Monthly Archives: January 2020

Insight Dialogue

In studying to give a talk on Noble Conversation in December, I came across a practice defeloped by Gregory Kramer of the Metta Sangha. It’s called Insight Dialogue: Together, Speaking From Silence. There are three meditation instructions that form the core of the practice: Pause-Relax-Open,Trust Emergence, and Speak the Truth-Listen Deeply. The following instructions are taken from Mr. Kramer’s study guide about the practice.

Pause-Relax-Open: When we pause, we stop our habitual or “Knee-jerk” reactions. This is really what we do every time we sit down to meditate. First, we let go of our thinking. For just that moment. And if we’re present and, in the body, we notice that awareness naturally arises. This is what it means to be mindful… Relax, the second element in the instruction Pause-Relax-Open, offers us the opportunity to notice the tensions in the body, the turmoil in the mind. It offers the opportunity to settle down and give ourselves time to release habitual thoughts, to loosen the grip of tensed muscles… Indeed, not stopping there,one becomes open and available to the natural environment and to all beings. In this extension the individual sense of self, the small, skin-encapsulated “me,” is softened—and even, at moments, disappears.

Then after this beginning practice of Pause-Relax-Open, we open our “awareness wider, to encompass all that is around us, and to meet the other with a mindful, accepting heart. In that moment of meeting, we trust emergence. In that moment we realize we don’t know what’s going to come up next. We don’t know we’re going to say, or what someone else may say or do. We step into that not knowing with acceptance, and trust in the unfolding of things.”

Finally, “the simple guideline Speak the Truth-Listen Deeply invites us to re-examine verbal communication. To speak the truth we must know the truth. We are referring to the subjective truth, the truth of our experience. Therefore, we must listen internally in order to discern this truth. Speaking the truth is based upon mindfulness. Clarity arises when the mind is energetic, mindful, calm (Pause-Relax-Open) and unattached (Trust Emergence). This clarity is the source of discernment; the guideline Speak the Truth-Listen Deeply reminds us to cultivate this clarity.”

We will practice Insight Dialogue at both the Monday and Thursday sits. Please join us for this exploration.


Ajahn Amaro wrote in Small Boat, Great Mountain, “We get caught in the illusion, trying to make the self become something other.  As a result, we lose track of the real essence of the practice.  Don’t do something now to become enlightened in the future.  Just be awake now.

“A phase I like to use is “diligent effortlessness.”  There is a putting forth of energy.  There is a commitment.  There is a unity or integrity of purpose.  Yet there is also effortlessness.  Not pushing, not straining, not trying to get some thing, but just allowing the natural energy of the heart to function in a focused and free way.  “Be still and you will move forward on the tide of the spirit,” as they say in the Taoist tradition.”

Gratitude and Appreciation

Without self-refection, what would the spiritual path be, and where would it lead us?  In a sense every path, conventional or spiritual, is about the pursuit of liberation from suffering – happiness.  With the Dharma, and the practice of mindfulness and insight meditation, we can begin to achieve our goal of freedom from suffering in the here and now.  We can do this by going beyond our habitual thoughts and remaining steadfast with ourselves in meditation. This allows us to expose our love-affair with ourselves and our egos.

The idea is to change on the inside. This can feel like we’re betraying ourselves. But when we’re present and awake, and become aware of our spiritual state we are able to see the causes of our pain. We see habitual thought patterns as they arise, and become aware of how they affect the body and emotions.  By becoming aware of how these thoughts move us through our lives, the impact they have on our internal environment, we naturally want to let them go. We may fall back into the thoughts again– relive an old conversation or event– but with practice, with mindfulness, we can continue to let go and change the way we think.

This is when we can really begin to appreciate our practice and our lives…find gratitude in knowing ourselves and bringing tenderness to ourselves.  This gratitude comes from seeing ourselves clearly and being in the world in a genuine way with a sense of openness and curiosity.

We can begin to appreciate our bodies just as they are – big or small, short or tall, young or old – no matter the size or age.  The body grounds our consciousness in the world and allows us to be here.  So no matter what kind of body we have, we can begin to enjoy it and be grateful for it.

Appreciation for our minds is also of great importance.  The human mind’s greatest potential is the ability to wake up, to free itself from ignorance and be of benefit to other beings.  No one had to give us this ability; it’s ours by virtue of our precious human birth.

Appreciating the Dharma provides our greater purpose in life.  To achieve this requires patience:  patience to practice, study, meditate – and not be stubborn and afraid to change.  With patience, the teachings and the practice open up to us naturally.  Patience, gratitude and practice enable us to be present and awake for this life.

Lastly, what is our intention as we take up this practice?  Is it to feel better or relax or become more centered or peaceful in our lives?  All of that is fine…it’s great to want all of that.  But, when we sit down, we can also think of other beings… share with all beings the love, compassion, prosperity, health, joy, kindness, gratitude…whatever is in the heart at that moment or whatever we feel is needed in the world at that time.  This can give our meditation a whole new feeling:  knowing that as we sit, acknowledging and releasing our thoughts, feeling our feelings, we are helping others. We could say something like “May I feel this grief, or wanting or anger for everyone who feels this same way right now. Let me take it so they may be free even for just a moment.” By simply saying the words this good intention goes out to help all of us.