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Dharma PhD Update, 2021 Q3

January

Practice

Daily 0.5-1.0 hour metta practice (TWIM-esque). As we prepare to move and upend our life, I’m finding my mind quite unsettled. For a few days I only practiced guided body scans; I found I needed the support of someone talking me through it. But eventually I was able to get back on the cushion in silence; the trick for me was to let go of all the self-inflicted pressure to “do it right”. So what if I sit on my cushion for 30 minutes and my mind is all over the place? Better that than no sitting at all. And, just as one would expect, once I sat down I made it to an hour. Back on track. :)

10-Day Jahna Retreat with Leigh Brasington hosted by Dharmachanics.

Scholarship

Starting work on Dharma PhD EP6. But with the move and the retreats and the “Discourse” work, I’m not confident I’ll release an episode in February. This bugs me, but as BooBear reminds me, it’s about my path. Not about the podcast.

Discourse

Buddha Bites Podcast: I’m continuing to re-master the audio and weekly re-release the back catalog of Season 1. I’m enjoying touching back into these little nuggets. :)

Inaugural Bodhi College “Community Course”. Bodhi College. Online.

I’m really very grateful that the group agreed to move over to Discourse. More frequent communication throughout the 3 weeks between calls has allowed me to feel much more connected.
There’s not a huge influx of communication, but it’s certainly more than what was happening on Moodle.

We are talking about moving another community group over to Discourse, which may mean that I join that group as well. This is an advantage, as they meet later in the day and will be more accessible to me when we move to the west coast of the US. :)

Dharma PhD Blog

6 Posts in January!

I do a ton of work when I’m preparing a podcast episode. I parse out these dharma talks, build mind maps, read books, etc. It would be great to be able to blog about that as well. Tiago Forte talks about re-using material. If I took more time when preparing the talks, I could, perhaps, be producing more (useful!) output for myself and others. My initial response is that this will slow me down. But if I’m just going to revisit the material later, maybe the work will help out my future self. #Creative Exhaust

Dharmachanics. Online Sangha.

I sent in a request to join this group. They seemed to be based around FB, which might mean it’s not viable for me… but they do seem to have peer-to-peer dialogue groups. We’ll see!

Teaching

MBSR-esque 1-hour meditation sessions for staff and faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Online.

Meta

I’ve learned about a concept, Personal Knowledge Management, It’s no longer just about learning. How does one keep all this stuff in their head? It’s something that’s been troubling me especially regarding translations. How do I keep track of all the different things that different teachers say about this [[Pāli]] word “[[Vedanā]]”? [[Tiago Forte]] has a concept, a [[Second Brain]]. It’s what I’m hoping to use this new software, [[Roam Research]] to manage. Tiago has blogged recently that he has received a book deal, and since I’m not ready yet to spend $1.5K to take his courseI’m hoping it comes out soon!
I’ve now put all the blog post transcripts and other private transcribed talks into the Roam Research database. I’m looking forward to getting time to play around with the connections.

Another concept I encountered in January: Learning in Public. It’s exactly what Seth Godin is talking about, but here’s a phrase for it. The beauty of it is that the more of us do this, the better we will be, as a culture, at accepting that people are learning. We don’t have to all be masters in order to confidently speak on a subject. We can all start something new because we understand that you don’t have to be great when you begin. I’m pleased to be quietly a part of this revolution. :)

February – September

Practice

I just looked back at the most recent DPhD Update post… 2020 Q4. :blush: I laughed outloud when I read the closing sentence: “It will be interesting to see if 2021 can be a year of greater tranquility and ease.” It reminded me of Jule Nolke’s series on YouTube “Explaining the Pandemic to My Past Self”.

Still, in the interest of posterity, here we go:

At the beginning of the 8-week road trip I took a ten-day retreat at [[Assateague National Seashore]]. It was a treat to spend time with the ponies. Practicing solo was a challenge, but the instructor I had originally signed up with had to cancel. Luckily I’d already carved out the time and booked the campsite; it was a learning experience, to be sure. My first self-guided [[Metta]]/Jhāna retreat.

I had expected I’d meditate a ton on said road trip, but after the retreat I got on the road and practice fell off a cliff. I felt “rushed” on the trip; there was a deadline of sorts for me to finish the thing, and I didn’t take as much time to rest and recharge as I ought to have. Note for next time. Nine or ten weeks would have been better.

July-August I attended two online retreats with Leigh Brasington, the first 5-days co-taught with Heather Sundberg on Dependent Origination. The second just Leigh on DO. He has a new book coming out on the topic; it was interesting to see what he brought to the dhamma talks.

These two retreats did help to re-set my practice, but I also had the good fortune of said aforementioned Leigh having enough time to accept a Mentoring relationship with me. He and I have been discussing practice and off-the-cushion stuff quite a bit. It’s been incredible to be supported by, and to become friends with, such an experienced practitioner and teacher. (Moral of this story; if you think you’d like to be in a mentoring relationship with a teacher, just ask! Nothing to lose, and they might say yes. :smile:)

September my practice is roughly an hour roughly three days a week. I don’t love this, but we are still getting settled in the new place and I’ve had to dial back my expectations to something manageable. I feel the urgency of increasing my practice but I think it is most skillful to stay in a kind of maintenance mode until at least October.

Though I did not sit as much as I had hoped during the road trip, I did spend time being present in the most beautiful natural environs. And that was worth the skipped cushion time.

Scholarship

In February I joined a second Community Group with Bodhi College. The presumption was that, because Group 1 met at 0300 Pacific Time, I would no longer attend. But so far, I’ve managed to attend all of them!

Topics we have covered in the two groups:

CG1

  • January 13th, 2021, Vedanā, section from Venerable Anayālo’s 2003 book (PhD Thesis) Satipaṭṭhāna , the Direct Path to Realization.
  • February 3rd, 2021, continuing with Vedanā from the BCBS 2017 Vedanā Conference. This time Judson Brewer’s Feeling is Believing and Paul R Fleischman’s Vedanā and the Wisdom of Impermanence: We are Precipitants Within the Experiments of the Universe.
  • February 24th, 2021, continuing with Vedanā from the BCBS 2017 Vedanā Conference. This time Anurag Gupta’s Vedanā of Bias.
  • March 17th, 2021, continuing with Vedanā from the BCBS 2017 Vedanā Conference. This time John Peacock’s Vedanā, Ethics and Character: A Prolegomena.
  • [[June 9th, 2021]] we discussed [[Papañca]], using a talk by [[Christina Feldman]] to anchor the discussion.
  • June 30th, 2021 continuing with Papañca, this time around an essay by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu.
  • [[July 21st, 2021]] we listened to and discussed a talk by [[Yuka Nakamura]] about [[Saṃvega]].
  • September 8th, 2021, from Bodhi College’s last Thinking Out Loud Seminar on Saṃvega, hosted by Marc Akincano Weber and Yuka Nakamura. I was not super into this idea previously, but I’ve come around.
  • September 29th, 2021, Bodhi College’s recent Thinking Out Loud Seminar on Joy, hosted by Jake Dartington and Celeste Young. See notes from the CG2 22SEP session.

CG2

  • [[June 23rd, 2021]] we reviewed an excerpt from [[Stephen Batchelor]]’s work in progress on [[Buddhanature]].
  • July 14th, 2021 we spent time sharing about our own practice. Metta and Jhānas for this guy!
  • September 1st, 2021, we spoke about the fruits of practice and a little about Paṭiccasamuppāda and Transcendental Dependent Origination. I learned that for some people, Dependent Origination is a sort of description of Buddhist Hell. That surprised me.
  • September 22nd, 2021, we discussed Bodhi College’s recent Thinking Out Loud Series 3 seminar hosted by Jake Dartington and Celeste Young, “Joy”. We discussed the different words that are used to translate “Joy” and I am now convinced that neither Pīti nor Mudita actually mean the thing we mean when we use the English “Joy”. I think “joy” may simply be the “going out” of the fires of infatuation, aversion, and confusion.

Man. That’s a crazy lot of material. Study Groups are the best!

After Buddhism and Beyond

From February to May I attended a 12-part seminar hosted by [[Bodhi College]] and taught by [[Stephen Batchelor]] titled “After Buddhism and Beyond”. Each week Stephen presented two seminars articulating his current understanding of Secular Buddhism or Secular Dharma. There were breakout groups and Q&A sessions. It was phenomenal. We. Covered. So. Much. There were over 300 participants at the first seminar; I do not remember how many signed up in total. Stephen really laid it on us; the breadth and depth of his knowledge and wisdom are extraordinary. Here is a list of the seminars:

  1. Am I a Buddhist?
  2. A Very Short History of Secular Buddhism
  3. Reactivity
  4. Suffering
  5. The Ethics of Mindfulness
  6. The True Person
  7. Clearly Visible but Hard to See
  8. A Secular Eightfold Path
  9. “Good Snowflakes”
  10. Negative Capability
  11. Thirty-Two Dimensions of Awakening (1)
  12. The Anarchy of the Gaps
  13. Reading After Buddhism in Bangkok
  14. The Parable of the Snake
  15. Buddhanature as the Question of Being
  16. Buddhanature as a Fourfold Task
  17. From Ethics to Epistemology
  18. How Gotama Became God
  19. The Logic of Awakening
  20. Thirty-Two Dimensions of Awakening (2)
  21. Imagination as Practice
  22. Who is this Man Socrates?
  23. Tasks, Truths and an Ethics of Uncertainty
  24. Creativity and a Meditation

The entire thing was on zoom and is being prepared for release as a self-led course on Tricycle. I’ll post about it when that happens.
After the completion of “After Buddhism and Beyond” one of the participants offered to host a study group she called “After After Buddhism and Beyond”. A group of twelve or so of us have been revisiting the material, only one seminar a week. So 24 weeks total. It’s been a wonderful experience, diving back into the material at a more careful pace. We have a little group of transcribers, and having the material written down really allows a deep dive. Not only the material, but the friendships have been most gratifying. I’m finally getting that sangha I wanted so badly back in 2019.

Roam Research

Wow wow wow wow. I am completely in love with Roam Research. It is everything a Second Brain should be. I have taken courses from Nat Eliason and Lukas Kawerau (aka Cortex Futura) on how to use it more effectively. It is incredible how different ideas are networked and these connections established and preserved. I like it so much that I’ve begun to bring in my notes from my philosophy courses at The American University in Paris and cognitive science courses from Johns Hopkins University. Really, it must be experienced to be believed.

Learning Pāli

In August, I “officially” started Learn Pali channel. Learning a dead language is incredibly painful. With living languages, you are learning to converse, to connect, to receive and transmit ideas. And you expect your interlocutors to be skillful with the language and gracious with their translations. Not so a dead language in a book. Pāli has no punctuation (or spaces!?!?!). And you must learn all the different bits of grammar if you are expecting to get it right. I’ve learned sufficient Dutch to visit the country in just a few weeks. I think learning Pāli will be a five-year project. Assuming I can stick with it. It’s not fun.
I used the Ukelele [sic] app to map a keyboard so I could use Pāli diacritics the way I want. Super dork alert!

Dharma PhD Episode 6

Dharma PhD (the podcast) Episode 6 was published 29SEP! I’m super happy to be back in podcast making mode.

It was super fun teasing Dependent Origination apart like this. I’m pleased with my ability to Problematize.

Discourse

So. Much. Discourse.

I volunteered with Bodhi College for the After Buddhism & Beyond course to build a Discourse forum to host asynchronous conversations. I had originally anticipated having assistance from maybe two other people on the staff, but they did not end up participating in the administration or moderation. So I managed the structure of the forum and posting all the course material and I participated in almost every online conversation. If you are familiar with Seth Godin’s Akimbo programs, I was Seth, Alex DePalma, the coach, and all the All Stars. I probably spent 4-6 hours a day on the forum. It was exhausting. BUT. I learned so much about helping people (including helping myself) to communicate well. And now when I attend an online Bodhi College event I know more than 3/4 of the faces. So that’s a treat. :)

During the After Buddhism and Beyond course Bodhi College assigned us all to study groups in our time zones. So from February to June I was involved in weekly calls with folks on the East Coast of the US talking about the material from the course.

And of course there are the every-three week calls with the two Bodhi College Community Groups.

And as I mentioned above, I began a Mentorship with Leigh Brasington. That has morphed into a personal friendship; we now just chat every two weeks. It’s an incredible honor and just a pleasure to be friends with him.

Teaching

I was struggling, after leaving Baltimore, about whether or not to continue teaching. I had put down MBSR during the pandemic but was still offering regular guided meditations to staff and faculty at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. I felt obligated to continue teaching but my heart simply wasn’t in it. The kind of teaching I want to be doing now is something more like the discourse mentioned above. Discussions between peers, between sangha. This is where I feel the most satisfied.

Meta

One final plug for Roam Research. When I was planning Dharma PhD (the podcast) Episode 6, I was able to find all kinds of little threads about Dependent Origination. Roam Research helped me link to every teacher I had yet explored on this topic; Judson Brewer, Marc Akincano Weber, and others. I would never have even thought of reviewing Brewer’s work without Roam. Game Changer.

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