It’s time for Vipassana meditators to join the conversation of how to help our society. There is an abundance of research showing that small amounts of breath observation can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life. Mindfulness is spreading, but many of the people teaching it have far less training regarding students of Goenka. We have wisdom to contribute, and we should take it into our communities rather than wait for people to come to a course.

We also have a lot to learn about how to teach Anapana. Goenka focussed on perfecting the 10 day course, and only late in his life did he create the Anapana for all video. Other groups have been experimenting with how to transmit breath awareness training to diverse populations, and some have perfected their techniques. We shouldn’t let our egos prevent us from learning from them. A math professor can learn teaching techniques from a high school teacher even though the teacher has a limited understanding of higher level math. The world needs dhamma, and people are searching for answers. Let’s find new ways to help people see the benefits of meditation. This may help them to develop the strength and confidence to sit a 10 day course and grown their daily practice. Time to meditate.

Start Again

I started this blog six years ago to challenge myself to articulate the many complicated thoughts I had in my head in the early stages of my Vipassana practice. One year ago I discovered that my vision for Vipassana as taught by SN Goenka was different from many within the tradition, so I started to walk a parallel path separate from the organization even while maintaining my daily practice. During that year, I discovered that I could be a strong leader in my community if I spoke my truth from my heart, but also realized that most of my compassionate wisdom had come from Vipassana. I’m returning to this blog because I want to find answers, and I need your help. Our world desperately needs truth and love to overcome our many challenges. I believe Vipassana can help lead us in a better direction, but it’s not currently fulfilling that potential. Let’s put our heads together and see if we can find some solutions. Time to meditate.

Student Social Contract Following Parkland Shooting

Following the school shooting that killed 17 high school students in Parkland, FL, I wrote this social contract to offer support for my students in a confusing time. 263 students signed it. Our children want to come together to help build a better future. Let’s help them!

With this Social Contract, we will build the foundation for a positive future together:

While the Parkland shooting is frightening and devastating, I refuse to allow my life to be overpowered by fear, anger, or helplessness. I understand that there are many factors in this world that I cannot control, but I will not let these outside factors define what my life is about. When I am scared, I will reach out to friends, family, and other adults who can support me to borrow their courage to face my daily challenges with an open heart and open mind. When I am strong, I will provide support and friendship for anyone who needs it. When confronted by adversity, I will join hands with others in my community to face these difficulties together. When a community member offers an opposing opinion from my own, I will listen with an open mind, share based on my best understanding, and unite over the common goal of love. I know that we can build a healthy and inspiring future for our community if we work together. Every day, I will invest my energy into creating a positive future full of optimism, compassion, and innovation for the benefit of all people.

Your Mind Becomes Your Physiology



As Goenkaji says, whatever arises in the mind arises simultaneously on the body as a sensation. There is no separation between thoughts, emotions and body sensations.  However we are conditioned in western society to experience the mind and body as separate. We go to a psychologist for our minds and a doctor for our body.  People in the west often live from their heads and can be dissociated from their body.  This can have far reaching implications for health, it’s easier for disease to get a foothold if we do not inhabit our body.

It’s interesting as an acupuncturist to witness how the mind becomes our physiology. Our mind actually becomes our body and we can know our Sankaras or reaction patterns by looking at the physical symptoms we have or even by how the body appears. Every moment our mind is producing a certain biochemistry which produces our physiology and over time it becomes our physical structure.  It’s not enough for me to put acupuncture needles in to make the symptoms go away if through a behavior pattern the symptoms are constantly being reinforced.  It’s a very disempowering place for a patient to be when they think that whatever is happening is random and out of their control and they are looking for an expert outside of them to fix them. It’s much more empowering when they can see their own mind/body relationship and see how they maybe contributing.  The beauty of vipassana is that it helps us change our underlying behavior patterns to affect real lasting change.

There are 5 general constitutional types.

The water constitutional type has the theme of reacting to life through the lens of fear. Fear can show up in different ways such frozenness, anxiety, intensity, urgency, over ambition, never-ending go-go-go, extreme risk taking, orthodoxy, or isolation. Fear is a contraction or excess of the life force rooted in aversion. The habit of fear erodes on the kidneys and the adrenals as the nervous system is always on and in vigilance mode, it hastens the aging process, can lead to burnout and exhaustion, it can cause hyper or hypo thyroidism,  hinders the body from resting and rejuvenating, it can lead to teeth or bone issues, also lower back pain and knee pain.   

The wood constitutional type has a theme of reacting to life through the lens of anger. Anger rises quickly and can cause tension and constraint in the body.  It can show up as being judgmental,  being at loggerheads with obstacles and not finding creative ways around them, brash action, anger can tend to see things in terms of black and white/ good and bad.  Pathological anger can cause headaches, skin rashes, hypertension, irritable bowel, ulcers, heart attacks, strokes and pain anywhere in the body.  An inflamed mind can also lead to an inflamed  body.

The fire constitution has a theme of reacting to life through the lens of joy. Joy becomes pathological when there’s excess like too much excitement and manic behavior which can lead to heart issues such as palpitations, tachycardia and heart attacks. It can also lead to insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, agitation and being out of sorts.

The earth constitution type sees life through the lens of over thinking, worry and pensiveness. Worry can show up as having lots of thoughts about things but never taking effective action on them, analysis paralysis,  over thinking can show up as  intellectualization or constantly grazing on ideas which don’t bear fruit or thinking which over complicates situations.  This can have a real effect on our digestive system leading to things like nausea, fatigue, weight gain, bloating, difficult digestion, phlegm and mucous issues, diarrhea or constipation, also too headaches. 

The metal constitution see’s life through the lens of sadness and grief. Grief can show up as heaviness, tiredness, apathy and depression.  Grief over time weakens the lungs and can impair immunity, can lead to asthma, bronchitis, coughing, mucous issues in the lungs and sinuses and allergies.

These are just some examples in brief about how certain habits of mind can show up physically and how the mind and body is in constant interaction.  Our body is constantly communicating with us and we have a lot of things to alert us when things are getting out of balance.  When things are off in the body we can reflect and ask ourselves what is going on in our minds. Goenkaji calls these our private secretaries. 

At the same time it is the nature of the body to break down and deteriorate and we might have conditions that we just inherited karmically. We are lucky though to have the Dhamma to work with suffering that arises whether from recent or long-standing conditions. 

Relationships of Truth Not Perception

Nothing feels better than being accepted for who you are at the deepest levels of your truth. While it’s easy for anyone to appreciate our strengths, individuals who still accept and love us after understanding our darkest moments and witnessing our most hidden weakness are the people we acknowledge as our closest friends. As humans, social connections are pivotal to our happiness. We dress, talk, and act like the people around us because we want to fit in. We often straddle the line of being who we are and being who others want us to be without knowing which parts of us are which. It’s just as easy to get lost in abundant compliments as no compliments at all. We’re continuously searching for our authentic truth beneath the facade of superficiality we present to the world.

As I look out into this world, my stomach turns from the discrepancy between our perceived blissful surface reality and our ominous foundations we are secretly destroying. We pretend that our lives are full of joyful accomplishments while we sulk in our worries for the future. We’re afraid to say what we really feel because we don’t want to be ostracized from our social communities. We spend every waking hour trying to follow the script that was given to us without knowing how the story ends or what we’re trying to accomplish along the way. We’re afraid to question our true intentions because we doubt that people would still like us if they really knew who we were.

Well I have a secret for you: everyone is lonely sometimes, everyone has flaws, and we’re all different. True friends are the people who are willing to listen to your authentic truth and support you no matter what challenges you are facing in your life. These true friends are the ones you will still be in contact with you 5, 10, even 20 years down the road. Those friends who expect you to always be perfect will disappear from your life as soon as difficult struggles appear on your timeline. Struggles are not bad fortune. Struggles are opportunities to grow as an individual and to grow in your relationships. Every life is full of ups and downs. Don’t hide from your struggles, and don’t hide your struggles from your true friends. And when a friend approaches you to discuss a difficult topic, sit with them, hold them, and love them with your whole heart. If you can do that, I promise that they will be there for you when you need them down the road. There are many good people in this world. If one person lets you down, let it go and move on. Keep searching. Keep exploring. Keep living, no matter what.

We are facing many real challenges in our world today. Let’s stop pretending that they don’t exist. Instead, let’s use these challenges as opportunities to help our friendships grow to deeper levels. Let’s discuss the real struggles in our world openly and honestly, and maybe we will be able to overcome these obstacles together. We will make mistakes, and some people will call these mistakes failures, but who cares what they think? We know that the only way through this mess is forward so let’s go! Be real, be honest, and be loving, and let’s see if we can leave a positive mark on this world together.