A Not So Secluded Seclusion. 

​Normally at this time I’m getting ready to enter into a month of silent seclusion in February, but thats not in the cards this year. 

Just a little over a week until the start of the NYC Metta Retreat with Buddhist Insights. The goal of this retreat is to bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern practice, to show how the suttas can act as a guide for how we live our lives, even in modern times. 

I’ll be sticking around NY/NJ afterwards until the 19th as I will now be taking part in activities at a Catholic college, doing some meditation, metta, interfaith dialogue and who knows what else as part of a week long set of events at the college.

So the last two seclusions I experienced one aspect of the monks life,solitary meditative seclusion, this month I’ll be experiencing the other, sharing the dhamma with the people. I’m already feeling a little sad at not having a month to myself, but sharing the dhamma with others is always worth it.

The Truth: One Man’s letter to his Parents on the eve of leaving lay life for the monastery

*** As a quick introduction to this letter I wanted to give some explanation. This letter was written by me in the final weeks before moving to the monastery, some two and a half years ago now. 

This was a hard time on my family, their only son and oldest child leaving their lives, and so there was fear, confusion, and self-blaming. There are few times in my life where I have been as honest and bore my full inner “self” out in words as I did in this letter.

For three points of explanation that are relevant to this article, I was married in my mid 20s and helped my wife through a fight with cancer that eventually took her life over 10 years ago, and as a child I was deathly afraid of aliens and use to have dreams nightly that the greys would come for me and entertained thoughts of not being fully human. I also lived with and helped raise my nephew from the time he was 1 till age 10.

Some of my revealed thoughts may be taken in a bad light by some readers, but that is the price and vulnerability of being open. I promised myself long ago that I would be as open and honest as possible with my practice and who I am, to avoid hiding myself behind too thick a mask as humans tend to do, afraid to be open and honest for fear of rebuke. I want to do my best to live as an open book, with strengths and weaknesses out in the open.

I decided to do this because I know that brings benefit to others, as the few people who were willing to be open and vulnerable helped me in my practice. We are often so self judgemental and critical of our thoughts and feelings, thinking we are so horrible and different then everyone else, but my experience has shown this to be quite a false perception.

 I was reminded of this letter recently in speaking with a friend who is looking at following the same path, and now I present it here in hopes it may be of some benefit to others.***

The Truth

You asked for “the truth” of the reason why I want to renounce and become a monk. I have struggled for years to try and come up with a short answer that can be understood by the average western person, but the truth is there is no short easy answer. I will be as truthful and blunt as possible in this letter.

It’s no secret that the “conventional” world has never held me in much sway. I have never felt part of the “normal” world, never really wanted to be a part of it, and I always felt destined to rise above it in some way or another. I often wonder if that is why the whole “alien” thing came into play when I would jokingly say stuff like I was an alien. I think that was me trying to understand my feelings as a child.

While it’s true growing up I wanted to have a family, I also wanted to be someone free to do what I wanted and go where I wanted, free of the constraints of “conventional” society. The older I got the more I realized this was the idealistic dream of a young naive person.

With my experience being married and helping to raise Anthony these 8 years, I now understand much more about what it means to have children and raise a family, and I have zero desire to subject myself to that bondage as it has not brought me 1/10th the peace and happiness that my Buddhist practice has given me.

As far back as I could remember, I always felt a certain “dissatisfaction” in life. Even though I’ve had a great life, there is always something in the background, something I feel I’m missing, that kind of leaves me incomplete. I was never very attached to the “concept” that society tells us is how to live our lives and what should make us happy.

I think I was intuitive and understanding enough from an early age to recognize much of it does not bring happiness.Indeed it was in my early adolescent years when I first started experiencing the Dalai Lama on TV and books that I thought to myself ” why are these guys so happy, they have nothing.. whats going on there?”.

The years with Jackie also taught me much. Aside from the whole cancer situation making the marriage somewhat extraordinary, just the daily every day experience of “married life” lost its appeal to me as time went on. It may sound horrible but in a way when Jackie died part of me was happy to be free from marriage. I’m not sure if she had lived that we would of been married until death do us part, it’s certainly possible, but just as possible could of been an eventual divorce.I’m not saying I did not have love for Jackie, I did, but even still it did not bring me complete fulfillment.

While on the Topic of Jackie I wanted to address many peoples Hollywood assumptions that I am doing this because of my experiences with Jackie. If this were the case I would of tried to “run away” somewhere in the first year or two, but what did I do? Got a career and moved forward, even started dating and seeing other women again, until my meditation practice brought me to the point where I no longer needed such relationships.

I will say one thing however in that I will admit that Jackie was the tail end of a string of deaths that helped me see reality more clearly and opened up a deeper spiritual search that lay dormant inside me. Indeed as someone who has experienced more death and been to more funerals in 35 years then most people twice my age, how could it not? Life is short, why waste it on frivolous pursuits that don’t bring true peace and happiness?

For much of my life I have done my best to escape this world through movies and video games,but now I know to truly escape this world you cannot do it by running away, but by facing it head on.

You may think the average person faces the world head on, and becoming a monk is escaping the world, and I will probably not be able to change that, but those who have seen beyond understand.

This “conventional” world IS a movie, it IS a video game, it’s an illusion of our own creation, and we are just running around blind like chickens with our heads cut off trying to avoid things that bring us pain and suffering while trying to find happiness, pleasure, and peace in outward things like family, friends, entertainments, etc, when it has been my experience so far that the only true lasting peace and happiness I’ve ever experienced in this life comes from within.

If this is the case you do not need anything else, relationships, entertainments, and the various experiences of the “conventional” world, etc, because none of that will bring you true happiness and eventually will change or end, causing sadness, where as the steady happiness remains inside you and stems from you.

My whole life I searched for something that fit my world view, explained my experiences and the nature of life. It was not until I found Theravada Buddhism and the words of the Buddha that it all clicked… it all made perfect sense. This was the first time in my life I felt the missing pieces of the puzzle were found and placed in their rightful spots.

The Buddha taught about how we experience life and how there is a better way to experience life through changing how we perceive and interact with the world in a way that brings a person and those impacted by that person much peace and happiness.

This path has gone a long way in lessening the feeling of unsatisfactoriness I have with the world, which is the Buddha’s first of four noble truths, that there is said unsatisfactoriness, the second truth being the cause of this, which is our craving/clinging, the third truth being that there is a way beyond this unsatisfactoriness, and the fourth truth being the path of practice leading to that way.

This is something that calls to me, connects with me, and makes much more sense then anything I ever experienced in 12 years of Catholic school, being an altar boy and all those other experiences in the catholic church ever could. Instead of going through the motions and pretending to be something I am not, I can now be free to follow my heart to the utmost degree.

I have been lucky enough in my short 36 years on this planet to experience and gain wisdom from situations most people deal with over the whole course of a whole life. I am thankful for all of these experiences as they have shown me a way towards peace and freedom. I intend to take that path as far as I am able to take it.

I am not taking this path because of what anyone else has done or not done, there is no “blame” to be placed on anyone for me taking this path, nothing that someone else could of done or not done to “keep me from going”. This is all negative, fear filled thinking that has no grounding in truth and views my decision as some sort of affront to other people or that is some negative experience someone else is forcing me to do. This could all not be further from the truth.

This is a natural progression of the practice as I lessen my attachments, make peace with the world, and begin my journey beyond it.

Starting up a consistent meditation practice.

Are you having a hard time building a consistent daily meditation practice? Rather than worrying about how long your sessions should be, focus on really trying make daily meditation a habit.

Start out with the expectation of just sitting or walking for 5-10 minutes a day. Trust me when I say from experience that doing 5-10 minutes of meditation a day is much more fruitful then doing 30-60 minutes once or twice a week.

When you build up the habit of every day sitting, even for 5-10 minutes, you are creating a skillful habit that will bring you and others great benefit. As you start to see these benefits you will naturally have the desire to meditate longer periods and the seeds of your initial practice will grow.

That’s not to say it will be easy, or that you reach a point where meditation is all sunshine and rainbows. Meditation is hard work and you will have your good and bad days, cycles of practice where you feel like a meditation master followed right after by cycles that make you feel less then a newbie, it’s all the nature of the practice, and it’s all worth it. Consistently practicing through the ebbs and flows is how it’s done.

Remember consistency breeds stability, start small and build a strong base that will lead you to peace.

Let It Go, Let it Be – Setting up For Meditation


Let It Go

The above article is an oldie but goodie from my tumblr days, and a technique I still use to this day to great effect in my own practice. The full article is posted here in this new one below:

Let be the past, Let be the future, I shall teach you Dhamma – Mn79

If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace. – Ajahn Chah

“The Past is shadows and dust, the Future is shifting and uncertain, there is only this moment

I wanted to discuss another little meditation technique I’ve come to use myself that has worked quite well in terms of setting my mind right for the meditation ahead. This is actually a creation of my own which I believe is based off of a teaching of Ajahn Brahm that I can’t seem to remember much about. This is about letting go of all the things(past, present, and future) that our monkey mind wants to obsess about constantly so that you can more easily gain concentration in your meditation.

This is a temporary letting go, not a total one. It is suitable for all meditators, and is a very important step in the meditation process. I can tell you from experience that you will not get far in your meditation if you drag the world with you into it, although learning to let go is a gradual process, so don’t fret if it takes time. Let’s go directly to the technique then discuss some aspects of it after.

After you’ve done the normal preliminaries, sitting down, setting up posture, bringing mindfulness to the fore and starting to follow your meditation object, you can tell yourself:

  • “Let go of the Past, let be the Past”
  • “Let go of the Future, let be the Future”
  • “Let go of Responsibilities…”
  • “Let go of Work… ”
  • “Let go of Family…”
  • “Let go of Friends…”
  • “Let go of _______”

As always you can make it your own. You can use your own wording and add in anything else that may assail your mind that you’d like to let go of. It’s been my experience that as I go through this list I feel gradually and slowly like a burden is being put down, like atlas putting down the globe. There will be plenty of time after meditation to pick up the world again and carry it on our shoulders, but for now we can practice without the world invading our every waking thought moment. There is a gradual peace that arises and concentration comes easier.

Or not.

You may actually find this exercise to be anxiety and fear producing, this is a natural reaction to thinking about letting go of what and whom we are attached to. You can remind yourself that this is a temporary letting go, like taking a vacation. If that doesn’t work however and you have the strength to stay with it(if not that’s ok, I didn’t at first), then you have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness through the four frames of reference. You will then be looking deeply at what anxiety and fear does to your mind and body. You should attempt to observe objectively, like someone would sit down and watch a t.v, a total observer who has no direct interaction with what they are observing. This also is a skill that develops as you practice it, so don’t lose heart if it is hard.

“There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelingsmindmind-objects in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world._

Observe what the thoughts of letting go do to your mind state(emotional state) and to mind-objects(thoughts) themselves. Observe the base feeling of the state, and what it does to your body, including your breath. This is valuable direct personal experience that will be of great benefit to the practice. This will also tend to calm you down and lead to concentration and you can move forward with observing your meditation object from there.

So that is yet another simple technique that I’ve found benefit in. It’s been my experience as a meditator that over the years you create many such techniques as you work with your practice. Some stay with you , some you grow out of, some you forget, even as you create new ones. I share this one in hopes that it may be of some benefit to others.

“Let not a person revive the past Or on the future build his hopes; For the past has been left behind And the future has not been reached. Instead with insight let him see Each presently arisen state; Let him know that and be sure of it, Invincibly, unshakably.

Today the effort must be made; Tomorrow Death may come. who knows? No bargain with Mortality Can keep him and his hordes away, But one who dwells thus ardently, Relentlessly, by day, by night – It is he, the Peaceful Sage has said, Who has had a single excellent night. – MN 131


When Meditation Becomes A Chore

Join Me In NYC For A Weekend Of Metta

Metta Meditation Retreat: NYC February 3-5th

I will be leading a weekend retreat going over a variety of aspects of metta from the early Buddhist texts and showing how this practice is beneficial both on the cushion, and in every aspect of our daily lives.

The Retreat begins Friday, February 3rd  in the evening and goes to Sunday  afternoon and is totally free at the new meditation center by the NYC organization “Buddhist Insights”

You can “sign up” for the event by going to this link:



What is Metta Really about?

Metta is a wish for happiness — true happiness — and the Buddha says to develop this wish for ourselves and everyone else: “With metta for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart.” (Snp 1.8)
But what’s the emotional quality that goes along with that wish? Many people define it as “lovingkindness,” implying a desire to be there for other people: to cherish them, to provide them with intimacy, nurture, and protection. The idea of feeling love for everyone sounds very noble and emotionally satisfying.
But when you really stop to think about all the beings in the cosmos, there are a lot of them who — like the snake — would react to your lovingkindness with suspicion and fear. Rather than wanting your love, they would rather be left alone.
Others might try to take unfair advantage of your lovingkindness, reading it as a sign either of your weakness or of your endorsement of whatever they want to do. In none of these cases would your lovingkindness lead to anyone’s true happiness. When this is the case, you’re left wondering if the Buddha’s instructions on universal metta are really realistic or wise.

The Tree of Saṃsara

here is the FULL file for zooming and better quality : http://i.imgur.com/1L1KGiV.pngtree-of-samsara-v-1
I haven’t done any dhamma graphics in some time, but I had the idea for this a few weeks back and just finished it up now that I had more time.
This is essentially showing most of the main classifications of conditions that keep us in samsara. I know that the Taints and the Floods are not on here, but I felt them less well known and not as important(based on how often spoken about in suttas) to the overall scheme of the graphic.there is also only so much you can fit in without it getting to large and cluttered.
As we destroy the fetters we progress through the four stages of awakening from Stream-Enterer to Once-Returner, Non-Returner, Arahant.
The Buddha repeatedly gives the definition for Nibbana as the ending of greed, hatred, and delusion, often called the three roots of craving. And of course past craving we have the ultimate cause.. the root, of our bondage, ignorance, which upon it’s uprooting brings freedom.
For those who know Dhamma, feedback is always appreciated, especially if i’m blatantly wrong, I often go through multiple versions of these graphics and the point of them is to be as accurate and authentic as possible and not to mislead anyone.
Feel free to copy and share anywhere as much as you want. I put my info on the graphics for people to be able to contact me with feedback or concerns.

The Practice IS Life

The practice is not something you do to save you from life.. it IS life. Important words :


“One of the subtle problems that has crept into our meditation culture, is that we have the idea that our meditation is there in order to solve our problems.


We think : Meditation is there because we are stressed, so then we will do some meditation so we don’t get stressed. Meditation is there because we are feeling depressed, so we are going to do some meditation so we are not depressed, etc.


So its like everything else you do in your life is the thing that is dragging your meditation down, thats what is messing your mind up, and your meditation is there to fix your mind up. That is exactly the opposite of what the Buddha was teaching.


What the Buddha was teaching was to manage your life, so that all of those things you do in your life are creating positive, helpful, mindful states of mind, which will then be a support for your meditation.


So if you are seeing your life as being opposed to your meditation, if you feel your life is dragging your meditation down, you’re doing life wrong. Make your life into a life that is going to support your meditation.


All of those things the Buddha was talking about, the practice of generosity, the practice of kindness, of helping others and serving, the practice of keeping your precept, the practice of restraint. All of these things are things that are empowering your meditation.
Use your life to support your meditation, don’t use your meditation, to try to cure your life.”
– Ajahn Sujato

Investigation of Experience

Having Trouble Giving Metta to Yourself?

“You Better Recognize”

“The first step on our way to transcending dukkha is to recognize the fact that we’ve got it. Not everybody is willing to do that, not everybody is willing to admit that there is Dukkha in their lives.

One of our most popular pass times is to blame somebody else for it. It’s due to the partner, the children, the weather, the government, the Americans, the job, the boss, you name it, anything will do, and the mind justifies that.

If we get stuck in that, blaming someone or something else outside of ourselves for our dukkha, we haven’t got a spiritual path. In fact, we can just as well forget about meditation. Meditation has to be embedded in spiritual living.This means one gives up one’s thinking about external matters and finds the truth within oneself.

If we are still concerned with blaming something else outside of ourselves for our Dukkha, that needs to be a contemplation.That contemplation can be extremely enlightening, because the question is, why am I blaming this or that for my Dukkha? because the answer will be, “because I don’t like it the way it is, and that’s exactly what Dukkha is, I don’t like things the way they are, I want them different, that is how our dukkha arises. This is the first and second Noble Truths.

Now accepting things the way they are, doesn’t mean that we can’t discriminate. It doesn’t mean that we are bereft of discrimination between good and evil, it would be dreadful, we wouldn’t be able to keep our precepts, but we refrain from blaming anything that happens for our own unhappiness. We see that our unhappiness is caused by ourselves, because of dissatisfaction with the way things are.”

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