Friday, August 31, 2018

Message from Jack Kornfield: Change

Jack Kornfield (Spirit Rock) via Insight LA; Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly

We can live wisely only when we accept the reality of change. Where I lived as a [Theravada] Buddhist monk, impermanence was central to the curriculum. We deliberately contemplated change, our moods, the seasons, the passing of visitors, our aging, and the movement of our breath until we could see life as an unstoppable river. When Zen [M]aster Shunryu Suzuki was asked to sum up all Buddhist teaching he offered this simple phrase: “Not always so.”

Who in the world is Jack Kornfield?
Indeed, it was in the forest monastery that I began to taste the beauty of change [like the disgrace of my student Noah Levine and the demise of Against the Stream Meditation Society in L.A. because of Noah Levine's sex scandal, whom Spirit Rock co-investigated when sexual misconduct allegations against him surfaced] and transformation. I remember how vividly mindfulness practice awakened my senses. I grew up in a suburban intellectual family, and the outdoors meant the backyard. But in the monastery, the temple buildings were in a central clearing, surrounded by towering teak trees and tropical vines, by thick woods filled with wild birds and cobras. Our small huts were scattered throughout this forest.

In this forest I learned to feel the turning of the seasons, the sweaty robes and loud singing of the cicadas on hot summer nights, the muddy feet and endless dampness of the monsoon rains, the dry winds of the cool season when I would wrap my towel under my robe for an extra layer of warmth. This was the first time I could actually watch the slowly changing phases of the moon and the appearance of morning and evening planets at dawn and dusk. I came to love these rhythms.

Bringing Home the Dharma
Now I bow to change everywhere. I have learned to be gracious with it. Of course like everyone I have suffered my losses, deaths of dear ones, divorce, and certain failures. With compassion and clarity, we can see that every one of us participates in the constant cycles of life’s change and renewal, seasons of grief and suffering, as well as seasons of joy, celebrating life’s renewed marvels and beauty.

Love, Jack [Kornfield]

Teachers at Kornfield's Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, near San Francisco
Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the Theravada Buddhist monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma. He has taught meditation internationally since 1974 and is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice (vipassana) to the West.

After graduating from Dartmouth College in Asian Studies in 1967, he joined the Peace Corps and worked on tropical medicine teams in the Mekong River Valley. He met and studied as a monk under the Buddhist master Ven. Ajahn Chah, as well as the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma. Returning to the United States, Kornfield co-founded the Insight Meditation Society ( in Barre, Massachusetts, with fellow meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein and the Spirit Rock Center ( in Woodacre, California. Over the years he has taught in centers and universities worldwide, led International Buddhist Teacher meetings, and worked with many of the great teachers of our time. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and is a father, husband, and radical Bay Area peace activist.

His books have been translated into 20 languages and sold more than a million copies. They include, A Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, A Path with Heart; After the Ecstasy, the Laundry; Teachings of the Buddha; Seeking the Heart of Wisdom; Living Dharma; A Still Forest Pool; Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart; Buddha’s Little Instruction Book; The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace, Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are, and his most recent book, No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are.

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