Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Spirit Rock: Class with Jack Kornfield

Notes on Spirit Rock: Visit to Monday evening class with Kornfield
Peter Menkin (SF Religion in the News Examiner, 6/29/09)

Spirit Rock's serene exterior and Jack Kornfield lecturing within (SF Examiner). Spirit Rock's many Buddhas welcome, amuse, and in a sense adorn the 410 acre meditation retreat facility located 30 miles north of San Francisco in rural Marin County, California. View Slideshow

Spirit Rock is not a New Age center per se. Located in San Francisco’s Bay Area (in the Marin County city of Woodacre), Spirit Rock is home to Theravada Buddhists. They are not Zen, Tibetan, or Mahayana Buddhists, as they emphasized. They are Theravada, as is one of their founding members, the American Buddhist teacher and popular author Jack Kornfield.

Many find Spirit Rock a refreshing, spiritual place to visit or to participate in a meditation retreat. This county, southern Marin in particular, is not much for Christian worship, or so says an older study on religious practices in Marin. This tidbit indicates the general religious interest of the Bay Area. One librarian at the Tiburon library says most spiritual and religious books in their library are "New Age." Christian reading isn’t of interest. Jack Kornfield is particularly popular.

Jack Kornfield and one of his many psychology-infused books on Buddhism.

The publisher of After the Laundry, the Laundry (Random House) says: "Enlightenment does exist." Internationally renowned author and meditation master Jack Kornfield assures us. “Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the divine...these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away. "But even after achieving such realization — after the ecstasy — we are faced with the day-to-day task of translating that freedom into our imperfect lives. We are faced with the laundry.

"Drawing on the experiences and insights of leaders and practitioners within the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Sufi traditions, this book offers a uniquely intimate and honest understanding of how the modern spiritual journey unfolds — and how we can prepare our hearts for awakening.”

According to a Marin Independent Journal article, “His books have been translated into 20 languages and sold more than a million copies." Kornfield's books include:
  • 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

His most recent book is A Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology (or The Wise Heart, which Bantam published in hardcover in April, 2008 and newly released in paperback). This is a short excerpt:

“When we learn to rest in awareness, there’s both caring and a silence. There is listening for what’s the next thing to do and awareness of all that’s happening, a big space and a connected feeling of love. When there is enough space, our whole being can both apprehend the situation and be at ease. We see the dance of life, we dance beautifully, yet we’re not caught in it. In any situation, we can open up, relax, and return to the sky-like nature of consciousness.”

Significantly, many teachers at Spirit Rock emphasize the feminine. For instance, Debra Chamberlin Taylor, writes in their August 2009 Spirit Rock News: I don’t know if there is any other Buddhist center that has a statue of Prajna Paramita [an anthropomorphism, literally the "Perfection of Wisdom"] sitting as an equal beside the Buddha on their main altar. The image of the "Mother of All Buddhas’ clearly communicates Spirit Rock’s intention to honor the feminine.

Some people might ask, "What’s the point? It doesn’t matter because enlightenment has no gender." This is true, but for many people, especially women, seeing the image is significant both consciously and unconsciously. It’s a reminder that females, as well as males, can fully awaken.

The same Spirit Rock News article contains “The Sacred Feminine: Restoring Balance in Challenging Times (Interviews by Walt Opie, Communications Coordinator)” by a yoga instructor who is a novelist (Enlightenment for Idiots) who writes:

Again, it is not an issue of men versus women because I’ve experienced many male teachers who also emphasize these dimensions of practice. But when I’m sitting yoga on a retreat that’s oriented towards the Sacred Feminine, I’m aware of an explicit intention to value the interpersonal aspect of practice; the intimate aspect of practice; the qualities of unwinding and opening rather than dominating and controlling. It’s an approach that emphasizes allowing and being, rather than doing and becoming. More>>