“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
“If you think you are too small to make a difference,
try sleeping with a mosquito.”
– His Holiness the Dalai Lama
It’s a good question especially given that we usually attribute to meditation a clearing of the mind. The simple answer though is that the world is already in your mind. Your heart is full of the love and pain you feel for what is happening out there, your thoughts cycle through the various news stories you’ve heard or seen in the media. Even if you’ve shielded yourself from watching “the news,” it creeps in. Whether it’s boys trapped in a cave or the latest outrage from the boy-men in power. You are part of this world and there is really no escaping that; you’re in the world and the world’s in you.
About six months ago I started offering free monthly guided meditations with the theme, “Meditation With the World in Mind.” We have been able to meet in the beautiful environment of The Open Spirit in Nyack. My sense was (and is) that we need to come together to align our consciousness with the deepest life force of love and compassion. We need to counter in ourselves and the world the destructive influences that often dominate the trajectory of human activity.
It is possible to see these meditations as healing moments for yourself, to release the negative reactions to “the news” that may cause you to feel hopeless, depressed or stuck in anger and cynicism. On the other hand, you may see these meditations as a form of activism. After all, your mind-state is a part of the collective mind of humanity. Actively changing your mood, your attitude, your emotional-mental condition has an effect on the field of human energy that we all live in.
Further, practices have been developed in all the world’s wisdom and spiritual traditions that offer ways of aligning our personal healing and awakening to that of others. Native Americans use the phrase, “Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ,” meaning “all are related,” or “all my relations.” It is invoked in ceremonies and prayer rituals and calls attention to the experience that what is intended is not for the individual or small group alone, but for all life. Similarly, meditation practices can be learned to bring awareness to this reality of inter-connectedness and that the benefit of the meditation is for all beings.
Meditations are generally scheduled for the 3rd Monday of the month, 7 – 8:30 PM. But please confirm.
Walk With Me
Film about Thich Nhat Hanh
Bowtie Cinema in New City, NY
November 6th, Monday at 7:30 PM
Few teachers have awakened and inspired so many people across the world to the experience of meditative awareness, mindfulness and living a compassionate life. We are delighted to bring this film to Rockland County. Thich Nhat Hanh has meant so much to so many of us who are interested in meditation, mindfulness and living a life of service. Please register now and support this film screening.
See the Facebook event page to register now. The way this works is that only if enough people sign up in advance, will the screening take place. Please help us by registering early.
“Slow down and breathe. This contemplative journey follows in the steps of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and is a rare insight into life within a monastic community. ….With unprecedented access, WALK WITH ME goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community who have given up all their possessions and signed up to a life of chastity for one common purpose – to transform their suffering, and practice the art of mindfulness with the world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.”
Again, this screening will only take place if enough people sign up in advance. Please go to the Facebook event page to register for this one time showing of Walk With Me.
An Open Invitation to Holistic Healers and Spiritual Guides
Sunday, October 8th
Location: Stony Point Center
(Great meal available at 6 if you’d like to stay for dinner – $15)
For those who have been immersed in holistic, integral or spiritual approaches to personal healing, growth and transformation, the political sphere of activity has often seemed a very dark and hopeless arena of collective human dysfunction. There is, for many in these fields, (yoga and meditation teachers, holistic bodyworkers and psychotherapists, teachers of Tai Chi, Qi Gong, shamanic practitioners, spiritual coaches and guides, and others) a distaste for “politics.” Folks in these fields tend to see that their work with individuals or small groups, with people who choose to make changes in their lives, actually brings about results. Further, it is sometimes said, that the best way to change the world is one person at a time opening to the wholeness of who they are as compassionate, loving beings. Our connection with all beings means that the changes in one will ripple out and effect others. Personally, I am a great believer in this principle.
Yet, the events of the past several decades, and especailly this past year, have brought home the awareness that: yes, any individual changing is connected to everyone, but we are all connected in a burning house. What’s more, the fire in the house has grown exponentially as the forces of domination and control have consolidated their hold over the political apparatus. This apparatus makes the policies that allow, even promote, greed to be the primary motivator for economic and, in fact, all social activity. Their policy-making is responsible for the collective failure to address rampant poverty, war, and the impending, catastrophic effects of climate change. These policies come out of politics, and they are ignored at all our peril.
So, how does one bring the sensitivity, awareness and skills of the work being done in holistic healing and personal growth to the issues that confront us as a community, nation and world? What does that look like? How can people with such an orientation join together and also join with those activists working on and through the political system? It is these questions that I’d like to see us come together to address. I’d like to join with others to build a bridge that connects the consciousness and sensitivities of healing practitioners with political activists. Would you like to be part of that?
I am open to any suggestions, ideas and forms of collaboration. I’m not looking to lead or start a new movement, but join with folks locally along lines that others have pioneered in other places. How about we start with a gathering? I’m suggesting this date and hope it works for enough folks to get the ball rolling. If you are interested at all, please respond to this message, even if you cannot come at that time.
Peace and blessings,
(This is one in a series of essays about meditation. I hope you enjoy and benefit from these ideas and I invite you to share this with friends. I also want to invite you to attend the next full-day Tree of Life Meditations retreat focused on Agni Yoga. Agni Yoga is a unique form of meditation practice with which you can transform negative psychological and physical patterns.)
One thing is for sure, Meditation will not stop you from feeling anger. I say this with some certainty, not only because I’ve been meditating daily for over 45 years and still get angry… Continue reading Frustration, Annoyance, Anger and Meditation
Next Tree of Life Meditations Retreat – June 11th
There are many understandings about yoga, what one seeks through it, and what practices are involved. My orientation is that yoga is a path towards experiencing my physical body and my mind as aligned with and in union with the spiritual essence of who I am. This then leads to an experience of inner peace and access to healing, creative, and other potentials that lie within. This is a full-time process, not simply something one does in a class or for a short period on occasion.
In 1969, I attended a retreat that changed the direction of my life. I was introduced to Agni Yoga and spent the next ten years in a school dedicated to spreading the teachings and healing practices of this little known form of yoga. It was the first disciplined spiritual practice that I learned and there has not been a day since that time that I haven’t made use of its teachings. It has been my profound honor and privilege to share these teachings with students from a wide range of backgrounds and present circumstances. I’ve experienced that this form of practice makes it easier to bring yoga into awareness not just during the intensive practice sessions, but throughout ones daily existence.
The Tree of Life Meditations process that I teach has Agni Yoga as one of its three core lineages, along with shamanism and mindfulness meditation. All three weave together beautifully to enable one to have a complete spiritual practice: for healing self and others; bringing kindness and love into personal relationships; awakening to inner direction from one’s soul; and finding a meaningful and fulfilling way to relate to the issues of the world.
Previous Tree of Life Meditations retreats focused on mindfulness meditation practices and shamanism, while this next one will be focused primarily on Agni Yoga. Please see here for more information on Agni Yoga.
Tree of Life Meditations Retreat
June 11th, 10 AM – 5 PM
Tomkins Cove – $100
I’m happy to say that Crossing the Boundary has received a very positive review in the independent book review journal Forward Reviews. You can read the copy below.
I continue to receive messages from folks reading the book about how much they enjoyed it and also how thought-provoking it is for them on their own spiritual journey. I recently had a wonderful time discussing the book with Alex and Allyson Grey at their Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) center in Wappinger Falls, NY. Allyson is featured in the book, and Buddhist teacher, Marty Lowenthal, who also has a chapter, was there for a very illuminating discussion.
My next talk and book signing will be at the Katonah Village Library in Westchester County, NY, for any of you who are in the area. Please see their listing here: http://www.katonahlibrary.org/author-alan-levin-presents-crossing-boundary/.
She is not outside you.
Mother Earth is not just your environment.
In that insight of inter-being,
it is possible to have real communication with the Earth,
which is the highest form of prayer.
–Thich Nhat Hanh
What’s really important about shamanism
is that there is another reality that you can personally discover….
we are not alone.
A lot has been happening. I just helped organize an event where Starhawk, one of the spiritual teachers I interviewed for my book, Crossing the Boundary, gave a wonderful talk at the Stony Point Center to a very receptive and inspired group.The next Tree of Life Meditations retreat, which will focus on integrating meditation with shamanism, is coming up on April 2nd. One of the most prominent teachers bringing shamanism to the attention of Europeans and North Americans is Michael Harner. His words are above along with Thich Nhat Hanh’s who brings the insights of meditation to our relationship with Mother Earth.
The shamanic worldview honors the intelligence that is present in all life and supports us in living in harmony with our fellow creatures of the plant and animal realm and Mother Earth. The core element of shamanism is the journey to connect and align with inner allies for strength, healing, and direction (or vision). Those who participate will learn methods and gain specific tools for exploring how these inner connections deepen your human relationships and your relationship with the web of life.
Please let me know if you are interested in attending and I will send some more information about what to bring and how to prepare.
P.S. I’ll be giving a talk on Crossing the Boundary, along with Alex and Allyson Grey at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, CoSM, on March 25th. See:
CoSM event page:
Facebook event page:
Healing Ourselves as We Heal the Planet
There is the world. The financial meltdown we are experiencing brings to light only a small aspect of the unsustainable ways in which we human beings have been organizing and relating with one another and all life on Earth. It is only natural to be deeply concerned and motivated to want to do something about this for ourselves, our communities, and future generations. We want to support organizations working for positive change, to pass on e-mails and write letters and sign petitions and participate actively. We make our choices about where to devote time, money, attention, energy.
There is us; you and me. We want to be comfortable in our body, quiet our restless mind, be at peace with our Soul. We want to do yoga, have bodywork, learn about spirituality and practice meditation or other spiritual disciplines. We seek to free our minds of conditioning and open more fully to the present moment and the joy of life. We make our choices about where to devote time, money, attention, energy.
It often feels as if there is a competition between our personal pursuit of happiness and spiritual growth, and the work to restore the health of the planet and bring more peace and justice to our world. The call to take action and the longing for inner peace seem to pull in opposite directions. Yet awareness of this tension can be a doorway to deepening one’s spiritual journey and at the same time discovering a stronger connection to one’s way of relating to community and global healing.
This workshop has the aim of providing teachings and practices for the dance that weaves the spiritual and the political. It will be a space in which you know that you are not alone; a place to focus with others who hold similar intentions. Our focus will include the perhaps impossible task of keeping an open heart while facing those forces, people and systems that so completely disagree with our ideas and values, whatever they may be.
Experiential aspects of this workshop will include:
Entering a mindful perspective. Entering a space of non-judgment of self and others is easier said than done. The practice of being in such consciousness involves letting go of our attachment to even our most cherished beliefs about personal or political reality. This practice helps us to go deep within ourselves and opens us to better understand the forces at work that create suffering in the world; the patterns of greed, hatred or fear that effect all of humanity.
Experiencing mutuality. Our breath, energy and even our thoughts connect us with the life “out there” of people, animals, forests and oceans. We will take time to open to our natural empathic connection with all living beings, of which some of the most challenging may be our own neighbors. We will journey to open to spiritual allies who help reduce the fears that separate us from “the other” and support us in embracing our place in the web of life.
Cultivating courage. We learn to stand firm in that which is revealed to be our task. We open to the strength of the inner Warrior, our Soul, our ancestors and the great teachers and guides who have helped and continue to help all of humanity evolve into a greater harmony. We seek to be able to face those caught in the trance of fear or hatred and the abstractions that rationalize and justify those tendencies and not lose touch with our heart’s intention.
Taking action. We commit to walk the path of our vision, to take the next step in doing our part to help make ourselves and our world better.
The facilitator, Alan Levin, does not claim to have full mastery of these challenging goals. He approaches the questions and intentions with humility and with empathy for himself and other seekers. He guides the exploration with lessons learned from many years of paying attention.
Changing the World
While Accepting All That Is
An Experiential Workshop
Sun. 11/22/14, 1-5 PM
Deep meditation practice opens us to experience a radical acceptance of both light and dark, moving us beyond a judgmental mindset and towards inner peace in the face of whatever arises in life.
Political action involves an urge and commitment to change the world, to heal or repair social systems that cause suffering and pain for humans and other life on earth.
This workshop will offer specific teachings and practices for a way of integrating the spiritual and political.
Alan Levin has been a teacher of transformative meditation for over 35 years and has practiced forms of shamanic ritual and divination for much of that time. He was active in the 60’s radical movement before his involvement in spiritual disciplines and has devoted his attention for decades to the integration of the spiritual and the political. He is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Nyack.
For a more detailed description of this workshop, see“Meditation with the World in Mind”.
Some food for thought:
In this world
Hate never yet dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law,
Ancient and inexhaustible.
-from the Dhammapada sayings of the Buddha
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty
as cooperation with the good.
Compassion is what makes our lives meaningful.
It is the source of all lasting happiness and joy.
And it is the foundation of a good heart,
the heart of one who acts out of a desire to help others.
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama
To attain peace among the nations in any dynamic or enduring form requires not simply political negotiation but a new mode of consciousness
Life is available only in the present moment.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
The future is an infinite succession of presents,
and to live now as we think human beings should live,
in defiance of all that is bad around us,
is itself a marvelous victory.”
– Howard Zinn
“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all living things.”
Rockland Water Coalition and Rockland Farm Alliance
10 AM – 6 PM
Attend for as long as you like.
Union Arts Center
2 Union Ave.
Alternate hours of silence and recorded teachings of meditation masters
All Donations will go to the RWC and RFA
Take a break from the busyness of your life.
Take a break from the busyness of your mind.
Support these local groups actively working for healthy food and water policies.
This day long event will be facilitated by Alan Levin. Alan is a psychotherapist and teacher of meditation. He has an open meditation group on Monday evenings and leads year-long groups for spiritual development.
See www.SacredRiverHealing.org for more information.
(Space for this event generously donated by Union Arts Center)