Self-Acceptance and Equanimity

Quotes from Mark’s talks this week.

“What makes us a powerful learner and creatively engaged is equanimity: moving into the world with an open heart and mind.”

“If we do not realize thought is impersonal, we assume ‘if I had this thought, it must be what I want’; but thoughts are conditional.”

“Awareness is never separate from the object being known, but we choose whether to focus more on the ‘object’ or the ‘being known’.'”

Quote from Cornel West: “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

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Poem: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

 Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

 Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

– Portia Nelson

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Engaging this Messy World with the Wisdom of Non Attachment


History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. —Maya Angelou

Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be action. —Thich Nhat Hanh

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. —James Baldwin

Chan Master Yunmen, 9th century, when asked “What is the work of the Buddha’s whole life” replied, “An appropriate response.”

Do mindful awareness and the letting go of attachment make us incapable of being a happy human being with a personality, relationships, and responsibilities? Does non-attachment allow for a greater intimacy in life, or does it lead to a disconnection and distancing from life’s joys and sorrows? Do we need attachment in order to deeply care about and respond to the suffering we see and feel in and around us? Is our experience of non-attachment enlivening or deadening? The Buddha’s teachings point to a heart free from greed, anger and delusion—realizing a mind that is no longer governed and distorted by these deeply conditioned impersonal habits. How have we experienced non-attachment, or what Ajahn Chah called “the reality of non- grasping”? Do we see it as a true refuge for the heart?

We all know that it is not easy being a human being. With some practice we can begin to see more clearly that being attached to opinions and expectations results in the heart being uneasy and tight. The mind’s habit is to struggle with the conditions of life. It thinks that grasping and rejecting experience is functional and leads to happiness. Does it? Perhaps this pervasive habit of attachment is the source of all suffering. If this were seen to be true, wouldn’t we seek a way to be free from this pervasive habit? Seeing how attachment operates in our own mind breaks the heart open with compassion for all the suffering that this pattern sets in motion in the wider world.

Life demands both a whole- hearted engagement and an absence of attachment. What would be the alternative? Living our lives attached to half-hearted avoidance? Does anybody think that this is a winning strategy for a good life and a good world? Let’s remember, non- attachment is not the same as non- engagement. Non-attachment is only realized through engagement, being intimate. The relevant question is, will this way of relating and engaging cause suffering? When we are attached to keeping distant from messy parts and holding on to what we find pleasant, we lose our authentic connection with life as it is. Real freedom, wisdom and love are found in moments of fearless engagement with life through a mind free from attachment. We transform our hearts and the world by cultivating and living with this deep understanding.

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Weekly Announcements: January 17, 2017

Greetings Everyone,

Kaia Svien and Gabe Keller are leading an Inauguration Day Vigil this Friday at the center. For more details please visit Inauguration Day Vigil. If you are able to help out as a greeter or bell-ringer for this event please contact Kaia Svien @

Patrice Koelsch’s 3-week class on How the Dharma Helps Us Recognize and Relinquish the White Racial Frame begins this Sunday, 1-2:30pm.

Also this Sunday, from 3-4:30, is the final Community Meeting about renovations at Common Ground’s Retreat Property at Prairie Farm.  If you haven’t already attended a meeting regarding this we hope to see you on Sunday.

We are looking for volunteer cooks for the upcoming February retreat at Holy Spirit, please see the Community News section below for details on how to volunteer in this way.


For detailed program information and online registration, please visit the calendar.

Upcoming Programs

Weekly Practice Groups with Mark Nunberg 
Wednesday7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, 10:30-11:40 a.m.
Sunday, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Buddhist Studies with Mark Nunberg: Seven Factors of Awakening 
8 Mondays, January 9 – February 27, 7:30-9:00 p.m. with optional sit at 7:00 p.m.

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation with Mark Nunberg
6 Tuesdays, January 10 – February 14, 7:30-9:00 p.m.

Meditation Vigil for Inauguration Day led by Kaia Svien and Gabe Keller
Friday, January 20. 10:50 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.
All are welcome

How the Dharma Helps us Relinquish the White Racial Frame: A Class with Patrice Koelsch
Three Sundays, January 22- February 5, 1:00-2:30 p.m.

Community Meeting on Renovations at Common Ground’s Retreat Property at Prairie Farm
Sunday, January 22, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Everyone Welcome

Gentle Yoga and Deep Relaxation with Nancy Boler
Sunday, January 29, 4:00-5:30 p.m
No registration necessary

Lovingkindness Practice Group with Mark Nunberg
Friday, February 4, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Dharma Flicks:  The Heart of a Dog by Laurie Anderson
Saturday, February 4, 7:00 -9:00 p.m.

Upcoming Retreats

Winter Practice Period at Common Ground’s Retreat at Prairie Farm
January 5- 25

Daylong Retreat with Mark Nunberg
Saturday, January 28, 9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Half Day Retreat with Mark Nunberg
Saturday, February 4, 1:00- 5:00 p.m.

Residential Retreat at Holy Spirit led by Mark Nunberg: Tranquility and Insight
Thursday, February 16- Monday, February 20
Wait list only

TCVC Residential Retreat with Rebecca Bradshaw and Chas DiCapua
February 17-24
Wait List Only

Madison Insight Meditation Group Retreat with Mark Nunberg: Wholehearted Engagement Without Atttachment
March 17-19 @ Wisdom Monastery in Madison Wisconsin

Community News

Community Meeting to Discuss Renovation of Retreat Property
Please join lead architect Rick Okada and the Retreat Planning Committee to discuss the renovation of Common Ground’s Retreat Property at Prairie Farm, Wisconsin. The next meeting you can attend is Sunday, January 22, 3- 4:30 p.m. The generous support of many community members makes this next phase of the renovation of Prairie Farm possible and will allow 10-15 people to practice together on the land and add a beautiful meditation hall, bathrooms and showers. This is a great opportunity to see the plans and share your thoughts about how this wonderful property can be used to enhance our practice. Your involvement is very important!

Snow Team Volunteer Able to Use the Large Snowblower Needed 
The Snow Team is looking for a specific type of volunteer who is willing and able to use the large snowblower and whom ideally, lives close by with a flexible schedule that can help on a regular basis.  Does this sound like you?  If so, contact for more details.

Volunteer Cooks Needed to help prepare Meals for the Upcoming Residential Retreat at Holy Spirit
There is a tradition in Buddhism of supporting people doing intensive retreat practice. One way to support the retreatants is by offering to prepare a meal or purchase groceries for the retreat. For more information on how you can help in this way please visit the Retreats Website.

Posted in Other

Two resources for the study of the Five Mental Hindrances

From Mark Nunberg: Two resources for the study of the Five Mental Hindrances – forces in the mind that hinder the continuity and steadiness of mindful awareness:

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POC Community Group 1st and 3rd Thursdays

Hello Friends,
I hope this note finds you well, and having a pleasant fall.  It can be such a lovely time of transition.  Often times, for me at least, transition and change can trigger this mind into it habits of doubt (will I get it right?), judging (shoulda, woulda, coulda…), and general story telling (what if…..).  It happens so quickly, and by the time I am aware, I’m well down the path.  But there is a Y on this path:  I could shift the theme from “I should have the garden out by now” to “I have wasted so much time spinning on this!”, or I can extend a little patient friendliness to myself: “Honey, you’re doing the best that you can.  You might not get to everything.  Can you be okay with that?”.  I admit it’s sometimes tempting to continue with berating myself (old habits are hard to break), but more and more I can acknowledge that habit doesn’t get me anywhere that feels good.  I am remembering that each moment is an opportunity to begin again.
In the talk we listed to last week from Sister Kinh Nghiem of Deer Park Monastery, she shares some clear ‘how to’s’ for compassion practice.  She offers a Zen perspective on The Four Abodes, and discusses the Four Immeasurable Minds, also known as the four elements of true love.  Then, she clearly connects them to the Four Mantras as developed by Thich Nhat Hanh, guiding us in applying these mantras in our lives to cultivate true love.
I look forward to hearing how this teaching supports your compassion and lovingkindness practice.
We will gather again next week, Thursday October 20th @ 6:30pm; hope you are able to join us.
POC Leader
Posted in Teachings & Reflections

Heart Practice

Stacy McClendon, our board chair and one of the facilitators for the People of Color Community Group, wrote a nice reflection on metta practice recently and Shelly and I thought we’d share it. The POC group meets on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month from 6:30-8:00 p.m.


Hello Friends,
I hope this finds you well (and dry!), with the space you need to reflect kindly on the state of your heart in the myriad of places and relationships you find yourself in.  In the guided meditation we listened to last week, Pascal Auclair invited us to bring awareness to our energy, perspective and intentions as we move about our lives.  He led us in a creative imagining of a Field of Friendliness around us, and allowing all that we encounter to be met with lovingkindness in that field.
I have really found this to be a useful way to begin my day, and have listened to this talk several times!  Throughout my day, I’ve noticed moments of patience where before had been frustration, and greater comfort with unanswered silence where before I may have been inclined to correct or challenge someone.  I’m trying on just not picking up that which is not mine, or does not feel useful in alleviating suffering.
I hope that your practice, too, is benefiting from this teaching, and that you have experienced an opening or softening of the heart.  In the next few days until we gather again, perhaps you will explore your own capacity to meet that which is unpleasant with lovingkindness, or compassion.
I look forward to hearing about your practice, about your insights, next week.

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Mindfulness of Breathing Instructions

Hi everyone,


Mark’s talking about the Buddha’s instructions on Mindfulness of Breathing this week and for the next few weeks. Check out the Buddha’s original teaching and notes from different teachers on these teachings here.





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Antiracism Circle Being Offered this Fall near CG!

This fall, starting October 1 there will be an Antiracism Study and Dialogue Circle (ASDIC) offered a few blocks from Common Ground, at Faith Mennonite Church (2720 E 22nd St, Minneapolis, MN 55406). We highly encourage everyone, especially teachers and leaders, to participate if possible. Common Ground hosted one of these circles in January and it was wonderful. There are limited partial scholarships available for CG teachers and leaders; contact for more info. The regular price is $365 for ten 4-hour sessions.

There is also a circle happening on the West Side of St. Paul starting September 10. For all the details on these two wonderful opportunities to deepen our understanding of antiracism work, click below.

Faith Mennonite Circle

St. Paul Circle

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Community Member and Festival Performer Ellis’ Reflections on Racism and Awareness

Hi friends!

Our dear community member and festival performer Ellis recently posted some reflections on racism and awareness that we thought we’d share with you!

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