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Donald Rothberg's Dharma Talks
Donald Rothberg
Donald Rothberg, PhD, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976, and has also received training in Tibetan Dzogchen and Mahamudra practice and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. Formerly on the faculties of the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism. An organizer, teacher, and former board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Donald has helped to guide three six-month to two-year training programs in socially engaged spirituality through Buddhist Peace Fellowship (the BASE Program), Saybrook (the Socially Engaged Spirituality Program), and Spirit Rock (the Path of Engagement Program). He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.
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2022-10-05 Ten Ways of Practicing with Reactivity 68:23
We start with a brief review of the last three Wednesday sessions on "Dukkha and the End of Dukkha," including briefly summarizing the teachings of "The Two Arrows" and "Dependent Origination" (going from pleasant/unpleasant to grasping/pushing away); grasping and pushing away are interpreted as the most important meaning of dukkha as reactivity. Then there is an acknowledgment of Yom Kippur occurring on this day and its relationship to our practice. The core of the talk is exploring ten fundamental ways of practicing with reactivity (a pdf of the ten ways will be posted linked with the talk). The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Ten Ways of Practicing with Reactivity by Donald Rothberg (Word File)
2022-10-05 Guided Meditation Exploring Ways of Practicing with Reactivity 38:26
After some brief initial instructions in posture, setting intentions, cultivating stability of mind, and basic mindfulness, there is a period of settling, followed by brief instructions on being mindful of any moments of reactivity, and then, some time later, on being mindful of any moderate or greater (while still workable) moments of pleasant or unpleasant experiences, noticing any tendencies to move from pleasant to craving and grasping (one form of reactivity), and to move from unpleasant to not wanting to pushing away in some way (the other main form of reactivity).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-09-07 Dukkha and the End of Dukkha 3: Practicing in the Social Realm 67:22
In this third of three talks on "Dukkha and the End of Dukkha," perhaps the core teaching of the Buddha, we first review what was covered in the first two talks, starting with examining the multiple meanings of dukkha in the Buddha's teaching and the fact that most meanings of dukkha don't help us make sense of "the end of dukkha." Only a sense of dukkha as reactivity, as taught in the Two Arrows and in Dependent Origination suggest what the end of dukkha means. We then review ways of practicing with reactivity in individual practice, and in our relationships. On this basis, we then go further exploring the nature of reactivity in the larger social context, whether in individuals' reactivity or in various forms of institutionalized reactivity. We then look at two ways of practicing, first exploring our various forms of social conditioning, typically linked with reactivity, and then looking at how nonreactivity in Buddhist practice maps very closely onto the traditions of nonviolence from Gandhi, King, and others. This is followed by discussion, in which we in part look at some of the complexities and challenges of this approach.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Slides on Nonviolent Movements by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-09-07 Guided Meditation Exploring Reactivity 38:27
After initial instructions for settling and stabiliizing, and then for basic mindfulness, there are about 10 minutes for stabilizing, followed by brief instructions to track reactivity, and about 10 minutes later for exploring moderate or great levels of pleasant or unpleasant (when in the workable range for mindfulness), noticing any tendencies toward reactivity.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-08-31 "I Teach Dukkha and the End of Dukkha"--2 63:43
This is the second of three talks in successive weeks on the "dukkha and the end of dukkha," at the center of the Buddha's teachings. Last week was an introduction and focused on individual practice; this week gives a review and then focuses on relational practice, with others. In the review, we once again point to the multiple meanings of "dukkha" in the Buddha's discourses, all but one of which don't help us to make sense of the "end of dukkha.". Rather, only an interpretation of dukkha coming out of the teachings of the Two Arrows and Dependent Origination, in which dukkha is understood as reactivity, as grasping or pushing away habitually in a variety of ways, can help us understand what "the end of dukkha" means (see the attached PDF file on the sequence from contact to grasping in the teaching of Dependent Origination). We then look at a number of ways of practicing with reactivity, and open to exploring the nature of reactivity in relational contexts, followed by pointing to a number of ways of practicing with reactivity in our relationships. The talk is followed by discussion.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • The Sequence of Contact to Grasping in the Buddha’s Teaching on Dependent Origination by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-08-31 Guided Meditation Exploring Reactivity and Feeling-Tone 35:00
After brief basic meditation instructions related to stabilizing attention with an anchor, and then being present to the anchor or whatever else is predominant, there is an 8-minute or so period of settling and stabilizing. Then there is guidance to notice and be mindful of any kinds of reactivity (manifesting in the body, emotions, and thoughts), if in the workable range. After another 10 minutes or, there is guidance to notice a moderate or greater level of the pleasant or unpleasant (as long as it is workable), staying with the sense of pleasant or unpleasant, noticing any tendencies to reactivity (wanting and grasping, or not wanting and pushing away, at the levels of body, emotions, and/or thoughts).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-08-24 "I Teach Dukkha and the End of Dukkha"--1 69:18
The Buddha, at the center of his teaching, taught "dukkha and the end of dukkha." Yet it is not always clear either what "dukkha" means in this context or what "the end of dukkha" means. In this talk, we explore this core teaching in several ways. First, we distinguish four different meanings of "dukkha" that can be seen in the discourses of the Buddha, only the last of which, interpreted as "reactivity," helps us to make sense of the "end of dukkha." (See the attached PDF file.) This meaning of dukkha can be reconstructed from two core teachings, the "Two Arrows" and Dependent Origination (see the attached PDF file). We then look at several ways of practicing with reactivity, including understanding and working with the common complexity of there frequently being some kind of insight or something important being "mixed" with reactivity, as, for example, when I am very reactive about injustice.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
Attached Files:
  • Four Meanings of Dukkha by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
  • The Sequence of Contact to Grasping in the Buddha’s Teaching on Dependent Origination by Donald Rothberg (PDF)
2022-08-24 Guided Meditation Exploring Feeling-Tone and Reactivity 37:48
After brief basic meditation instructions related to stabilizing attention with an anchor, and then being present to the anchor or whatever else is predominant, there is a 10-minute period of stabilizing. Then there is guidance related to noticing a moderate or greater level of the pleasant or unpleasant (as long as it is workable), staying with the sense of pleasant or unpleasant, noticing any tendencies to reactivity (wanting and grasping, or not wanting and pushing away, at the levels of body, emotions, and/or thoughts). Near the end, there is some further guidance on staying with moderately unpleasant sensations for 2 minutes or so.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-27 Developing Equanimity and Compassion Together 68:53
We begin by examining again the nature of equanimity, identifying seven core qualities of equanimity, including a kind of faith or confidence, illustrated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s account of his midnight "cup of coffee" experience. We point to two typical distortions of equanimity--being overly cool and cut off some from the awakened heart, and disconnecting from action. We then look at the nature of compassion, and see how the development of compassion helps us to respond to these two distortions. In a parallel way, we see how several typical distortions of compassion, such as pity (the "near enemy"), burnout, and confusion (or lack of wisdom), are remedied by the development of equanimity! Together, they help us develop wisdom and the awakened heart, supported by courage (as we learn from the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition).
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks
2022-07-27 A Guided Meditation Cultivating Equanimity and Compassion 37:48
After basic instructions in (1) settling and stabilizing attention, and (2) practicing mindfulness, there is 5-minute period of settling and stabilizing. Then there are several practice suggestions for cultivating equanimity, especially by noticing and exploring reactivity and any appearances of the "Eight Worldly Winds." After another 10 minutes or so, there is also guidance in two main ways of developing compassion, through opening in mindfulness to what is difficult or painful, and through a three-step self-compassion practice from Kristin Neff.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Monday and Wednesday Talks

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