Hi Common Ground community,

Mark, Shelly, and I decided to make this post as a way for the Common Ground community to share ways that you are engaging right now to respond to the murder of George Floyd, and to racial injustice more broadly. In the comments below, feel free to share places you’ve been donating, upcoming protests or other events, resources you’re finding useful in learning about racial injustice, and more!

with gratitude for our practice and for each other,

Gabe Keller Flores, Office Manager at CG

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Opportunity to Spend Time with Ajahn Chandako at a Lake Cabin
June 21 to July 7
Ajahn Chandako plans to go up to a lake cabin in Northern MN for Dhamma practice and general relaxation. Each year a group from Minneapolis goes to this cabin to camp, meditate close to nature and offer alms food to Ajahn. Anyone interested is welcome to stay part or all of this time, and this year Ajahn is still in need of a ride. It’s a good opportunity for retreat and dhamma discussions, and this particular lake and forest is wonderfully peaceful. Ajahn is happy to speak about your practice or generally discuss the Buddha’s teachings.
There will be access to the rustic cabin as well as a large garage with a separate room that is used for cooking and eating. There is a fridge, as well as an electric hot plate, toaster oven and enough pots, pans and dishes. Usually people bring whatever food they are going to eat during that time, but there are also grocery stores in local towns. There are places to put up tents and a (nice!) outhouse. Bathing is usually done in the lake, but there is also a propane hot water heater that could be set up. There is a large pontoon raft and a canoe that can used for spending time on the lake.
If you are interested, please contact mark@commongroundmeditation.org
Here are directions to East Smith Lake.

Grand Rapids is 180-200 miles north of Minneapolis, depending on the route. From Grand Rapids, take Highway 38 north toward Marcell. Turn right on County Road 49 (Note: this is about 25 miles from Grand Rapids. There is another access to County Road 49 much closer to Grand Rapids – do not take that one.)

Go on gravel County Road 49 until you pass East Smith Lake on your right and Smith Lake on your left (both lakes come right up to the road). Then travel about a mile or so and you will see East Smith Lake on the right again. The second driveway on the right is the cabin driveway. (this driveway is about 2 1/2 miles from where you turned off the paved road, Highway 38)

Metta, or lovingkindness, is the current weekly practice group theme. You can find many resources on the subject here, if you’d like to do additional study:


Practices of Lovingkindness

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Here is the link to the article:




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Here are links to related articles:

Taking Responsibility for Our Thoughts: Reflections on the Vitakkasanthana Sutta, by Mark W. Muesse, Insight Journal 2001

Meeting your thoughts at a resting place,  By Jason Siff

MN19, Dvedhavitakka Sutta: Two Sorts of Thinking, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


Here are links to related talks:

From Andrea Fella  https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/20/talk/49158/

From Ajahn Succito  https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/9/talk/51376/

From Winnie Nazarko  The Seduction of Doubt

From Carol Wilson  https://dharmaseed.org/teacher/39/talk/46764/


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Much thanks to John Dienhart for taking the time to write down his reflections on generosity (dana), titled: 
Dana, Freely Giving and Freely Receiving
When I first came to Common Ground in the summer of 2015 I did not understand the concept of freely giving and freely receiving, Dana. I’m not sure exactly what I thought it meant, but it was probably something like this: Common Ground did not charge for any programs or services. And, there was no suggestion donation in terms of money or work. That meant I was free to give whatever I wanted. So far so good.

However, I was flummoxed about how much I should give. I tried thinking about what others were giving and would try to match that. However, I had no idea what others were giving in terms of money or time.

Next, I tried to think about what a typical market organization would charge for these kinds of services. But this was no help either, as I could not think of a organization that did what CG did.

As I heard more and more about Dana, I realized that my approach of trying to match my contribution to what I was receiving was misguided.

My approach assumed that Common Ground was providing these programs and services, expecting a certain amount of renumeration. My job was to figure out the correct renumeration given the programs and services I received/consumed. Yes, I was “free” to decide the amount of the renumeration, but there was a correct renumeration, a market value, if you will, of what I received/consumed. I thought my freedom lay in being honest about what I really owed, since CG did not keep track of what people received and gave.

What I did not initially understand was that my approach to solving this problem was itself a choice. When I realized that, my understanding of Dana began to develop.

Dana is giving from the good of one’s heart. When we give from the good of our heart, it makes us happy. So, CG was not giving with the expectation of receiving. CG was giving from the good of their collective hearts. I should decide what I give from the good of my heart.

This insight changed my whole relationship to CG.

I was no longer consuming or receiving programs and services. Instead, I was participating as a member of a Sangha dedicated to giving from the good of one’s heart. That solved my problem of what and how much to give. I simply let my heart decide. Whenever I give, I ask my heart, does that feel right? Is it too little, too much? It’s a Goldilocks issue. I just need to give what makes my heart joyful, and that will be just right. Impermanence means I will adjust that over time as my situation, the needs of my Sangha, and who knows what else change.

Dana beyond the CG universe, as well. I work with a man named Jeff who repairs my guitar amplifiers. Recently I asked him to work on an amplifier that had some problems. He spent at least an hour or an hour and 1/2 trying to replicate the problem. He could not, and did not charge me for his time because he didn’t find anything wrong. Knowing Jeff, not charging me came from the good of his heart. A gift freely given.

When I heard that he was not charging me, my gut tightened up. I knew I could not pick up the amp without freely giving. I decided on an amount that made me happy and gave that to him when I picked up the amp. He graciously accepted it and we parted, it seemed to me, with our hearts in good shape.

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Written by community member Laura Molde:

I’m confident most of you know that Dana is most commonly defined as generosity. I agree with that definition and think generosity has a very important part in the concept of Dana, but it is only a part and therefore is an incomplete definition. The more I contemplate Dana the more I realize it is a phenomenon that explains everything and is consequently challenging to define. However, for the sake of clarity and to help guide you in understanding the point I am trying to make, I define Dana both as ‘a lawful movement, or lawful energy’ as well as ‘the knowledge that arises from understanding that movement or energy’ (which is also defined as wisdom in our practice).

When I began contemplating what I should say about Dana, I began by writing a list of reasons that may compel a person to give. When I finished that list and reanalyzed, I realized I had a very recognizable list. Let me walk you through it.

Dana in it most basic form is almost synonymous with karma, which simply means that ‘actions lead to results’. However, this definition is only almost accurate because Dana belongs to a spiritual context and therefore can only be understood in that context. Converted to the context of spirituality, the basic definition of Dana becomes ‘the understanding that noble actions lead to merit.’ In other words, we have faith that right effort leads to favorable results and so we are inclined to give because of that faith. Thus, the first stage of giving is the generosity of faith.

As we continue to give in faith we eventually see the fruits of those efforts, or the other side of Dana, which is receiving. Receiving favorable rewards for right effort begins to grow gratitude for what we have received as well as the situations that allowed us to initially give. As right efforts are repeated and returned, gratitude grows to be a great source of energy or inspiration. Working with our inspiration is the generosity of gratitude. When we work with what inspires us our mind becomes joyful, happy and contented with what is happening in the present moment. We are happy doing what has inspired us and we no longer wish for something else. Additionally, because we now understand through experience that giving, rather than holding-on, leads to abundance, our fears surrounding scarcity and meeting our basic needs lessen and eventually our mind ceases to worry. With a quiet mind and a life that provides the contemplative examples of how the energy of giving and receiving flow, we come to our meditation in the evening better prepared to analyze the lawful movements of Dana. As we gain understanding and acceptance of the movement of giving and receiving we concurrently gain wisdom. Wisdom understands that trying to grasp something that is continually evolving leads to suffering. It also exposes our giving to be the result of the generosity from many people before us and uncovers our purpose of giving as allowing those in front of us a chance at giving too. Here generosity is no longer a concept, we are conduit for which the energy of giving and receiving flows and our only task is not to block it. When we are generous in this understanding, we are acting with the generosity of wisdom.

Although an unintentional point of this talk is that Dana may be the energy that moves us through the Five Faculties, I think the more important point is that generosity is not only a wisdom that arises at the end, it is also, interestingly, a means to that same end. Therefore, if the path can be understood as stages of generosity, the logic follows that regardless of the place in the path you are on, there is an infallible answer to the popular question, ‘How do I proceed on this path?’, and that answer is, ‘Give’.

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Samadhi: The arising of the five jhanic factors and the abandoning of the five hindrances


The Buddha teaches that the mind is radiant and pure, but as we all know, this essential clarity and freedom of mind is often obscured by afflictive habits such as greediness, aversion, dullness, restlessness, doubt. Fortunately, the Buddha has mapped out practices that support the mind going beyond these limiting habits.

  1. Connecting with the present moment as it is is energizing. Remembering to make the effort to connect, to recognize, “This is being known,” will remove sloth and torpor from the mind. This skillful effort is energizing. Recognizing the objects of experience that are arising and passing is energizing.

2. The sustaining of present-moment awareness removes conceptual doubt from the mind. To be aware of the present moment, moment to moment, is grounding. The mind sees the way things are. There is no doubt because the mind trusts this direct and immediate knowing. There is not any need to define the experience or give the mind a conceptual answer.

3. The more momentum mindful awareness has, the more collected, unified, and harmonious the qualities of the mind become. As the wholesome energies of the mind gather and collect, joy and rapture arise more strongly and frequently. Joy and rapture remove ill will from the mind.

4. When joy is established in the mind, the mind abandons restlessness leading to the more refined happiness of ease and contentment.

5. As ease strengthens and matures as the dominant quality of mind, the mind no longer is dependent on craving to energize the mind. As craving is abandoned the mind becomes quieter due to the absence of craving this or that. This settling leads to a one-pointedness, ‘the one point that includes everything’.


Mark Nunberg

Common Ground Meditation Center


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Hi folks,

Here is a scan of the Emptiness and Compassion chapter from Guy Armstrong’s book Emptiness. Mark and Shelly have been giving talks on this subject recently and will continue to use the book as a complementary text for some months. You don’t have to, but if you’re interested in getting a copy of the book, Moon Palace Books on Minnehaha Avenue by Lake Street has copies in stock for a discounted price.

chapter 21 emptiness


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We have the Buddha’s teachings on awakening due to the practice of generosity.

Without the Indian tradition of giving alms to mendicants the Buddha would not have had the means to pursue his path to liberation.

Over the past 2500 plus years this practice has been kept alive through the practice of dana and therefore the teachings are still available to us.

Monks and nuns repay their debt to their lay donors by trying to rid their minds of greed, aversion, and delusion. They are in no way obligated to teach, which means that the act of teaching is a gift free and clear.

The way the Buddha presented the teachings, was through a gradual path starting with generosity.  The Buddha said the ideal gift had six qualities:

“The donor, before giving, is glad; while giving, their mind is inspired; and after giving, is gratified. These are the three factors of the donor…

“The recipients are free of passion or are practicing for the subduing of passion; free of aversion or practicing for the subduing of aversion; and free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion. These are the three factors of the recipients.”

When asked when a gift should be given, the Buddha simply state, “Wherever the mind feels inspired.” In other words — aside from repaying one’s debt to one’s parents — there is no obligation to give. This means that the choice to give is an act of true freedom, and thus the perfect place to start the path to total release.

The sheet by the dana bowl is entitled “freely giving, freely receiving”. This aspiration is 180 degrees from our societal conditioning where nearly everything has a price or comes out of duty, or obligation. We can practice looking for when the mind is inspired to be generous and then choose how to act on that inspiration.

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