Hold It All

Category: Saint Louis Mindfulness Sangha


With the Sangha

I meditate to decelerate my rampaging mind
I meditate to focus on clear image of you smiling in Tahoe
I meditate on words of Hanshan and Wang Yang-ming

I meditate to be able to be present to people in crisis
I meditate (sit still) less than time I spend writing
I meditate in hopes of tastes of joy

I meditate with no big deal expectations
I meditate to save this wrecked up world
I meditate to put together this fragmented Shimmelevsky

I meditate on what would be my good fortune—
You move back to St. Louis and we sit and meditate
On Saturday mornings 9:30 a.m. week after week



Good Citizens

Dear Friends in the Sangha,

I first encountered The Miracle of Being Awake (later published as The Miracle of Mindfulness) in 1982, when a monk from the Abbey of Gethsemani gave me a mimeograph of an English translation of a manual for social workers in Vietnam. In the 30 years since then, Thich Nhat Hanh has applied his simple message of mindfulness to many key areas of our lives: The environment, healthy eating, peacemaking, public service, anger, intimate relationships, among many others. Read the rest of this entry »

Some of the Dharma/1

The dharma is everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are.

All emotion is from thinking.

In my mind there are three things: concentration, loving-kindness, and peace.

Your heart knows everything.

Thoughts of the past and future spoil your time.

–Dipa Ma
from Amy Schmidt, Dipa Ma: The Life and Teachings of a Buddhist Master

Dipa Ma

A Path with Pith

With the sangha a few years ago, I read many of the Buddhist sutras as well as Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentaries. It’s good to plunge in and read these classic texts in community. However, the Lotus Sutra was a bit too much for us and we didn’t finish. Perhaps I will resume it next year.

Nhat Hanh’s book The Path of Emancipation (Parallax Press, 2000) is based on talks and answers to questions from a 21-day retreat. While he addresses many themes in depth, what I find most useful are his short teachings, one-liners even, which, if I summon them at the right moment, are conducive to happiness, peace, and appreciation.

Here is a sample…

“The first element of the practice is to stop struggling.”

“Taking refuge in the Sangha is not a declaration of faith. It is a practice.”

“Everywhere is Plum Village.”

“The flower and the sunshine inter-are.”

“‘The here and now’ is the address of your true home, its zip code.” Read the rest of this entry »

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 »