Sangha News

Below you can read about the latest Insight Santa Cruz News…

Refuge in Recovery

Dharma teacher and Mindfulness recovery counselor, Jason Murphy has been wrestling so intensively with themes of dharma and recovery with patients and in his own being, that he now sees the two as inseparable. I sat down with Jason to discuss the intersection of Buddhism and recovery, the process of launching Refuge Recovery at ISC, and how recovery from addiction can be understood as a universal approach to awakening.

What inspires you about working with people in recovery?

I am passionate about working with people in recovery because I have a close relationship to addiction in my own life, struggling with addiction, finding recovery, finding Buddhist meditation, and it all just seemed to fall in line.

Stepping out of what is currently available, which is largely a 12-step Judeo-Christian theistic model, to provide an alternative recovery model is very necessary and it has been pretty well received.

What is the proposed structure of the dharma refuge recovery group?

Noah Levine and I were beginning to have conversations several years ago about starting a peer-led recovery group. We were discussing how Refuge Recovery would be a different model from what was already out there. What was already out there was largely dharma talk series offered by dharma teachers in recovery. We knew that this model was not long-term sustainable.

Refuge recovery is a different approach that is basically a peer-led meeting approach. There is a secretary who is leading the meeting, there is a particular teaching and script that will be read, and there will be an all-group meditation and open discussion. So that way, anyone who has a little bit of recovery and a little bit of meditation experience can lead a group, so the group can grow and be self-sustaining. This is very similar to the 12-step model; that’s how it grows.

What do you think are the benefits of a peer-led group model?

One of the ways I think it will be beneficial is that it will bring totally new people to the center who have never been to a Buddhist center before, who have never meditated before, and could be turned on to the dharma through the avenue of recovery.

What do you think the Refuge Recovery approach offers that is different from other recovery models?

Well, primarily Buddhism. That’s was it offers. It offers Buddhism. (Laughs)

Why is Buddhism uniquely suited to address addiction?

Buddhism is uniquely suited to address addiction, because Buddhism is all about addiction.

The Buddha is very clear within the second noble truth that addiction is selfish and self-centered craving. He called it tanha, which translates as unquenchable, insatiable thirst. So it is implicit in the teachings that our addictive nature, or the desire to hold and to grasp addictively, is the cause of our suffering.

So it doesn’t really matter what you are addicted to, you could say booze or heroin or sex or a relationship or a job, being successful or even existence itself. These are all forms of addiction. That is the addictive mindset. In the four noble truths, the Buddha is specifically laying out that there is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, and that cause is addiction, which is selfish and self-centered craving, there is a way out (so the recovery is possible) and the recovery is the 8-fold path.

How would you differentiate an addict from someone who is just a normal human craver? Or could we all be defined as addicts?

I think the distinction is that some people choose to act out their compulsive need to feel good, which we all do because that’s part of the addiction, specifically with marijuana, and methamphetamine, and alcohol and food. Biological addiction is defined as when you remove a particular substance there is physical withdrawal. So sure, some behavior that is addictive is not going to fit under that box that is biological. So yes, I do think there is a difference.

It relates to my favorite saying in Thai “same, same, but different.” If you are talking about the whole scheme of addiction, it’s the same thing. If you ask any person if they have addictive habits, they do. Thoughts are a big one, and that’s really the model I go with. We are addicted to thinking. Who isn’t addicted to thinking?

So who can come to this group? Is it open to all sangha members? Could anyone come to the Refuge Recovery group that wants to?

Yes, of course. I think they will find it completely helpful. There might be some talk about alcohol and drug use because that’s one specific focus. Although, the way that I am hoping to see this Refuge Recovery piece unfold, is that refuge recovery is really about refuge from all addictions and craving, so that’s why I say around sex, and food, and shopping, internet, porn…

Your IPhone?

My iPhone that I have been compulsively checking. I want to check it right now, I think I have an update…

So If I am addicted to my iPhone I could come to this group?

Of course. Absolutely. No one is left out.

You mentioned the 8-fold path is the recovery method, but this is a peer led group. So I am guessing there probably won’t be a lot of strict teachings, unless some people in the group are knowledgeable about the 8-fold path and how that ties into recovery. In other words, how much Buddhism will appear in the refuge recovery group?

What the structure will look like varies from group to group, but the script that will be read covers the steps to recovery and the steps are the 8-fold path. The group is the 8-fold path translated to talk specifically about addiction and addiction recovery.

And every aspect of the 8-fold path has a tie-in?

Yep. That’s what Noah is writing a book about.

It will be like the 8-fold path folded into the 11th Step?

Yeah, so meditation adds base, and then this understanding of right action, right livelihood, right contemplation, right intention, each of them will be applied to recovery.

That’s exciting.

I think it is going to be a game changer. It will provide a new opportunity for people who are non-theistic, or who are resistant to the Judeo-Christian mind-set. A lot of times people don’t want to go to AA or NA because they don’t want that powerlessness piece. But what I say to these people is, You are so powerful? What can you control? As a matter of fact, not much. Maybe one thing: Your reaction to life. So you don’t have to admit that you are powerless, but it is pretty important to admit that something has power over you: drugs, alcohol, behavior, addiction, your mind.

How do you think Buddhism will support people using the 12 steps model to keep their recovery alive and sustainable?

You could think of meditation practice as simply the 11th step of recovery, but really what this group will be doing is offering access to the complete Buddhist practice. And there are many ways Buddhist practice can be beneficial to people who are struggling with addiction, which is suffering.

Another big part of AA is being able, when not in meeting, to reach out to each other for support.

That’s why it’s important to have sangha, to have community. If there is a sub group of people who are in our ISC community and also in recovery, there will be more room for connection and flourishing. We like to feel connected, we need to feel connected.

How will the issue of a higher power in the 12-step model translate to Buddhist recovery?

Buddhadasa bhikkhu, who was one of the first Thai masters to actually begin teaching westerners, was quoted as saying “If you need a god, allow the dharma to be your god. Just allow the dharma itself to be your god.” And what is the word God? Why are we so caught up in the words? What is the dharma? Dharma is truth in nature. What is God?

Contributed by Laney Rupp, Alyson Lie, and Jason Murphy

32 Parts of the Body Meditation

32 Parts of the Body Meditation:

Within this fathom-long body

with its thoughts and emotions lies our world.

‘It’s origin , it’s cessation, and the pathway to nibbana (freedom).

The Buddha, — AN 4.45

In 1980, I traveled to Burma with my teacher, Dr. Rina Sircar to meet Venerable Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Sayadaw, a renowned forest meditation master. I was in my early 20’s when I began studying with Taungpulu, who encouraged us to do the sitter’s practice (no lying down), live under the trees or stars, collect alms, eat one meal a day using one bowl, live with three robes, and go to the cemetery during the middle of the night to practice mindfulness of death. The 32 Parts of the Body meditation was one of the first practices that Sayadaw taught us.

When I returned to the USA, I lived at Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery in Boulder Creek, Ca. for over 8 years, practicing Vipassana and the 32 parts meditation. After leaving the monastery and becoming an MBSR teacher, I worked with the 32 parts on and off for 26 years and gradually realized its power and profundity. My primary insight is illustrated by a Gary Larson cartoon from the “Far Side,” showing a cow in a pasture eating grass who suddenly calls out to the other cows, “hey wait a minute, this is grass, we’re eating grass!” My realization seemed in the same vein, “Hey wait a minute, this is a body, we have a body!”

The 32 Parts is a versatile practice that can be used for both insight and concentration leading to absorption. This practice can help you understand the true nature of the body, recognize its impermanence and comprehend how the body is made of four primary elements: solidity, liquidity motion, and temperature. This practice has also been used for healing, and ultimately offers access to deep freedom and peace.

The 32 parts are:

Head hair, Body hair, Nails, Teeth, Skin

Flesh, Sinews, Bones, Bone Marrow, Kidneys

Heart, Liver, Diaphragm, Spleen, Lungs

Large Intestines, Small Intestines, Stomach, Feces, Brain

Bile, Phlegm, Pus, Blood, Sweat, Fat

Tears, Grease, Saliva, Mucus, Oil of the Joints, Urine

As you deepen into these body parts you may begin to break the spell of enchantment and see them for what they really are. For example when I get a haircut, I reflect on what head hair really is: “threadlike outgrowths from the skin of mammals – thin flexible shafts of hardened cells used for protection from ultra violet light and thermal regulation.” This practice has helped me feel less concerned about my hair.

            Gradually the instructions move from the outside to the inside. From skin you move into the flesh (muscles), sinews (connective tissue), bones and bone marrow. From bone marrow, which is responsible for blood formation, you move into the internal organs beginning with kidneys that are blood purifiers. As you continue the practice you may begin to see how all these parts are interconnected although it’s an interesting arrangement to see that feces is next to brain. Figure that out!

            From my perspective it’s skillful to teach the 32 Parts from a very neutral and matter-of-fact perspective and let the experience itself inform the practitioner. Many people report that the practice helps dissolve identification with and clinging to the body. (Just as a car is made of parts that we conceptually call a “Ford”, the body is made of parts that we conceptually call “I or Me”). One begins to see that this body is quite impersonal; that it has a life of its own and is quite unpredictable, and that there’s no one directing any type of control especially when it comes to aging, illness or death.

There is an introductory session on Sept. 27 (10:00 am – 11:30 am).

The 8-month class meets once a month*: Oct. 4 – May 16, 2014 *Bob Stahl will be there once a month to lead body part practices. Other Friday mornings will be peer led.

Financial Report: First Quarter, 2013

We, the Board and Fundraising Committee, want to thank you, our generous sangha community, for answering the call to increase dana levels last year. Insight Santa Cruz closed its books with only a slight deficit because of the generosity of the community. This was great news for 2012!

So far, though, 2013 Year To Date is not sustaining the financial bottom line. Here’s the story:

  • For 2013, the board approved a budget that accommodates basic expenses such as rent and utilities ($42,000), a little extra for modest improvements such as a sound system for hearing impaired and storage unit ($3000) and a minimal amount to repay reserves that have been depleted with cost overruns ($1600)
  • The budget approved is dependent on monthly sangha dana at $3850.
  • At the very least, we need a minimum of $3680/month to meet our most basic expenses such as rent, utilities and insurance.
  • From August 2012 through January 2013, sanha dana was averaged $4560/mo. That was up from $2740 the previous 6 months. Thank you!
  • And…’s the harder news: Sangha dana collected February-May 2013 dipped from last year. This 5-month period averaged only $3079/month (including a low of $2693 in the month of March.

Sangha Expenses Q1 2013

Clearly we have some work to do. As board members, we are committed to financial transparency, accountability and responsibility. To this end, the board commits to provide a quarterly report about our progress toward our goals. We will also be communicating with you as the newly re-formed Fundraising Committee explores strategies for addressing ongoing deficits and ensuring long-term sustainability.

Please keep in mind, as we tend to our center’s financial needs, we also want to acknowledge the vital role that our teachers play in supporting our practice and imparting dharma wisdom; they are truly the dharma heart of our center. We encourage you to consider making an ongoing contribution to honor our teachers and their tremendous contributions to our learning, healing and growth.

There are many ways to offer dana (generosity) to our center, to the teachers, or to both. Click here to make your one-time or a recurring monthly contribution online. You can also make checks out to Insight Santa Cruz and designate your contribution to teacher or sangha dana in the memo field. Please feel free to contact Linda Kittle, board for additional information or feedback. And look for our second quarter report at the end of the summer.

Thank you for your generosity with both your time and your resources, and for your wise efforts to sustain ISC’s offerings, which alleviate suffering and bring greater insight, freedom, and love into our whole Santa Cruz Community

May 2013 Board Meeting Minutes

The minutes from the March 2013 meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

The minutes from the March 2013 meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

2015-2016: Insight Santa Cruz Holiday Schedule

Please note that Insight Santa Cruz will be closed for the following major holidays in 2015 and 2016: 2015 Thursday Jan 1 – New Years Day Monday Jan 19 – Martin Luther King Day Monday Feb 16 – Presidents Day […]

Please note that Insight Santa Cruz will be closed for the following major holidays in 2015 and 2016:


Thursday Jan 1 – New Years Day
Monday Jan 19 – Martin Luther King Day
Monday Feb 16 – Presidents Day
Monday May 25 – Memorial Day
Saturday July 4 – Independence Day
Monday Sept 7 – Labor Day
Monday Oct 12 – Columbus Day
Wednesday Nov 11 – Veterans Day
Thursday Nov 26 – Thanksgiving Day
Friday Dec 25 – Christmas Day


Friday Jan 1 – New Years
Monday Jan 18 – Martin Luther King Day
Monday Feb 15 – Presidents day
Monday May 23 – Memorial Day
Monday July 4 – Independence Day
Monday Sept 5 – Labor Day
Monday Oct 10 – Columbus Day
Friday Nov 11 – Veterans Day
Thursday Nov 24 – Thanksgiving Day
Sunday Dec 25 – Christmas Day

Any changes to these planned closures based on special programs will be posted here at the Center and on our web site.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL- Finding Inspiration in the Dharma of Softball

by Bruce Hyman Those of us who have practiced a bit come to understand that practice must be integrated into life.  It’s not about who can sit still the longest and stillest. Yet  integration into life  does not come about by willing it to […]

by Bruce Hyman

Those of us who have practiced a bit come to understand that practice must be integrated into life.  It’s not about who can sit still the longest and stillest. Yet  integration into life  does not come about by willing it to happen, but rather by persistent and continued practice.

Since the age of 5 I have been a baseball/softball player, heavily conditioned by my father who also had a “thing” about baseball.  I am now 70 years old and have still managed to continue playing league and tournament softball.

After so many years of practice I cannot help but bring the dharma to the game.  First there is relaxation.  I call it getting out of the way, sensing into the body and opening to whatever sensations are there without resistance.  Fear, heat, pressure, body pain and fatigue are all part of the game.   Next there is concentration.  Keep your eye on the ball while being grounded in the body.  This is an essential mindfulness skill and helps in batting and fielding.

Working with the SENSE OF SELF is the biggest challenge just as in the rest of our lives.  The team, spectators and opponents are all watching and judging and it is very easy to assume a sense of complete control over my performance and identify with my successes and failures.  The practice has loosened this clinging which surprisingly results in more fulfillment and less suffering.

And finally there is love, kindness and virtue.  It has become apparent to me that all I can guarantee is my intention and effort.  Outcomes like Kamma/Vipaka (action and results) are dependent on too many variables to fathom.  What ultimately counts is what I bring to the sport.

The endeavor feels successful when I bring kindness and love to the entire game, the team, opponents and myself.   I so value playing with people of all races, religions, beliefs and views.   I  also feel great gratitude for the ability to be out playing, to feel  the sun on my body, the rhythms of the game and its movements.

I hope these reflections will be of help to you in your life’s activities.

How to Work with Challenges that Come UP During Meditation

By Guiding Teacher Bob Stahl When you formally practice mindfulness meditation, from time to time you’ll experience challenges that are considered hindrances to your growing practice. You will experience wandering mind and also at times you will be occupied with states of […]

By Guiding Teacher Bob Stahl

When you formally practice mindfulness meditation, from time to time you’ll experience challenges that are considered hindrances to your growing practice. You will experience wandering mind and also at times you will be occupied with states of wanting this or that, aversion, restlessness, sleepiness, or doubt. These challenges are very common and even predictable for all meditators both new and old. The good news is that you can learn skills to transform these hindrances into deeper learnings.

Wandering Mind
One of the first insights you’ll experience when you first begin mindfulness meditation is how busy your mind is and how much it wanders. Rest assured that it’s always been that way — you’ve just never been very mindful of its activity. Although you may think that an inability to focus means you’re no good at meditating, most everyone’s mind inevitably wanders during meditation. It can even be helpful to notice your mind’s activity when it becomes distracted. You may discover that your thoughts and emotions are often preoccupied with either rehearsing the future or rehashing the past. This insight into the workings of your mind will give you important information. You may realize, for example, that you need to deal with an unresolved relationship or other unfinished business.

In dealing with your wandering mind, you’ll begin to understand more about your mind-body connection. When you come back to the present moment after wandering off with various worries, you may notice that your jaw is clenched or your stomach is in knots. You’ll begin to realize that these physical tensions are connected to your thoughts and emotions.

Another benefit of working with the wandering mind is concentration training. The way to build and sustain concentration is to repeatedly bring your mind back to the present after it has wandered off. Just like lifting weights again and again to grow muscle, when you bring your mind back to your breathing or whatever you’re meditating on again and again, you increase your capacity for attention.

As your practice of mindfulness deepens, you’ll begin to understand that the only changes you can ever make are in the here and now and the moment you realize you’re not present, you are in fact present. This is “where the rubber meets the road,” starting in this moment.

Wanting or Avoiding
In addition to your mind’s wanderings, you’ll also be swept away at times with wanting things that make you feel good or trying to avoid things that don’t. Wanting and avoiding are opposite sides of the same coin, because both are concerned with a state of feeling good. The antidote is to know when it’s happening—when you’re getting tangled up in a state of wanting or avoiding. This knowing helps you see where you are, and then and only then can you begin to untangle yourself.

Restlessness or Sleepiness
Restlessness and sleepiness are also opposite sides of the same coin, because at the heart of each is a desire to escape the present moment. Restlessness is like a pacing tiger that cannot be in his or her own skin and the sleepiness is filled with sloth and torpor and cannot stay awake. Both of these challenges can keep the you from being present to the workings of the your body and mind by either wanting to get away from the discomfort or to go sleep and not be present. Once again, the antidote is your knowing mind. Once you know that you’re restless or sleepy, you can begin to choose how you’re going to respond to it. Restlessness is unharnessed energy that when accessed can be of great to support to you. With sleepiness, you may want to intensify your practice to bring more wakefulness. You may need to open your eyes, change your posture, and splash a few drops of cold water on your face, particularly if you’re often falling asleep or numbing out. If all else fails, sleep and be happy, and when you wake up, begin your practice again.

The last challenge is being filled with doubt. You may think, This meditation is not going to help me. What’s the useI’m never going to feel better and diminish my panicky feelings. The antidote for doubt is awareness, similar to the other hindrances. When you know that you’re experiencing doubt, you can begin to deal with it. Doubt is something to be acknowledged just like any other feeling, and in time you’ll see that it’s just a passing mind state like any other. This understanding will give you more confidence in your practice.

May you remember the meditation practice is about you and may you hold your practice in kindness and compassion. Here are some beautiful words from Bob Sharples, a meditation teacher from Australia:

“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself;  rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself.  In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough.  It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot.  Instead there is now meditation as an act of love.  How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”

March 2013 Board Meeting Minutes

The minutes from the March 2013 meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

The minutes from the March 2013 meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

February 2013 Board Meeting Minutes

The minutes from the February 2013 meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

The minutes from the February 2013 meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

October 2012 Board Meeting Minutes

The minutes from the October meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.

The minutes from the October meeting of the board of directors of Insight Santa Cruz are available here.