Sally Clough Armstrong began practicing vipassana meditation in India in 1981. She moved to the Bay Area in 1988, and worked at Spirit Rock until 1994 in a number of roles, including executive director. She began teaching in 1996, and is one of the guiding teachers of Spirit Rock's Dedicated Practitioner Program.
Sally has always been inspired by the depth and the breadth of the Buddha’s teaching, as presented in the suttas of the Pali Canon, because the truth and power of the Buddha’s words still speak to us today. Her intention in teaching is to make these ancient texts and practices accessible and relevant to all levels of practitioner, from the very new to the dedicated meditator.
Though we receive lots of instructions for our meditation practice on retreats, let’s face it – we spend a lot of time thinking. What do we think about? At the heart of these movements of the mind is answering the questions, “Am I OK?”, “Was I OK?”, and “Will I be OK?” Our obsession with these questions is the cause of a huge amount of restlessness. Restlessness is one of the major hindrances to calming the mind and deepening our meditation, and can be seen as both the cause and the effect of all the other hindrances. The Buddha also talked about this kind of thinking, and called it unwise attention that leads to all kinds of suffering. We need to look at the core issues that lead us to dwell on these questions if we are to create a more skilful relationship to our thoughts.
Patience, one of the paramis, is a quality that we don’t often appreciate, even though it is tremendously important in our practice and our lives. To be patient is to be fully present for what is, to be with difficulty and challenge without resistance. Patience allows mindfulness and wisdom to deepen, as we meet our experience without agendas or expectations.
We often hear about and experience the suffering caused by greed and aversion, yet delusion, the third of the kilesas, or torments of mind, is in some ways a more fundamental cause of suffering, because if we weren’t deluded, we wouldn’t believe that by grasping or pushing away we could avoid suffering. The challenge with delusion is its very definition is that we don’t it is operating. This talk examines the many ways that delusion manifests, so we can begin to bring more clarity and understanding to our experience.
The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths – the truths of suffering, the cause of suffering , the end of suffering and the path to the end of suffering – not as a philosophy, but as practices that we can use here and now to understand why we suffer and how to find release. Using this template to gain insight into our lives can bring a radical shift to the way we relate to our experience.