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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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2024-05-15 Developing Concentration (Samadhi) 1 64:02
There are two main forms of meditation as taught by the Buddha: Developing concentration and developing insight. We explore how they go together, the nature of concentration (samadhi), and the different ways of developing samadhi. We also look at some of the typical challenges of developing samadhi, particularly over-active minds, sleepiness and low energy, and over-efforting. Throughout there is an emphasis on finding ways to integrate active effort with ease and relaxation. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-05-15 Guided Meditation: Developing Concentration (Samadhi) 36:25
At the beginning, there is a short discussion of the nature and importance of cultivating concentration or samadhi, followed by practical meditative guidance at the beginning and during the session.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-04-10 Ten Ways of Deepening Practice 66:11
We continue with the main ways of deepening practice identified in the talk from the week before, based on ways of deepening experienced in Donald's March four weeks of retreat. We go into more depth on each of the ten, inviting listeners to choose one or two ways of deepening for the next period of time. The talk is followed by discussion, and there's a downloadable pdf listing the ten ways of deepening practice (see below).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Ten Ways of Deepening Practice by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2024-04-03 Ways of Deepening Practice and Taking One's Next Steps: Reflections on a Four-Week Retreat 51:05
Following four weeks of Donald's personal retreat, he identifies a number of ways of deepening practice that he experienced and that we might bring into our lives. The invitation is to see what one or two or three ways of deepening resonate and seem to call us to our "next steps." Among the ways of deepening are going on retreats (understood as periods of intensive training), staying in touch with and periodically remembering one's deeper intentions, pausing and stopping regularly, clarifying priorities, the importance of working with the subtle energy body, opening to non-doing in meditation and daily life, integrating awareness and metta, and finding ways of regularly coming back if stuck, caught in reactivity, or lost in thought. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-02-28 Transforming the Judgmental Mind 2 64:50
We begin by reviewing some and expanding last week's introduction to practicing to transform the judgmental mind, including clarifying our language and the way that in English "judgment" can ambiguously mean either an expression of the judgmental mind or a non-judgmental discernment. We identify examples of the judgmental mind, and point to how it can be understood in terms of the sequence of contact to grasping (and pushing away) in the Buddha's teaching on Dependent Origination, how negative judgments (in the sense of the judgmental mind) typically come out of unacknowledged or unprocessed pain. We also point to how our practice with the judgmental mind, as it goes deeper, begins to identify "limiting beliefs," often from childhood, that generate our most chronic judgments. We end the talk with naming a number of ways to practice with the judgmental mind. The talk is followed with discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-02-28 Guided Meditation Exploring the Judgmental Mind 37:15
After a period of settling and general mindfulness practice, we invite noticing and being with any expressions of the judgmental mind (here called "judgments") if they occur. In the second part of the guided meditation, there is also a more direct investigation of a selected judgment, exploring it at the levels of body, emotions, and thought, and seeing whether any underlying painful or difficult experience can be noticed. We close with a brief three-part self-compassion practice (from Kristin Neff).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-02-21 Transforming the Judgmental Mind 1 68:12
We frame the session in terms of there being three main inter-related aims of our practice: (1) developing wisdom and insight, (2) cultivating the kind heart and compassion, and (3) acting skillfully and ethically in all the parts of our life. In this context, it's interesting that having insight can still be connected with reactivity; it's possible to be both "right" and see something clearly, and be obnoxious. We look at one major way in which insight can be enmeshed with reactivity--what I call "the judgmental mind." We first clarify how "judgment" in English is ambiguous, sometimes meaning judgmental, sometimes meaning discerning without reactivity. The judgmental mind combines typically some kind of noticing, insight, observation, etc. with reactivity, and the key to transforming the judgmental mind is to work through the reactivity, using multiple tools. The last part of the talk outlines our major tools for transforming the judgmental mind, and invites next week's practice. We then have a discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-01-31 Integrating Metta Practice with Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight Practice 2 64:31
We continue to explore how we might practice metta (and other heart practices) in a way integrated with mindfulness, wisdom, and insight, building on last week's session. We begin looking at some of the ways historically and culturally that the "mind" and "reason" have been separated from emotion, dating from Plato and the Greeks, and continued in the modern world with the understanding of reason and science as separate from emotion (and the body). This has been a major part of our social and cultural conditioning, evident in how mainstream education occurs, and also linked with gender conditioning. We also examine how, dating from Buddhaghosa's text, the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), from the 5th century, metta and compassion has been labeled as practices leading to concentration, and not as linked directly with wisdom and awakening. This has been the basis for the 20th century Burmese approaches to metta and mindfulness, which have been the main influences in the West. However, when we look to the Buddha's actual teachings, as well as later Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings, we find much more of a connection between metta, compassion, and wisdom. We can see this in a number of texts which we explore, including ones in which the heart practices are seen as leading directly to wisdom, and development in awakening. In the last part of the talk, we explore ways that we can, in our formal and informal practices, integrate metta and wisdom. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-01-31 Guided Meditation: Mindfulness, Metta, Radiating Metta, and Metta-Infused Mindfulness 39:03
We begin with about 10 minutes of settling with our mindfulness (or another) practice. This is followed by about 5 minutes of practicing metta where it flows as easily as possible, and then by a guided practice in radiating metta, extended to radiating in a boundless way. We then return to a brief way of practicing radiating metta without visualization, followed by returning to mindfulness, infused with metta.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2024-01-24 Integrating Metta Practice with Wisdom, Awareness, and Insight Practice 1 63:04
We often hear that the heart of the teachings and practice is to connect wisdom and compassion, clear seeing and the kind heart, developing what Jack Kornfield calls the "wise heart." Yet such a connection or integration can be challenging in several ways. First of all, we have major conditioning in modern Western culture to separate the "mind" and the "heart" (or emotions), as well as the body. Also we find tendencies in the Theravada tradition to see Metta practice as separate from Insight practice, as in the way that Buddhaghosa in the influential text, the Visuddhimagga, lists Metta practice as a form of Concentration practice, and in some of the ways that Metta is taught as a complement to insight practice in the West. In this talk, we begin to explore what it might look like to integrate more fully Metta and wisdom, mindfulness, and insight, both in formal practice and daily life. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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