Vinny is a graduate of Spirit Rock Mediation Center’s Community Dharma Leader Program and is in the new SR teacher Training. He is training director of the Mind Body Awareness Project in Oakland, California, and a cast member of MTV’s If You Really Knew Me. He also has extensive experience training probation officers, teachers, and community leaders who work with at-risk youth, how to utilize mindfulness-based practices to deal with their own stress, anxiety, and secondary trauma.
So, welcome everyone. Can you hear me in the back okay? Soft talker. Oh, yes. Yes, I guess welcome is the first word I want to say even though we’ve been here for days. I noticed that part of me are still arriving. Anybody relate to that? Yeah. It’s funny the way it takes a couple of days to really arrive to allow the nervous system to unwind a bit, and we keep finding more and more of us.
So, we could say welcome the first night, in every night, in every day, because there’s a whole bunch of parts of us too, right? So, we want to welcome you, and not just everyone of you, but every single part of everyone of you, right? Because there’s parts that I’m super proud of, that I can’t wait to tell you about, there’s parts that I’ve been trying to change for years, yeah, that’s all here, right? So, what does it mean to really welcome people? All of our experience. The wholeness that’s sitting in everyone of our cushions and chairs. Hmm?
Yeah, I guess I’ll have a couple of confessions first. There were huge parts of my experience that it took me a long time to welcome. Places that I was kind of compartmentalized, that I didn’t share so much with the people around me. Yeah? And I jumped the fence out of a lot of retreat centers. You know what I’m saying? Like, split ___. Yeah, so, after a couple of days like this, and the awareness becomes amplified, I didn’t know it is like what I saw. Yeah, I had to hold this. So, I just want to say that the fact that you’re still here—FANTASTIC. You’re doing a ___ up job, yeah. Just staying, you know. Like I saw this little, I was in one of those New Age bookstores, you know, I like to go in those, and there was a little necklace for people, but it was like a bone, and it said, stay healed. I like that, yeah. ___.
So, not sure if this is true for everybody, but have you noticed any self-judgment. Like, how am I doing? You know, how’s the retreat going? Alright, it can be a constant evaluation of how I’m doing. Have heard about how we talked about it before? The, imagine-self going to my imagine-future. Yeah.
If we’re not careful, the practice can easily become just another stop on the endless road to self-improvement, but this is really outside of that. This is really a refuge from that, so I want to spend some time to just kind of framing the conversation as I understand it. The practice.
In my own experience as I talk to some people, it can really feel like we’re in this paradigm that I’m trying to be a better version of myself. You know, like the good part of me is trying to fix the bad part of me. Anybody relate to that? Yeah. So, it’s pretty comprehensive. It’s alive and well that, that kind of duality inside our experience and I kind of want to unpack that, yeah. Hmm?
It’s like a crazy game that we’ll run down ourselves, and it’s really hard to win, even though we have some success. There’s a part of me that say, “You shouldn’t be doing this the whole time, stupid.” You know what I mean, it’s so simple. It’s like running it. So I can hear like, oh, my uncle ___, you know, I can hear all these dudes I’ve moved thousands of miles away and yet they are here. They’re at Spirit Rock with me. All staying in my room. Wild. What a cast. Hmm.
How many people remember that television show Name That Tune. I can name that tune in two seconds, or three notes. Sometimes, I feel like that’s what the mind is like, and I can turn anything into suffering. I can turn that into suffering into two seconds. You know, like we’re having a great experience, and that is a–. So, I think we’re working with the mind in perception, yeah. It’s really wild to really start kind of looking at the organ that receives the world in a way, you know. And so, here we are, we try to incline it towards kindness. And wholesome and skillful means, and everything that we’d been here and about, right? Yeah.
There’s a sign on a wall in a monastery in Thailand, and it talks about we don’t become monks and nuns, or nunks to eat well, sleep well, or be comfortable, but only know suffering and know how to not cause it. So, I could just imagine that any complaint they would just point at that sign. What are you not getting here? This is what we’re doing here. And this place is so fantastic, right? It’s so beautiful, super majestic, you know, we’re totally here, right?
And yet, there are struggles here, too, right? And you know that any struggles that is here, we brought here, right? Like I brought my whole family. You know, we bring our struggles here, and we chat like, figure out. What is a right relationship to everything that’s going on inside me? All the thoughts, memories, plans, these bodies, yeah.
How do we see the suffering clearly? We see it rising and passing away. I guess what I want to kind of drill into a bit is this idea that somehow, we’re going to withhold love from ourselves until we start acting right. This is deep. It’s really, really amazing when you—I’ve kind of turned my practice into that direction and once you start looking for something, you find it right? So, I’ve been finding that a lot in my experience. Like I’m trying to starve that part out of me, you know, by not nourishing it, by not feeding it.
But as I look back, I wonder, you know, because that was definitely the mode of operation in my family, too, right?
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