Rebecca spoke on Community Building as a Spiritual Practice at A Night of Philosophy and Ideas on February 2

 

 

On February 2, 2019, Rebecca spoke as part of the Tricycle team at A Night of Philosophy and Ideas held at the Brooklyn Public Library.  The event was a 12-hour long feast of intellectually-stimulating talks, music and films from 7 pm to 7 am on Feb 2-3.  Her talk entitled “Community Building as a Social, Political and Spiritual Practice” at 8 pm opened the series of talks following the keynote speech by Kwame Anthony Appiah of Princeton University.  Her talk can be viewed at the one-hour mark of this livestream recording here.  In this talk, she brings together sociological insights of how a sense of belonging is generated when we gather in groups and Buddhist insights using Chan practice to cultivate awareness of how we may be creating suffering for ourselves and others without intending to while doing so.  She also discusses how Chan practice can help us build communities that are connect and support us without generating hatred and anxiety.  One of the questions we can ask in our practice is: “Do we know how we are building a sense of belonging in our community?

RL#3
(Photo provided by Tricycle Magazine)

She wants to acknowledge Julia Hirsch at the Tricycle who encouraged her to explore this subject matter in deciding a topic for the event.  Her Tricycle team worked hard in this incredible event.

The Tricycle Team
The Tricycle team with Julia Hirsch holding the sign. (Photo provided by Tricycle Magazine)

It was a real pleasure to meet Mindy Newman who teaches at the Tibet House.

Mindy Newman
Mindy Newman spoke on keeping calm in a raging world as a Buddhist psychotherapist (Photo provided by Tricycle Magazine)

it was lovely meeting Bo-Mi Choi, director of Cambridge Zen Center, and learning about her dissertation work on Adorno and how she connected his work with Zen practice.

Bo-mi Choi
Bo-mi Choi spoke on The Enlightenment Project: Theodor W. Adorno & The Buddha. (Photo provided by Tricycle Magazine)

The rooms were packed with people and there were long lines going in and out of every time, even between the stacks!

 

 

Dharma Teaching and Activities Schedule (2016)

 

DATE

 

Event

 

Group and Location

Feb 24 (Wed) Rutgers meditation workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)–Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
Feb 28 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Four Great Vows in daily life, Part I) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Mar 4-6 Foundation Retreat Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Mar 20 (Sun) One-day Retreat (10 am to 4 pm) Newark Community Meditation Center (NCMC)–City Without Wall, Newark, NJ
April 6 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)—Graduate Student Lounge in Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
Apr 29-May 1 Beginner’s Mind Retreat (with Nancy Bonardi) Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
May 4 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)—Graduate Student Lounge in Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
May 22 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Embracing Chaos: Chan Practice in Our Tumultuous Times.) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
May 27-Jun 5 10-day Silent Illumination Retreat (with Simon Child) Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
August 5-7 Foundation Retreat Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
August 12-14 Beginner’s Mind Retreat Dharma Drum Vancounver Center
Sept 3-5 Beginner’s Mind Retreat (with David Slaymaker) Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Sept 7 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)—Graduate Student Lounge in Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
Sept 11 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Four Great Vows in Daily Life–Part II) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Sept 18 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ (http://www.ddmbanj.org/en)
Sept 19 (Mon) Meditation Workshop & Dharma Talk Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County, Yardley, PA (http://buddhistsangha.com/)
Sept 29 (Tue) Yale University—Meditation Workshop Yale University (http://chaplain.yale.edu/)
Oct 14-19 Western Zen Retreat (with Simon Child and Hilary Richards) Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Oct 26 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)—Graduate Student Lounge in Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
Oct 30 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ (http://www.ddmbanj.org/en)
Nov 6 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Transference of Merits in Chan Practice) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Nov 11-13 Foundation Retreat Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Nov 16 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)—Graduate Student Lounge in Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
Nov 20 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ (http://www.ddmbanj.org/en)
Nov 29 (Tue) Yale University—Meditation Workshop Yale University (http://chaplain.yale.edu/)
Dec 4 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Chan Practice and Making Wise Choices) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Dec 7 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)—Graduate Student Lounge in Student Center on College Avenue, New Brunswick
Dec 11 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ (http://www.ddmbanj.org/en)
Dec 28-Jan 1, 2017 Inward Bound Mindfulness Education Teen Retreat (with Jessica Morey, Rod Owen, Chris Crotty) Rolling Ridge Retreat Center, Andover, MA

Dharma Teaching and Activities Schedule (2017)

 

DATE

 

Event

 

Group and Location

Feb 7 (Tue) Yale University—Meditation Workshop on Compassion and Kindness (4-6 pm) Yale University (http://chaplain.yale.edu/)
Feb 13 (Mon) Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County Dharma Talk (7-9 pm) 65 N Main Street, Yardley, PA

http://buddhistsangha.com/2017/01/29/interdependence-embracing-lifes-ups-and-downs-rebecca-li/

 

Feb 15 (Wed) Rutgers meditation workshop (7-9 pm) Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)– The Cove, Busch Campus Center, Rutgers University
Feb 19 (Sun) One-day Retreat (10 am to 4 pm) Newark Center for Meditative Culture (NCMC)– seed
210 Market Street, Newark, NJ 07102 (nfo@newarkmeditation.org)
Feb 26 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ (http://www.ddmbanj.org/en)
Mar 3-5 Conference on Buddhism and Race Harvard Divinity School
Mar 8 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop (7-9 pm) Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)— The Cove, Busch Campus Center, Rutgers University
Mar 26 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (How is a Chan Practitioner to Handle Pride and Self-Righteousness?)  11 am to 12:30 pm Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Mar 31-Apr 2 Foundation Retreat Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Apr 12 (Wed) Rutgers University Meditation Workshop (7-9 pm) Dharma Meditation Community at Rutgers (DMCR)— The Cove, Busch Campus Center, Rutgers University
Apr 18 (Tue) Yale University—Meditation Workshop on Daily Life Practice (4-6 pm) Yale University (http://chaplain.yale.edu/)
Apr 30 (Sun) Beginner’s Meditation Class (9 am to 5 pm, vegetarian lunch provided) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ (http://www.ddmbanj.org/en)
May 7 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Topic: Cultivating Equanimity as a Chan Practitioner) 11 am to 12:30 pm Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
May 27-Jun 4 9-day Silent Illumination Retreat (with Simon Child) Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566
Jun 5-10 Generation-X Dharma Teachers Conference Blazing Mountain Retreat Center, Crestone, CO
July 30 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Topic: Cultivating Patience/Endurance as a Chan Practitioner) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Aug 4-6 (Fri-Sun) 3-day Chan Retreat Dharma Drum Vancouver Center
Aug 11-13 (Fri-Sun) Beginner’s Mind Retreat Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566  http://www.dharmadrumretreat.org/

 

Sept 10 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ

http://www.ddmbanj.org/en

 

Sept 12 (Tue) Yale University—Meditation Workshop (4-6 pm) Yale University

http://chaplain.yale.edu/

 

Sept 19 (Tue) 2017 Summer Meditation Series: Death and Dharma Greenwood Cemetery http://www.green-wood.com/event/death-and-dharma/2017-06-20/  in collaboration with Brooklyn Zen Center https://brooklynzen.org/calendar/

 

Sept 23 (Sat) Dharma Talk: Chan Practice and Bodhisattva Path Brooklyn Zen Center  https://brooklynzen.org/

 

Oct 9 (Mon) Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County Dharma Talk (7-9 pm) 65 N Main Street, Yardley, PA

http://buddhistsangha.com/2017/01/29/interdependence-embracing-lifes-ups-and-downs-rebecca-li/

 

Oct 15 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ

http://www.ddmbanj.org/en

 

Oct 13-18 (Fri-Wed) Western Zen Retreat (with Simon Child and Hilary Richards) Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566  http://www.dharmadrumretreat.org/
Nov 5 (Sun) Sunday Open House Talk (Topic: How is a Chan Practitioner to Handle Suspicion and Self-Doubt?) Chan Meditation Center, Queens, NY
Nov 14 (Tue) Yale University—Meditation Workshop (4-6 pm) Yale University

http://chaplain.yale.edu/

 

Nov 19 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ

http://www.ddmbanj.org/en

 

Nov 21-25 (Tue-Sat) Thanksgiving Chan Retreat Dharma Drum Retreat Center (DDRC), 184 Quannacut Road, Pine Bush, NY 12566  http://www.dharmadrumretreat.org/
Dec 8-10 (Fri-Sun) 3-Day Chan Retreat Dharma Drum Mountain San Francisco Bay Area Center

http://www.ddmbasf.org/

 

Dec 10 (Sun) Meditation Workshop (with David Slaymaker, 9 am to noon) DDMBA-NJ Chapter, Edison, NJ

http://www.ddmbanj.org/en

 

Reflections on my Western Zen Retreat in October 2018 at Dharma Drum Retreat Center (by D.S.)

I had searched for a retreat opportunity off and on for six months when I came across the Dharma Drum Retreat Center online. I registered for its Western Zen retreat after reading positive reviews but not exactly knowing what to expect.

The Western Zen Retreat ended up being a unique experience. It combined communication exercises with sitting meditation, daily dharma talks by retreat leader Rebecca Li, as well as some meditation “in action” activities and exercises – walks, a daily work contribution, and an evening activity that three out of four nights involved creative movement or dance.

There were various highlights. The meditation and communication exercises utilized a method that was familiar for me as a practitioner of vipassana-style meditation yet completely novel. They involved a form of inquiry – dropping a question into my mind that triggered the process of meditation itself. “Who am I?” was my question. It became the framework for the physical and mental subjective experience that followed during the formal seated meditation. I observed all of my mental, physical and emotional phenomena within the context of that question.

In some ways this was the same as other methods of meditation that I had used. Watching my breath, either with an intense or light focus, “just sitting” or shikantaza, a Japanese Zen style of meditation, body scanning, and mental noting (using labels such as “thinking”, “seeing in”, or “feeling” to mark the arising of various forms of subjective experience) were all styles of meditation that I had used to frame the perspective of a non-judgmental observer to my own moment-by-moment experience.

Inquiry was a kind of meditation I was familiar with, but this was the first time it formed the basis of highly focused meditation. Daily sits, about four times a day of silently observing everything that arose as if to provide an answer to the question of who I was. I found a rewarding experience from what you might call the question of being and identity and an excellent framework to get into the meditative zone.

At times, I saw it as a rhetorical question or device. At other times it engaged both the spiritual and philosophical roots of my own personal existence. Was “who am I” what I did? What I was? What I experienced or perceived, who my family and friends were, what I was proud of, ashamed of, my role my family, or my connection to the universe? Did it matter?

I soon learned that while most other participants had the same question, some, those who were repeat participants at the Western Zen Retreat, had other questions such as “What is my true nature” or “What is love”. In many ways these questions overlapped with mine and pointed to the less literal uses of the method.

The other revelatory part of the retreat was the communication exercises. For six, alternating five-minute intervals that amounted to 30 minutes in total I participated in a kind of dialogue with another “retreatant,” up to four or sometimes five times a day. With a new partner each time, we started by finding out each other’s names and our question. The bell rang and one of us asked the other our question. “Dan, please tell me, who are you?”

My partner or I then had five minutes to answer the question by saying whatever came to mind. As the first person talked, the other listened in a stance of non-judgmental attention, neither assenting to nor questioning anything that was said by their partner. Just being present. The bell ring and roles reversed, back and forth for a total of six times.

This was revelatory for two reasons. Number one, I was given a glimpse into the core subjective experience of my fellow retreatants. It felt like a glance into our mutual humanity. We all live quiet lives of desperation at times, questioning our identities, what we’ve done to ourselves or others, and our sufferings are so similar it can be eerie. What we hear when the other opens up in a context of trust blows away our inevitable prejudgments of whom we thought the other might be. Gender, race, age, physical appearance – none of that matters. It is one thing to believe that we were all similar but quite another to have it proved again and again over the course of a day.

The other revelation was to talk about myself for upwards of one hour or more each day to strangers, again and again confronting, at least to start with, the worst aspects of what I saw about myself. For reasons I perhaps cannot explain, on day one of the retreat I started with a deep need to talk about the parts of myself that I had the toughest time confronting.

But that changed as the days progressed. Within the context of confidentiality, I accessed deeply honest feelings about myself and found, even during the course of a single day, that I could gain a different, broader, more nuanced appreciation of various parts of my personality and history. By day five, I became less convinced I could label myself as one thing or the other and reached a point where, much different than where I started, I felt open, honest, and comfortable about the answer to my question.

Making all of this possible were the daily instructions and Dharma talks by Rebecca Li on method, the communication exercise and related topics, two meetings that I had with her during the retreat and one with her co-leader, Simon Child, and the overall manner in which she helmed the retreat. Rebecca was detailed, empathetic, at times injected humour, and spoke a common sense level and one that had a deeper resonance. Her instructions on how to employ the inquiry (or “huatou” in Chinese) method of meditation and the communication exercises made them easy to deploy and meaningful. The retreat grounds, buildings and vicinity were beautiful, the food generous and satiating, the dorms spare but clean.

There was also a daily morning service that involved Buddhist liturgy that, for the most part, had no references to any theological references. To the degree that there were any – to “deities” or taking refuge in the “three jewels” (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha) – I saw this as symbolic of a confidence or leap of faith in the process that helped me fully engage with the retreat methodology but did not necessarily take it literally.

In some ways what I accessed at the Western Zen Retreat was a greater sense of ease with myself. In others, a closer look at what starts with but goes well beyond words.