Inquiring Mind —In This Issue

Fall 2009 (Vol. 26 #1)

During this autumn season the dark grows long and the bounty of the harvest is brought in. Traditionally, as practitioners enter this dark time of the year, they deepen their commitment to meditation. This issue of Inquiring Mind, anchored by a primary interview with the Tibetan tulku Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, is dedicated to the transformation born of practice and the widening circles as it manifests as compassion.

Between the covers of this issue, we look at suffering and the end of suffering. With Borrowed Forms in Nature VII rising into the light on the front cover and a meditation in the dark of night on the back, we explore the dynamics of transformation within our love relationships, our families, our sanghas and the world. We are happy to offer new voices spanning a full range of ages, life and practice experience, from the college-aged vipassana students of MAYA to the eighty-six- and ninety-year-old mothers of Buddhist teachers Rev. Heng Sure and James Baraz.

A thematic section on family also includes a mother-daughter interview with the young vipassana teacher Spring Washam and her mother and an essay by senior vipassana teacher John Travis on a charged visit with his alcoholic father upon returning from Asia. Bold and truthful writing reminds us that transformation is not necessarily tidy and pleasant.

A second thematic section on engagement with the community ranges from Ajahn Amaro’s reflections on the intentional world of practice in the monastery to Bhikkhu Bodhi’s call to express practice through the relief of global hunger. As Mingyur Rinpoche points out, “No matter how long you practice or what method you use, every technique of Buddhist meditation ultimately generates compassion.”

— Barbara Gates & Wendy Johnson

—The Editors

Transformation and Compassion
In this interview, Tibetan tulku Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche recounts stories and techniques for transforming suffering due to panic, low self-esteem and anger into compassion and happiness. Recalling a story in which a peacock ate poison to beautify his feathers, Rinpoche says, “If poison is transformed into medicine, then anything can be transformed into medicine.”

Transformation in the Family Section:

Frame It with Gratitude
Vipassana teacher James Baraz offers his eighty-nine-year-old mother a new practice that helps her awaken to “the joy of living at its best.”

Don’t Stay Too Long
John Travis, guiding teacher at Mountain Stream Meditation Center in California, recalls his struggle as a young man to face a demon he’d long been trying to escape—his alcoholic father.

We’re All in This Together
Through insights gleaned from retreat, young vipassana teacher Spring Washam has healed painful family relationships. She and her mother, Lorna Joseph, trace this journey of forgiveness and connection.

Proud Mother of a Buddhist
Were the abbot’s motives altruistic, or had her son been exploited in his youthful zeal?, wondered Deborah Kerr Metcalf on her first trip from Ohio to the “foreign” monastery in California to visit her son, now the monk Rev. Heng Sure.

What Do You Say?
By applying the insights of Buddhism and systems theory, therapist and communication trainer Mudita Nisker helps couples and families explore ways to break unskillful habits and learn new skills, bringing harmony and stability to relationships.


Waking Up Early: Stories from Young Adults
The Mindful Awareness for Young Adults (MAYA) program is bringing the practice to the next generation. Students Nina Orechwa and Jeremy Rubin discover meditation and unexpected new ways to understand their experience.

Taking Refuge in Community
Ajahn Amaro describes how committing to the monastic sangha helped save him from giving up and turning to the bottle.

Scaling Up Liberation
In this interview, activist and trainer Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey finds that the connections between our internal, individual work and our external, societal work for freedom sometimes are not what might be predicted.

Conscientious Compassion
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi helped inspire the formation of Buddhist Global Relief and challenges us to enlarge our field of practice and move beyond the rhetoric of compassion.

I’m Just Doing Jazz
Buddhist teacher and storyteller Jack Kornfield finds love, connection and transformation in poetry.

Hurray for You!
Lifelong memories of Barbara Gates’s ninety-six-year-old family friend hold lessons of both delight in life and letting go.

Practice: Urban Elements
Anushka Fernandopulle leads a guided meditation on the four elements and the urban environment.

The Dharma & The Drama
Are you a “firster” or a “thirdster” when it comes to the Four Noble Truths? Wes Nisker finds himself kvetching firmly among the former.

Read our interview with Spring Washam,
"We’re All in This Together: A Conversation with Mother and Daughter"