Hold It All


Category: Saint Louis Mindfulness Sangha

The Good News of a Sangha, 3.25.2017

Five years ago today, Jenn Reyes Lay and I started a  St. Louis sangha in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh.   Annie Fitzgerald offered Sophia House  on Gibson Avenue for our first gathering. Many wonderful people have shared the fruits of their practice with us during these 60 months: sitting, walking, singing, reciting the precepts, slowing down, studying the Heart and Diamond Sutras,  offering retreats  in the country, and facilitating mindful dinners.

As poet Diane di Prima wrote in her poem Life Chant, May it continue!



The Good News of a Single Blueberry, 3.19.2017

Almost five years ago, Erin Szopiak organized a mindful dinner for some of our friends: Everything for the menu had been grown locally, several of us helped prepare the meal in the King’s spacious kitchen, we savored most of the meal in calm silence, and, for dessert, Erin offered each of us a single blueberry, which we were to appreciate slowly, involving our sight, smell, touch, and taste.  Erin invited us to the wonder of the here and now!

Coming Up

Friday 3 March: discussion of Svetlana Alexeievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets, with Lori and Helen at Handlebar Restaurant

Saturday 4 March: sharing with sangha on In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon at Madalyn’s

Sunday 5 March: Share the Wealth with Tony Albrecht—the case for impeaching Donald Trump—at Savannah and Jessie’s

Wednesday 8 March: Spring Writing Class, Good News Variations, begins at New City School for eight weeks


The good news is still that I was able to visit Italy for a four-week honeymoon in 1992

The good news is still that I was able to visit Italy for a four-week honeymoon in 1992

What Jarvis Learned

At a recent gathering of the Saint Louis Mindfulness Sangha, I shared the following excerpt from Pema Chödrön’s book, Go to the Places That Scare You…

The second of the three lords of materialism is the lord of speech. This lord represents how we use beliefs of all kinds to give us the illusion of certainty about the nature of reality. Any of the “isms”–political, ecological, philosophical, or spiritual–can be misused in this way.  “Political correctness” is a good example of how this lord operates. When we believe in the correctness of our view, we can be very narrow-minded and prejudiced about the faults of other people.

For example, how do I react when my beliefs about the government are challenged? How about when others don’t agree with how I feel about homosexuality or women’s rights or the environment? What happens when my ideas about smoking or drinking are challenged? What do I do when my religious convictions are not shared? Read the rest of this entry »

Agenda, Second Saturday Sangha 12 November 2016

Opening/The Heart Sutra
The Bodhisattva Avalokita, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty. After this penetration, he overcome all pain.

“Listen, Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness.”

“Hear, Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing. Therefore, in emptiness there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formations, nor consciousness; no eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind, no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind; no realms of elements (from eyes to mind-consciousness); no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to death and decay); no suffering, no origination of suffering, no extinction of suffering, no path; no understanding, no attainment.

“Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattvas, supported by the perfection of Understanding, find no obstacles for their minds. Having no obstacles, they overcome fear, liberating themselves forever from illusion and realizing perfect Nirvana. All Buddhas in the past, present, and future, thanks to this Perfect Understanding, arrive at fill, right, and universal Enlightenment.

“Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding is a great mantra, is the highest mantra, is the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of all suffering, the incorruptible truth. A mantra of Prajnaparamita should therefore be proclaimed. This is the mantra:

“Gaté, gaté, paragaté, parasamgaté, Bodhi svaha.” Read the rest of this entry »

Gathas Written at Northwest Coffee, 11.9.2016


Breathing in, all this toxicity
Breathing out, compassion is available


Breathing in, noticing this state of being stunned
Breathing out, realizing this state is impermanent


Breathing in my friends’ despair
Breathing out: May their vigor return


Surely he had been been tested in hell
The Tibetan offered a song with these lines:
Lack of mindfulness will allow the negative forces to overcome you
Without mindfulness and presence of mind, nothing can be accomplished


Breathing in, I remember Nhat Chi Mai
Breathing out, I regain my balance

Sunday Share the Wealth with Melissa–Coming Back to Life: Healing through Self-Care, Presence, and Service

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

Melissa will talk about her passion for helping others learn to take charge of their wellness through self-care, presence, and doing things that make them feel alive. She will share her website, some photography, and a little drumming.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sangha Discussion Book for the Next Few Months

Sangha Book Discussion

We Inter-Continue

I continue in you
You continue in me

Maybe you will influence life
In northwest China in 15 years

Maybe I will influence life
In southern Nigeria in 22 years

We are the continuation of Thay
Thay is the continuation of Tang Hôi

Mindfulness Has Genius, Power, and Magic in It

At this morning’s discussion of Thay’s The Art of Communicating, Madalyn spoke  about how she notices more interconnections the more she practices mindfulness.  This reminded me of the following reflection from W. H. Murray, which I’ve adapted:

Until one is committed
There is hesitancy
The chance to draw back
Always ineffectiveness

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation)
There is one elementary truth
The ignorance of which
Kills countless ideas and splendid plans
That the moment one definitely commits oneself
Then providence moves too

All sorts of things occur to help one
Which would never otherwise have occurred

A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one’s favor
All manner of unforeseen incidents & meetings & material assistance
Which no man could have dreamt would have come his way
I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”